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China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight

China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight

4.8 19
by Gregory Crouch

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From the acclaimed author of Enduring Patagonia comes a dazzling tale of aerial adventure set against the roiling backdrop of war in Asia. The incredible real-life saga of the flying band of brothers who opened the skies over China in the years leading up to World War II—and boldly safeguarded them during that conflict—China’s Wings is


From the acclaimed author of Enduring Patagonia comes a dazzling tale of aerial adventure set against the roiling backdrop of war in Asia. The incredible real-life saga of the flying band of brothers who opened the skies over China in the years leading up to World War II—and boldly safeguarded them during that conflict—China’s Wings is one of the most exhilarating untold chapters in the annals of flight.
At the center of the maelstrom is the book’s courtly, laconic protagonist, American aviation executive William Langhorne Bond. In search of adventure, he arrives in Nationalist China in 1931, charged with turning around the turbulent nation’s flagging airline business, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). The mission will take him to the wild and lawless frontiers of commercial aviation: into cockpits with daredevil pilots flying—sometimes literally—on a wing and a prayer; into the dangerous maze of Chinese politics, where scheming warlords and volatile military officers jockey for advantage; and into the boardrooms, backrooms, and corridors of power inhabited by such outsized figures as Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; foreign minister T. V. Soong; Generals Arnold, Stilwell, and Marshall; and legendary Pan American Airways founder Juan Trippe.
With the outbreak of full-scale war in 1941, Bond and CNAC are transformed from uneasy spectators to active participants in the struggle against Axis imperialism. Drawing on meticulous research, primary sources, and extensive personal interviews with participants, Gregory Crouch offers harrowing accounts of brutal bombing runs and heroic evacuations, as the fight to keep one airline flying becomes part of the larger struggle for China’s survival. He plunges us into a world of perilous night flights, emergency water landings, and the constant threat of predatory Japanese warplanes. When Japanese forces capture Burma and blockade China’s only overland supply route, Bond and his pilots must battle shortages of airplanes, personnel, and spare parts to airlift supplies over an untried five-hundred-mile-long aerial gauntlet high above the Himalayas—the infamous “Hump”—pioneering one of the most celebrated endeavors in aviation history.
A hero’s-eye view of history in the grand tradition of Lynne Olson’s Citizens of London, China’s Wings takes readers on a mesmerizing journey to a time and place that reshaped the modern world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance praise for China’s Wings
“Too many people think the war in the Pacific began with Japan’s sudden strike on Hawaii, launched seemingly out of nowhere. Crouch’s vividly written book explains how America’s business interests in 1930s China set it on the path to Pearl Harbor. This is the rousing story of the enterprising Pan Am pilots who built a frontier airline and went on to become aviation heroes, flying over the Himalayas, helping save China, and thereby transforming the world.”—James D. Hornfischer, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Neptune’s Inferno
“Dramatically rendered.”—Kirkus Reviews
“In China’s Wings, Gregory Crouch recalls the remarkable encounter between an ancient civilization and the most modern technology in the world, as intrepid Americans and their Chinese partners struggled to establish a sophisticated air network over a vast land that barely knew electricity. This gripping book will transport you to a fascinating lost time.”—James Bradley, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers and The Imperial Cruise
“West Point grad Crouch brings us a story that’s part adventure, part unearthed history [and] not just for history buffs.”—Library Journal
Library Journal
An endeavor jointly undertaken by China and America, China National Aviation Corporation was formed in 1929 to facilitate transportation and communication over China's huge distances and eventually served as the only supply route (across the looming Eastern Himalayas, famously called "the Hump") when China was blockaded after the Japanese invasion. West Point grad Crouch brings us a story that's part adventure, part unearthed history. Not just for history buffs.
Kirkus Reviews
An immensely detailed examination of the obscure expansion of American aviation into China during Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist era. Crouch (Enduring Patagonia, 2002, etc.), a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, depicts this story of William Langhorne Bond and his intrepid shepherding of the American-backed China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). Initially sent to China to help bolster the money-losing aviation enterprise of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in 1931, Bond recognized that the key to success within employee relations was to treat the Chinese as partners. Modernizing the country was the aim of Chiang (and the U.S. allies), and when Pan Am wrestled in, buying up Curtiss-Wright's share in CNAC and expanding routes across the Pacific, Bond was the professional enlisted in the effort. Loyal to both the Chinese and Americans, he managed to convince Pan Am chief Juan Trippe to continue its routes within China despite the crippling invasion of the Japanese in 1937. Circumventing the State Department's neutrality laws, Bond agreed to resign officially from Pam Am and work solely for CNAC, which he helped get back in operation during the war, using Hong Kong as its base. The airline was instrumental in evacuating the Nationalist provisional capital Hankow in 1938, Hong Kong in 1941 and in the execution of the crucial airdrops over "the Hump" from Dinjan to Calcutta, thus aiding the U.S. Army in supplying the Chinese troops. The Hump provided the successful prototype for the later Berlin Airlift. What Crouch calls "the most successful Sino-American partnership of all time" was dissolved in December 1949, with China "gone red" and the U.S. government fearful of continuing. Recondite but dramatically rendered and obsessively researched.

