Hook (Desert Storm Diary, 2013, etc.) sifts through the pieces of a World War II ace pilot’s life and death.
To form this story, Hook collects the wartime diary of Francis “Pinky” Register, a World War II Navy pilot from North Dakota, and contemporaneous articles, letters and reports; Hook also conducted his own extensive research and got considerable help from Register’s surviving brother, Bill. The end result is the story of Register’s life, from his aerial beginnings in Civil Aeronautics Association courses taught by Hook’s father to Register leaving his wife for life at sea just a few months after their wedding and his eventual death in aerial combat on the Aleutian island of Attu. Hook isn’t shy about becoming part of the story, discussing his research process and occasionally inserting brief personal anecdotes, such as his father’s 1939 prediction that scrap metal sent to Japan would soon come back at the United States. Hook’s presence as tour guide gives him a chance to explain the greater context that Register’s diaries don’t always address, orienting readers to the significance of the battles Register fought over Guadalcanal and Attu. Register’s many close calls, including bluffing his way past enemy fighters when his guns ran empty, bring home the fact that skill and bravado weren’t enough to make an ace fighter pilot. Luck was essential, too, and Register had plenty of it. This work is undeniably engaging up until the moment Hook inserts his own political and cultural views: e.g., “I don’t see [pride] in our liberal colleges and universities where teachers who have never been exposed to the real evils that are out there in the world pass on their ignorant philosophies to our youth.” That line of thought may be off-putting to those who don’t share the author’s views, but after a few pages, he returns to his coverage of Register’s story. The material is researched and verified, although some historians may cringe at the repeated use of Wikipedia as an authoritative source.
This faithful, detailed expansion of a pilot’s journal will make a worthwhile addition to the library of any World War II buff.