Living history has a shelf life, and the expiration date cannot be extended. I’ve been interviewing WW II veterans since the early 1970s when I got serious about writing history, and it’s been a bittersweet experience. Anyone who’s made a career documenting aviation (or anything else) will tell you the same thing: you make older […]
It was a global war foughton an industrial scale unlike anything before or since. Conservatively, it consumed at least 55 million lives while overturning the way humans regarded their nations, their worlds, and themselves. It also spurred the greatest technological revolution of all time: in five years, going from 250mph biplane fighters in some nations to 550mph jets and ocean-spanning bombers that delivered atomic weapons. Supporting the vast American effort were huge training establishments for the U.S. Army Air Force (AAF) and the U.S. Navy (USN). This is their story.
The images of the attack on Pearl Harbor will be forever etched in the mind’s eye of Americans everywhere. As with the images of the airliners hitting the World Trade Center towers, the fire and smoke of December 7, 1941, can’t be erased from our memories. We seldom see, however, photos that portray the aftermath […]
Back in the mid-1930s, when I was a teenager in California, I used to spend a lot of time fishing off the municipal pier at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I was standing on the pier one day when a flight of 16 to 20 Boeing P-26s came roaring by fast and low in tight formation. I will never forget the look of the pilots, with their heads sticking out of the cockpit and their white silk scarves billowing behind them, all looking like Eddie Rickenbacker.
Somewhere there is probably a list of the world’s most beautiful airplanes but the process of selecting those airplanes has undoubtedly prompted numerous fistfights. However, when it came to putting the Spitfire on, or at the top, of the list, it’s doubtful anyone anywhere disagreed. Reginald Mitchell created a piece of art as much as […]
“Riders on the storm. Riders on the storm. Into this house we’re born. Into this world we’re thrown.” —The Doors, 1971 Seawolf Formation In 1967, the U.S. Navy established Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three, commonly known as HA(L)-3, unclassified call sign: “Seawolf.” The in-country formation and disestablishment in 1972 was a historic first. The Navy […]
Life begins at 40 or 50, or … It’s a sure fact of life that we all reach a point where we can’t begin to guess how long ago something in our lives happened. Did such and such happen five years ago? Or was it 10? We get to the point where we can’t even […]
Behind the legendary Battle of Britain In the classic 1969 movie The Battle of Britain, Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding (Sir Lawrence Olivier) reviews the impending clash with a cabinet minister. After an unsatisfactory discussion, the minister exasperates, “So I tell the cabinet that you’re trusting in radar and praying to God?” Dowding retorts, “More […]
Civilian Pilots Caught in History’s Path Six civilian aircraft were airborne during the Pearl Harbor attack. Three were students with their instructors, and three were rented by sightseeing pilots and passengers. All but one came under attack by Japanese aircraft. Two planes were shot down, and those three airmen are still missing. In Hawaii, the […]
Flying Skulls over Burma By the time I graduated from high school in Oklahoma during 1940 at the ripe old age of 19, I could see that the United States was going to get dragged into a world war. I had grown up in a farming family during the Great Depression and had felt the […]