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A ragged wind gusted among the deep-­draft vessels anchored a few miles northeast of Woosung, near the eastern edge of China, where Shanghai’s river, the Whangpoo, emptied into the mighty Yangtze. The transpacific liner Empress of Japan drew too much water to cross the submerged mud bar the larger stream had built across the Whangpoo’s mouth, so a lighter eased alongside to take her passengers the last dozen miles upriver to Shanghai. Choppy swells whumped between the hulls and pitched up fat drops of spray. As he trotted down a gangway onto the smaller craft, William Langhorne Bond turned up his coat collar and clasped his fedora tighter to his head. Close-­cropped strands of reddish hair showed beneath his hatband. A toothbrush mustache edged past the corners of his mouth, dominating his thin face and drawing attention from his piercing gray-­blue eyes and the bent nose that looked like it might once have been broken. It was March 17, 1931, Saint Patrick’s Day, and the thirty-­seven-­year-­old former heavy-­construction foreman had come halfway around the world from his home in Petersburg, Virginia, to take a job he knew next to nothing about.

Bond found a seat inside the lighter, but he couldn’t keep still. Soon back on deck, he cupped his hands, lit a cigarette, and rested his forearms on the starboard rail. The Yangtze’s far northern shore was ten miles distant, a reach so wide Bond couldn’t escape the sense he was still at sea. Nobody knew where the river began (he loved that); probably at some anonymous trickle on the Tibetan fringe, thousands of miles away. But by the time the Yangtze had convulsed and roared and soughed from its mountainous headwaters and undulated across the lowlands of eastern China, collecting tribute from an uncounted multitude of creeks, springs, and lesser rivers, it had grown into a truly enormous aquatic beast that spewed water into the East China Sea through a fifty-­mile-­wide estuary. The Sinologists whose books he’d read during the Pacific crossing identified the Yangtze as the single most powerful force governing the evolution of Chinese culture. Indeed, in many ways, the Yangtze was China, a unifying artery running through the heart of a nation that might not have existed without it. No other earthly waters mattered so much, to so many people. Fully one-­tenth of mankind depended on the waters of the Yangtze Basin, an intersection of demographics and hydrology that any businessman could see made the Yangtze River a gateway to the largest potential marketplace on earth, and from its position near the mouth of the great stream, Shanghai was the key controlling the gate. For the last ninety years, ever since British gunboats blasted open the trade of central China in the 1840s, fortune seekers from around the world had flocked to do business in the city. William Bond stood on the cusp of joining them at a time when China was reeling from nearly a century of domestic upheaval and foreign-­visited disaster, struggling to unify, modernize, unlock its long-­suppressed potential, and take its place among the world’s great nations. With his new job, Bond expected to participate in what would surely be one of the twentieth century’s great dramas.

