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WAR IN THE AIR by Stephen Coonts

WAR IN THE AIR

True Accounts of the 20th Century's Most Dramatic Air Battles--by the Men Who Fought Them

edited by Stephen Coonts

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-671-88190-6
Publisher: Pocket

 A glorious medley celebrating heroes of yesteryear's aerial wars, compiled and annotated by the author of Flight of the Intruder (1986), etc. Coonts scoured the voluminous annals of military aviation, from WW I through Vietnam, collecting more than two dozen pieces detailing varied aspects of combat aloft. Predictably, he has excerpted the autobiographies of such storied American airmen as Eddie Rickenbacker, Ted Lawson, Robert L. Scott, and Gregory (Pappy) Boyington. No chauvinist, Coonts makes room for short takes recounting the airborne adventures of British (Ginger Lacey, Bob Tuck), German (Adolf Galland, Erich Hartmann), and Japanese (Saburo Sakai) aces (i.e., fliers with five or more kills). While dashing fighter pilots dominate the roster, bomber commands are also represented--most notably, by a somber recital that follows Paul Tibbets on his flight in a B-29 called Enola Gay to a rendezvous with history over Hiroshima. Also making the cut are the typically reckless souls at the control of helicopters that gave American soldiers unprecedented mobility in Southeast Asia and those who flew heavily armed Skyraiders on ground-support missions during the Korean conflict. In addition, Coonts (who contributes an essay on Steve Ritchie, the last US fighter pilot to gain five victories) rescues some genuine treasures from undeserved obscurity. One such is the vivid account of how in 1915 a young Royal Navy pilot became the first of his breed to shoot down a zeppelin. Fault-finders could carp that the anthology ignores the Russian women whose courage under fire in the skies above WW II's Eastern front came as a rude shock to the Luftwaffe, as well as their American sisters, who braved the Atlantic to ferry badly needed aircraft from US factories to Europe. This cavil apart, a generous selection of martial aeronautica, and an ad hoc history of the way of the warrior pilot.