A detached, dead-honest memoir of WW II from a distinguished scholar who, though he survived scores of aerial combat missions against the Japanese, focuses on the Stateside experiences that attended his coming of age. At present, Hynes is Woodrow Wilson professor of literature at Princeton; he's also the author of such works as The Edwardian Turn of Mind and The Auden Generation. There is, however, not a word about his postwar life and career in the consistently engaging text. Hynes simply provides a self-contained first-person account of the stirring journey that took him at age 19 in 1943 from Minnesota's farm country to the Navy's air-cadet program and beyond. As a fledgling aviator, Hynes trained chiefly at makeshift military bases near tank towns in America's Sunbelt. When posted to an established installation like Pensacola, Fla., he vaguely appreciated its permanence and traditions. Apart from learning to fly and to finesse the ancillary rigors of pilot training, though, the author's main concern was the pursuit of pleasure in his off-duty hours. In evocative detail he recalls the camaraderie that was nurtured in gin mills from Memphis to Honolulu as well as the drunken escapades which created morning-after legends to flight lines half a world away. Hynes opted to take his commission in the Marine Corps rather than the Navy for reasons he's not quite sure he understands to this day. Before shipping out to the Pacific as a torpedo-bomber pilot, the author took to wife the sister of a fellow officer from Birmingham, Ala. They had a few months "playing house" near Santa Barbara, but whether the marriage endured or became just another war casualty is unclear. Indeed, Hynes devotes more space to recapping the lyrics of bawdy barracks and bar-room ballads than to recalling wedded life on the run. He closes with his return to the US months after V-E Day. Unsentimental, understated reminiscences that deliver a true record of the glorious, degrading, ludicrous, tedious, appalling, and other aberrant elements that constitute military manhood in time of war.