The deckhands cast off, the engines growled, and the lighter made way for the Whangpoo. China beyond the riverbanks was greenish and gray and surprisingly flat. A low, rounded hill that lay like a rice sack above the joining of the two rivers provided the only contour of relief. Across the bar, the Whangpoo took on an unguinous yellow tint, and the lighter pushed into the upstream traffic. Tugs plowed forward at the head of barge strings laden with sand, gravel, and coal. Laundry flapped from the lee rails of sailing junks whose brown, patch-­bespeckled sails, stayed by lengths of split bamboo, held the breeze like the wings of tattered dragons. Small wooden sampans coasted in the shallows, their decks choked with agricultural produce. The people aboard—­whole families, it seemed—­screamed curses as they shipped wakes trailing from the larger vessels. Bond cringed as the lighter steamed past an anchored “honey barge” awaiting the tide’s ebb, heaped to its putrid gunwales with Shanghai “night soil.”

Evidence of unruly commerce quickened as they churned upstream. Within a few miles, warehouses, known as “godowns” in the commercial parlance of the Far East, appeared, lining both sides of the river, windowless, four-­story brick structures streaked with dirt and grime. Giraffe-­necked cranes nodded over the godown docks, heaving cargoes into rust-­streaked steamers. Work gangs loaded smaller items at the tie-­ups of junks and sampans. All along both waterfronts, cars, trucks, carts, and wheelbarrows battled through lines of blue-­dungareed coolies staggering beneath preposterous burdens. Rooftops bristled with billboards touting products in English and Chinese. On the west shore, smoke plumes trailed from the trio of smokestacks above the Shanghai Power Company’s new Yangtzepoo generating station, paralleling similar cloud ribbons pouring from dozens of factory chimneys. It was a chaotic scene, industrial and gritty. There was nothing quaint or picturesque about it.

Ahead, the Whangpoo curled southeastward, and Bond caught sight of the massive buildings of the Shanghai Bund as they heaved into view around the Pootung bend, one by one. It was the most famous cityscape east of Suez, a half-­mile run of gray buildings along the downtown riverbank, and it was the core of Western imperial power in China. Architecturally, Bond couldn’t detect a shred of Chinese inspiration. He recognized the straight, art-­deco lines of the Cathay Hotel, topped by a green pyramid; “Big Ching,” the clock tower rising from the center of the Maritime Customs Building; and the dome over the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank. The buildings were impressive rather than artistic, breathtaking before beautiful, and shot through with more than a trace of military gothic intimidation, but it was the nautical chaos of the river that commanded the most attention. Bond had never seen such a busy stretch of water. Merchants counted Shanghai as the world’s fifth-­busiest port, but surely that ranking was based only on tonnage figures? In terms of sheer frenetic bustle, it was hard to imagine a greater profusion of vessels anywhere else in the world. Scores of craft plied the waterway: junks, sampans, barges, tugs, coastal steamers, freighters, lighters, men-­of-­war, and jaywalking ferries darting across the river perpendicular to the main flow of traffic. Bond’s lighter thrummed past Garden Bridge, the trestle spanning the mouth of Soochow Creek, and approached the Bund beneath flags flapping from the taffrails of the warships anchored in center stream. There were blue-­water cruisers, destroyers, and corvettes, and shallow-­draft gunboats down from their upriver patrol stations, and Bond recognized Britain’s Union Jack, the American Stars and Stripes, France’s Tricolor, the Japanese Rising Sun, and one that must have been the standard of Mussolini’s Italy. Decrepit sampans sculled in the waters alongside, poised to scuffle over galley orts ejected through the warships’ slop holes.

The lighter docked at a pontoon in front of Big Ching. Bond nervously plodded down the planks and into a shoving throng. Rickshaw men and cabbies pressed into his face demanding hire; hawkers cried their wares under greasy canvas awnings. A tram clattered past on rails laid in the street, cars fought traffic with blaring horns, and swarms of two-­wheeled, man-­pulled rickshaws wove through the commotion. Collapsed beggars thrust misshapen arms at passersby. Marine engines growled in the river. Bond looked around with no idea what to do.

