THE AVIATORS by Winston Groom
Kirkus Star

THE AVIATORS

Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight

KIRKUS REVIEW

Joint biography of three legendary pilots.

Groom (Shiloh, 1862, 2012, etc.) takes his subjects from their earliest days through World War II, when they all found a way to aid the struggle against the Axis powers. All three of Groom’s subjects earned their renown by doing something extraordinary. Eddie Rickenbacker (1890–1973) rose from auto mechanic to champion race car driver and then became the top American flying ace of World War I. Jimmy Doolittle (1896–1993), a tough kid who boxed to pay for college, became the military’s leading test pilot in the 1920s. Charles Lindbergh (1902–1974) dropped out of college to be a stunt pilot before becoming the most famous man alive for his New York to Paris flight in 1927. Groom traces their early careers, showing how they learned the nuts and bolts of aviation in the process of becoming pilots. This stood them in good stead in their later careers. Lindbergh personally oversaw the building of the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane for his epic flight, and, later in World War II, helped U.S. forces in the Pacific improve the range of the P-38 fighter planes. Doolittle is probably best known for his 1942 bombing raid on Tokyo, in which he used innovative tactics to shake the enemy’s confidence in the impregnability of the Japanese homeland. Rickenbacker, on a secret mission to deliver orders to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, survived more than three weeks on a life raft in the shark-infested South Pacific after his plane went down, nearly starving, continuing the mission as soon as he recovered from the ordeal. Groom lets his empathy with his subjects somewhat outweigh their flaws, notably Lindbergh’s initial failure to recognize the evil of Nazism. Ultimately, though, the author convincingly portrays them as true American heroes, men who changed the world by their deeds and who inspired countless others to emulate their examples.

A gripping document of a brilliant era in our history and a few of the men who helped make it so.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4262-1156-0
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: National Geographic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2013




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