With this military-history book, Pierson (The Daring Adventures of a U.S. Air Force Pilot, 2013) and Parker present the initial installment in a project to showcase the lives of more than 300 members of U.S. Air Force Pilot Training Class 55N. This volume offers the stories of 14 of those officers, who completed their training in 1955. Although the classmates shared a common starting point, they followed many different career paths, both during their time in the Air Force and in their post-military careers. Most flew combat missions in Vietnam, and some were killed in action there. Several continued flying after they retired from the service, and a few moved to other sectors, such as the U.S. Coast Guard. Numerous illustrations enhance the biographies, including images of aircraft, and subjects’ personal photographs particularly bring the stories to life. Although most of these sketches don’t include heroic feats or high-stakes missions, Pierson’s and Parker’s enthusiasm for their subjects allows them to show the drama and purpose of each person’s experience. Each biography is a discrete story, however, and as a result, the book has a noticeable amount of repetition, including names of aircraft models, lists of decorations and the fact that each cadet received a staff sergeant’s pay (which appears in nearly every profile). The prose isn’t always polished (“The United States used the nuclear threat to win the Crisis, as the PRC had yet to gain nuclear power. Eisenhower used the tactic of ‘Brinkmanship’ to ensure victory”), but the authors’ thorough research is evident on every page. Although this book is unlikely to have broad commercial appeal, it does make a valuable contribution to the historical record and serves as a well-illustrated resource for readers with a particular interest in Class 55N.
A comprehensive set of biographies that closely focuses on a group of Air Force veterans.