A waving figure caught his eye. George Conrad Westervelt broke through the riverfront melee, and Bond shook his hand with visible relief. A car horn screamed, and a new-­model Packard shoved past. Four enormous, stone-­faced Caucasians stood on the running boards, their elbows crooked through holds mounted to the car top. The pair in front held pistols; the two beside the passenger windows had shoulder-­slung tommy guns. Bond glimpsed a dark-­suited Chinese in the rear seat. Cossacks, explained Westervelt, bodyguards for that rich Chinese. Thousands of White Russian refugees had flooded into Frenchtown since Lenin’s Bolsheviks seized power.

A short, pugnacious retired U.S. Navy captain nicknamed “Scrappy” by his Naval Academy classmates, George Conrad Westervelt was married to Bond’s first cousin, Rita Langhorne, and he’d brought Bond into the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company two years before, in 1929. Bond had been hankering to get into aviation ever since Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in the spring of 1927. At the time of Lindbergh’s flight, Bond was a job boss on a construction site in Ohio, the latest of scores of projects he’d overseen since returning home to Virginia from France at the end of the Great War. He’d built a lot of roads, railroad beds, and bridges, and earned himself an equity position in the company. Unfortunately, the work had lost its challenge. The projects would get bigger; they wouldn’t get any less routine. Lindbergh was different. Lindbergh demanded action. Lindbergh was nine years younger than William Bond, and he’d gone and done this great thing. Bond wasn’t a man who spent money on frivolities, but in the wake of Lindbergh, he paid cash money to a barnstorming pilot giving airplane rides from an Ohio cow pasture.

The pilot flew over Bond’s job site. Bond hadn’t expected the roadbed he was building to look so unimpressive. Aviation was changing the world every day, and he was laboring hidebound in Ohio, sweating or freezing or soaking with the seasons on dirty construction sites. Maybe it was time for a new direction. If he didn’t switch soon, he’d be stuck building roads and railroad beds for the rest of his life.

Bond wasn’t alone in perceiving aviation’s potential. The entire nation went airplane crazy after Lindbergh’s flight. It was as if everybody, all at once, realized aviation could reshape the world—­and that fortunes would be made while it did. Wall Street big wheels claimed new technologies like radio and aviation altered the rules of commerce: Business would be done faster and better, new markets would open, old ones would expand, and profits would grow exponentially. Aviation companies helped lead the most glorious stock market gains in history. Speculators considered the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company to have particularly fine prospects. With United Aircraft and Transport Company, the Aviation Corporation, and the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Curtiss was one of four conglomerates fighting to dominate the new industry. Via its twenty affiliated companies, Curtiss had fingers in every aspect of the aviation pie. Not every division turned a profit. Indeed, most of them didn’t, but the industry was booming, and its future seemed limitless. Five times more civil airplanes were built in 1928 than in 1926. In 1928, Curtiss stock doubled. And then doubled again. Near the end of the year, Curtiss Company stock hit $192 per share, a spectacular gain from its 1924 price of $4.50. Airline operations expanded apace. From 1926 to 1928, domestic carriers like Western Air Express, Transcontinental Air Transport, National Air Transport, Eastern Air Lines, and Northwest Airways increased the nation’s route miles fivefold. Internationally, the recently founded Pan American Airways was growing from its humble Florida-­to-­Havana origins and beginning to cast airlines across the Caribbean into Central and South America. Aviation made headlines nearly every day.

William Bond spent 1928 mulling a career change. Once he’d examined the angles, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. Bond saw his current project through to completion, resigned his position, sold his stake in the construction company, and began looking around for an opening. George Westervelt provided the entrée.

Westervelt had joined the Curtiss Company to supervise its aircraft factories, and in June of 1929, he was looking for a good man to investigate a troubled property, a million-­dollar factory that one of Curtiss’s many subentities, Curtiss-­Caproni, was building on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, a few miles south of Baltimore, near Logan Field. The project had fallen far behind schedule. When Westervelt’s wife told him that her cousin wanted an aviation position, Westervelt asked Bond to take a look.

The factory was intended to build seaplanes for the Navy, and an admiral in starched summer whites toured Bond through the construction site. Bond could see right away that the job foreman couldn’t lead sailors to a brothel. After they completed their rounds, the admiral squared up to him and asked, “Could you finish this plant?”

“I’ve been an in-­the-­dirt guy all my life. Railroads, tunnels, roads. I’ve never built a factory.”

“I didn’t ask that. I asked if you could complete this job.”

“Yes, sir, I can add and subtract and read a schedule, and I guarantee I can do it better than this.”

Bond accepted the job without asking what he would be paid. First things first, he told himself: Get the job; get into aviation.

A few weeks after Bond started, Curtiss merged with Wright Aeronautic and Keystone Aircraft to form the Curtiss-­Wright Corporation, and Bond had a job in America’s biggest aviation company. Unfortunately, the gilded expectations fueling the speculative ball didn’t jibe with data reporting back from the actual economy. Steel and iron production sagged; freight-­car loadings drooped; home building fell; industrial production sank. The stock market wobbled in September and the first three weeks of October. Then, on Tuesday, October 29, 1929, prices collapsed, the most massive single-­day meltdown in Wall Street history. Aviation stocks were among the hardest hit, and values continued to sink in subsequent trading sessions. Curtiss-­Wright’s stock plummeted 70 percent.

The crash didn’t affect most Americans, since only one in forty owned stock. The bank failures that would turn a painful recession into the country’s worst depression remained two years into the future. Few people in 1929 saw the Wall Street fiasco and the economic slowdown as anything other than a normal downturn in the boom-­and-­bust cycle of American business. The year 1930 was bad, but not earth-­shatteringly so. Unemployment ran at a little less than 9 percent. Gross national product slumped 12.7 percent, but it had dropped a whopping 24 percent in the 1921 recession and the nation had recovered quickly. For Curtiss-­Wright, however, 1930 was an unmitigated disaster. It had yoked its fortunes to projections of massive expansion in all aspects of aviation, and the dip caught the company grossly overextended. Bond finished the Chesapeake Bay factory in the last half of 1930, but the plant sat idle, and he hung on there as a glorified caretaker. In his spare time, and he had lots, he took flying lessons. Curtiss-­Caproni’s contract with the City of Baltimore mandated guaranteed utilities payments once the factory was complete. Bond took it upon himself to persuade the mayor to defer charges until the plant went into operation, an initiative that saved the company $30,000 (about $380,000 in modern dollars) and earmarked Bond as a man suited to greater responsibilities.

One of Curtiss-­Wright’s cash wounds was in China, where it had sunk half a million dollars into a 45 percent stake in the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), an airline it held in partnership with Chiang Kai-­shek’s three-­and-­a-­half-­year-­old Nationalist government, part of Curtiss-­Wright’s grandiose plan to circle the globe with its aviation network. The company owed another $585,000 toward the full capitalization of the airline, and the corporate leadership sent George Westervelt to the Orient to decide if they should continue to support it. (In aggregate, the company’s commitment would represent a modern investment of nearly $14 million.)

In China, Westervelt discovered a full manifest of operational and technical problems and a subtle force in the foreign community arrayed against the airline. Many expatriate businessmen actually wanted CNAC to fail. It was the first major partnership between Chinese and foreign interests in which the majority ownership was Chinese, and as such, it represented an implicit challenge to the comfortable status quo, in which such joint ventures were either fifty-­fifty or had the foreigners in the driver’s seat. Westervelt decreed those obstacles surmountable. The most critical problem ran deeper: Infected by the outrageous disrespect most foreigners living in Shanghai manifested toward the Chinese, many of the Americans Curtiss-­Wright shipped to China treated the airline’s Chinese employees with arrogance and overt prejudice, utterly disregarding the fact that the company was a partnership in which the Americans held the minority interest. In Westervelt’s estimation, the company’s long-­term success would depend on its American personnel learning to treat the Chinese as equals. Curtiss-­Wright needed a new man in China, someone who could lead by example and work with the Chinese as partners, treating them fairly and judging them on individual faults and merits rather than on the basis of racist stereotypes. Considering how much stock the Chinese culture placed on courtesy, the airline needed not only a man possessing common sense and business acumen, it needed one with good manners. Westervelt cabled New York and asked them to send William Bond.

To Bond, the offer came as a complete surprise. He didn’t know much about China except where to find it on a map. Nor, for that matter, did he know much of anything about airline operations. He also knew he couldn’t afford to stand pat in Baltimore. No job was more insecure than that of a man in charge of an idle factory. If he didn’t get himself into a more productive role, he’d soon find himself among America’s growing legion of unemployed. Besides, China might provide the adventure he’d been craving.

William Bond accepted the summons without hesitation.

Meet the Author

Gregory Crouch graduated from West Point, where he studied military history. He completed U.S. Army Airborne and Ranger schools and led an infantry platoon in Panama, for which he earned the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He left the Army to pursue other interests, most notably in mountaineering and surfing, and his work has appeared in National Geographic, American History, Outside, Climbing, and Mother Jones, among many publications. The author of Enduring Patagonia, Gregory Crouch lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

From the Hardcover edition.

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China's Wings 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would not call myself a scholar of WWII, nor do I have a super keen interest in aviation history or this particular time period in China, but I can say that Crouch's superb storytelling abilities transported me right into the heart of the story. With fascinationg characters, like William Langhorn Bond, who is an increasingly rare breed of a man that we need more of today, the daring and out right bravery of pilots like Moon Chin, and a country striving for unity in the face of Japanese aggression, this book is one great read. It will more than satisfy the scholar as Crouch's research is impeccible and extensive, but for the average reader, you will not get bogged down in a zillion facts and figures. From the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai in the 30's to Elmer the bear, a minor character who does actually fly a plane, to the dangerous airlift known as "the Hump", this is history told in its finest, as a captivating story with events that you just can't make up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's a novel first...an incredible story. Secondly, this is a missing chapter from your history books. Amazing detail, it's a puzzle of politics, people and adventure you get to unravel... If you are not a history buff, don't worry. The impact of CNAC on China (and the world) is thoroughly explained. Because of all the primary sources, Crouch gives the reader an intimate view of the time, place and people. His writing takes you there, into each scene and pulls you along. Bond has earned his place in history, as have all the pilots who stood behind his vision. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, aviation, politics, China, true-adventure, or who just wants to read a great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
China's Wings by Gregory Crouch is a heartwarming and emotional story. It was a true and thoroughly grand adventure with tales of love, intrigue, politics and hard facts. It included detailed aviation history as it began in China and the United States. I was lost in the drama of William Langhorne Bond and his accomplishments. He is the representation of a modern and real Hero. You need not be a military fan to enjoy it. This book was well written and I'm very appreciative of the author's diligent work.
pskaar More than 1 year ago
This is a well worded,carefully crafted, delightful read about a far away time in a far away land with current,real-world ramifications. Crouch's style puts you in the left seat for a thrilling look at a tumultuous time. If it hadn't been for the clear chapter breaks I may have forgotten to come up for air. The book has universal appeal: it explores the heart wrenching distance between a businessman and his family, the gaiety of life as an american in a foreign land, the horrors of aggression and war, the challenges of infant aviation's logistics and the dissonant aspects of an american approach to support and neutrality. I expect it will be a film in no time but the rich details make compelling reading in the interim.
DBaum More than 1 year ago
is a fascinating story of China's first commercial airlines and the American who led it through the incredible challenges of WW2. The book provides great insight into China's history and her relationship with western nations. The story also provides an important perspective on U. S. WW2 Pacific Theater strategy and Allied decisions in the China-Burma-India area of operations. This is necessary reading for any study of modern China or the Pacific Theater in WW2. Finally, this is also a great story of leadership, courage, of respecting other cultures and of service to others. (Parents might want to read it first to draw our own conclusions as to the age appropriateness of a couple of pages-this is a raw account of the terrors of war and as it is written for adults has a couple references that deserve a PG13 or higher rating depending on your sense of things).
terryfly More than 1 year ago
Greg Crouch spent more than 5 years researching and writing this book, and the results reflect that enormous effort. It is an excellent history of China for anyone interested in the period leading up to and during WWII, and an outstanding history of the amazing role played by a small Chinese airline in the affairs of the world. I use the word outstanding partly because the incredible depth of detail initially made me feel that it must be an historical novel. The author assured me, however, that he was not aware of any non-factual details in the book, and after exploring some of the resources on which he relied, I am confident of his veracity. The rest of the reason for the use of the word outstanding is that despite the amazing depth of detail, Mr. Crouch tells the story in a way that makes it a page turner - I could not put the book down. It is a compelling tale of both individual's and national strategies, tied together with impressive journalist's skill. A must-read for both aviation and WWII buffs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
China's Wings is a deep and satisfying read. Crouchs research and dogged attention to detail prove themselves in the rich descriptions of events. As a reader I have no doubt that I am reading the story exactly as it happened. Being a romantic, I especially enjoyed the events centered around Kitsi, Bonds life love. Their relationship survives the epic adventure of CNAC with both Bond and Kitsi showing honesty, determination and true grit.
CrazyJack More than 1 year ago
"China's Wings" presents an outstanding record of Kuomintang foibles throughout the prewar and wartime eras. There are times when the narrative makes the continued flourishing - even existence - of Chinese/American aviation business seem little short of miraculous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly masterful work by Gregory Crouch on his book: China's Wings. Gregory's fascinating writing style and in-depth research totally captivated my attention from cover to cover. As an Air Force cadet long ago, we learned about aviation history, WWII in China and flying "The Hump;" and now, reading China's Wings has actually brought that period of time totally alive! As a result of this wonderful reading experience, I have been very positively motivated to dig into more and more research about the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), WWII in China and the development of airlines in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. Gregory's book is so good, that I'm re-reading China's Wings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best Book on My Nook!!! China's Wings is a great read! Sooo much fun picking up on a bit of, until now, neglected history. Now, I have to admit that I'm partial in my reading to historical topics, especially military in focus. And I'm a bit of an aviation buff. And that China fascinates me. But having said all of that I would probably have loved this book even if none of the above applied. It's a very entertaining story, very well told. Gregory Crouch delivers on all of the promises contained in the book's subtitle; war, intrigue, romance and (tons and tons of) adventure. An exciting (believe me, it's exciting!) story is delivered in extremely well written prose. I found myself, as early as chapter one, actually highlighting sentences. Not because of the factual content but because of the elegance of the language! And I'm not easily impressed. Looking for a good spring/summer read? Trust me. Go for China's Wings!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As the granddaughter of a World War II Hump pilot, China's Wings was a fascinating read. I grew up admiring my grandfather's adventures, flying men and cargo over the Himalayas from India to China during the war. Gregory Crouch brings these stories of risk and bravery to life, along with the full history of the commercial airline that managed the airlift. China National Aviation Corporation, a joint venture between Pan American and the Chinese government, proved more efficient and competent at flying over the treacherous mountains in monsoons and snowstorms and dense fog than the Army Air Corps. The visionary behind CNAC was William Langhorne Bond, a Virginian who escaped the Great Depression by shepherding the airline into a profitable business for Pan Am through the turbulent, war-torn 30s and 40s in China, while Japanese soldiers and bombers attacked relentlessly. Bond endured a dozen years in China, mostly separated from his wife and two sons, to keep the airline on a steady course through the war, as he was singularly suited to diplomatically work with Chinese government and business officials. This book will remind you of the "Aviator," but it will also illuminate a little known part of history leading up to Pearl Harbor and the action in the China-Burma-India theater. A compelling story that has finally been told.
LAS0 More than 1 year ago
It's rare that an author comes along whose prose reads like poetry. Mr. Crouch is one of them. His use of language, his metaphors, his images and descriptive adjectives suck a reader into this fascinating story of aviation entrepreneurship in thirties China. And while satisfying even the most persnickety of aviation history wonks, China's Wing's real characters and the history they live cannot help but totally immerse readers of novels and historical fiction. Make some time for this read, because regardless of the kind of reader you are, you simply will not be able to set it down until finished.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Crouch has written a well researched accounting of events that occurred in China in 1931 through the end of World War II, and it is a page-turner. It’s an enjoyable narrative describing the lives of real people that lived during this period as they struggled to build a commercial airline company, and he has done this in such a fashion that the reader continually looks forward to each new chapter of their lives. When I came to the end of the book, I found I had learned a lot about a history which had previously been unknown to me. In the process I found that I had read an entertaining book of brave pioneers who faced daily dangers as they tried to build a new company in the in a war-torn area.
Diana_Houston More than 1 year ago
I was hooked when I read Crouch's Author's Notes. "The people in this story knew as much about tomorrow as we do today. Which is to say very little. The future revealed itself to them the same way it reveals itself to us, minute by minute. ... There are no predetermined outcomes. There is no fate. Much could have occurred. Only one thing did." China's Wings is much more than history or even an adventure story. The context, positioning a great story in a tumultuous time that had significant impact on the outcome of WWII elevates China's Wings to significant historical commentary. Like Crouch's prior book, Enduring Patagonia, there are multiple layers, with satisfying dollops of politics, psychology and philosophy sprinkled throughout. And always the lush descriptions that make reading Crouch's books such a pleasure. If you like China's Wing's, get Enduring Patagonia. "An otherworldly range of mountains exits in Patagonia ... where ice and granite soar with a dancer's grace....To court these summits is to graft fear to your heart, for all is not idyllic beauty among the great peaks of Patagonia." Completely different genre, but extraordinary books, both of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AnneDaVigo More than 1 year ago
Gregory Crouch hits the bull's-eye with this history of the China National Aviation Corporation set in the tumultous era leading up to and during World War II. His characters--William Langhorne Bond and his heroic band of pilots--humanize the tale with their perseverance and daring exploits. Even better, Crouch's book is rich with context; China is in chaos following the end of the dynasties. Mao, Chiang Kai-shek, and the warlords are struggling for control of the country. The Western powers are losing their stranglehold on Asia. The book gave me a fresh perspective on the world's most important country in the "China Century."
JoanMac More than 1 year ago
What a story! It is history at its best, weaving together military, political, and aviation history with the life stories and adventures of extraordinary people. It is tells the story of William Langhorne Bond, the American who kept the China National Aviation Corporation running during China's tumultuous 30s and 40s, and the cadre of heroic pilots, Chinese and American, who flew through the Himalayas in the airlift that was so vital in the war effort. Rich in detail and drama, this is a great story, a great read.
MmorrisonNJ More than 1 year ago
To a casual observer, China’s Wings might appear to have appeal only to those interested in the history of aviation in China. The book is that and much more. In that regard, its subtitle, “War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight” is far from false advertising. China’s Wings will appeal to myriad readers looking for an exciting and well told story. Full of wonderful real-life characters, the book chronicles the history of the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) in the early days of commercial aviation. Foremost among these personalities is William Langhorne Bond who arrives in China in 1931 to turn around a flagging airline. With the outbreak of World War 2, Bond finds himself a major participant in the struggle to maintain airline operations in the face of Japanese attacks at great personal sacrifice. There are many other wonderfully drawn studies of pilots, American and Chinese, key historical airline executives, as well as a cast of international political and military leaders. Gregory Crouch, an extremely talented writer, explains the story the CNAC in the setting of the global events of the time in a thoroughly engaging manner. Simply put, one of the best books I have read in quite some time and highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago