The Millionaire's Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys who Fought the Great War and Invented American Airpower

Overview

The Millionaires' Unit is the story of a gilded generation of young men from the zenith of privilege: a Rockefeller, the son of the head of the Union Pacific Railroad, several who counted friends and relatives among presidents and statesmen of the day. They had it all and, remarkably by modern standards, they were prepared to risk it all to fight a distant war in France. Driven by the belief that their membership in the American elite required certain sacrifice, schooled in heroism and the nature of leadership, ...

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New York, NY 2006 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 313 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade.

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New York 2006 Hardcover First Edition New in New dust jacket 9781586483289. New book in crisp DJ.; 1.4 x 9.3 x 6.2 Inches; 314 pages.

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The Millionaires' Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power

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Overview

The Millionaires' Unit is the story of a gilded generation of young men from the zenith of privilege: a Rockefeller, the son of the head of the Union Pacific Railroad, several who counted friends and relatives among presidents and statesmen of the day. They had it all and, remarkably by modern standards, they were prepared to risk it all to fight a distant war in France. Driven by the belief that their membership in the American elite required certain sacrifice, schooled in heroism and the nature of leadership, they determined to be first into the conflict, leading the way ahead of America's declaration that it would join the war. At the heart of the group was the Yale flying club, six of whom are the heroes of this book. They would share rivalries over girlfriends, jealousies over membership in Skull and Bones, and fierce ambition to be the most daring young man over the battlefields of France, where the casualties among flyers were chillingly high. One of the six would go on to become the principal architect of the American Air Force's first strategic bomber force. Others would bring home decorations and tales of high life experiences in Paris. Some would not return, having made the greatest sacrifice of all in perhaps the last noble war. For readers of Flyboys, The Greatest Generation, or Flags Of Our Fathers, this patriotic, romantic, absorbing book is narrative military history of the best kind.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Freelance writer and Yale alumnus Wortman tells the story of the Yale Flying Club, a group of wealthy young Yale students whose interest in flying became the basis for one of the first air corps units of World War I. Using the diaries and letters of these flyers, Wortman shows how their wealth and social connections aided them in their efforts to form the First Yale Unit, which proved the importance of and need for air support in a war. Many of the unit's surviving members contributed their insights and expertise to the development of America's Army Air Corps, the predecessor of today's air force. This well-written and engaging account of America's initial wartime deployment of airplanes would make a nice addition to the collections of academic or large public libraries.-Diane Fulkerson, Univ. of West Georgia Lib., Carrollton Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586483289
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/8/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Marc Wortman is an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous national magazines. He was a senior editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine, where the story of the Yale unit was originally published in the September/October 2003 issue. He also taught literature and writing at Princeton University and in a college program for inmates at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey. He lives in New Haven with his wife and daughter.

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 16, 2011

    A interesting story well told

    Although American tried to remain neutral in the years before World War I, she was forced to act in 1917. But in 1916, a group of Yale students, young men who wanted their country to be prepared for war, formed their own air force, bought their own planes, paid for their own flight training and expenses -- through the largesse of their parents for the most part. The Millionaire's Unit tells their story.

    It might be easy to dismiss these privileged students as dilettantes, silly boys who simply wanted to play soldier. But in the moneyed enclave that was Yale, the entire educational experience of the time was directed at creating leaders who would give their all for school, God and country.

    The Millionaires' Unit - its first designation was as the First Yale Unit of the U.S. Navy Air Reserve - served proudly in Europe and its members succeeded in leadership positions quickly, often put in command of much older men with more years of military service than they had. After the war was over, those who survived were called on again and again to provide their expertise and leadership in the United States Navy.

    The author focuses on six of the men, including Frederick "Trubee" Davison, who was the driving force behind his classmates. He paints a vivid picture of life at Yale in the years before the Great War and points out that the environment at Yale is vastly different today - with a more diverse student body, more emphasis on academics than leadership and service, and less of a patriotic (some might say militaristic) bent. Tellingly, the huge memorial to Elis who gave their life in service of their country has had no new additions since the Vietnam War.

    The Millionaires' Unit is an interesting story well told. It's easy to forgive the author his occasional lapses into rambling sentences that prove difficult to parse.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

    We should not forget the young men who invented U.S. naval aviation.

    I was fortunate to know at the end of his life one of the Yale students who created the first U.S. Naval aviation reserve unit, who flew in World War I, and who helped create modern military aviation. This book is a splendid telling of their story and sacrifices. I recommend it for anyone who has an interest in how young men -- all volunteers -- could have such an impact. This book is a great reminder of how indebted we are to those who preceeded us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2007

    This is a really read indeed!

    Reviewer: Paul Aaron (New York, NY) This story as told by the author Marc Wortman is a very good read indeed! It is a narrative history that is a well- documented true tale about real people. The story is cinematic in the quality of it's telling. This book satisfied my curiousity about the history of early 20th Century American aviation, the US role in World War l/the Great War, and the role played by many Yale University graduates in the rise of American power in the 20th Century (as it still continues to in the 21st Century). I have noticed that 'The Millionaires' Unit' was in the news recently. In the process of researching this book Marc Wortman found a letter written to one of The Millionaires' Unit members that documents grave robbing the great Apache chief Geronimo's skull by members of the secretive Yale fraternity, Skull and Bones, back in the early 1900's. Geronimo's skull and other artifacts were placed on display inside the Skull and Bones frat house, the Tomb, in New Haven, CT. This is interesting since some of the contemporary members of the fraternity include George Bush Jr, George Bush Sr, and John Kerry, etc. Anyway, that is a very minor side story - the major story is that The Millionaires' Unit is an excellent book and I recommend buying and reading it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2007

    A Good Read Indeed!

    This story as told by the author Marc Wortman is a very good read indeed! It is a narrative history that is a well- documented true tale about real people. The story is cinematic in the quality of it's telling. This book satisfied my curiousity about the history of early 20th Century American aviation, the US role in World War l/the Great War, and the role played by many Yale University graduates in the rise of American power in the 20th Century (as it still continues to in the 21st Century). 'The Millionaires' Unit' was in the news in 2006. In the process of researching this book Marc Wortman found a letter written to one of The Millionaires' Unit members that documents grave robbing the great Apache chief Geronimo's skull by members of the secretive Yale fraternity, Skull and Bones, back in the early 1900's. Geronimo's skull and other artifacts were placed on display inside the Skull and Bones frat house, the Tomb, in New Haven, CT. This is interesting since some of the contemporary members of the fraternity include George Bush Jr, George Bush Sr, and John Kerry, etc. Anyway, that is a very minor side story - the major story is that The Millionaires' Unit is an excellent book and I highly recommend buying and reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2007

    A Great Read - Excellent Narrative History

    This piece of history as told by the author Marc Wortman is a very good read indeed! It is a narrative history that is a well-documented true tale about real people. The story is cinematic in the quality of it's telling. This book satisfied my curiousity about the history of early 20th Century American aviation, the US role in World War l/the Great War, and the role played by many Yale University graduates in the rise of American power in the 20th Century (as it still continues to in the 21st Century). 'The Millionaires' Unit' was in the news back in 2006. In the process of researching this book Marc Wortman found a letter written to one of The Millionaires' Unit members that documents grave robbing the great Apache chief Geronimo's skull by members of the secretive Yale fraternity, Skull and Bones, back in the early 1900's. Geronimo's skull and other artifacts were placed on display inside the Skull and Bones frat house, the Tomb, in New Haven, CT. This is interesting since some of the contemporary members of the fraternity include George Bush Jr, George Bush Sr, and John Kerry, etc. Anyway, that is a very minor side story - the major story is that The Millionaires' Unit is an excellent book and I recommend buying and reading it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2006

    When Patriotism was fashionable

    What Gatsby did to give the idle rich of the early 20th Century a bad name, Wortman has refuted with eloquence and passion, showing that youth, patriotism and wealth are not necessarily incompatible with each other. Movies have been made about the idealism of this time in America's history, but these men actually lived their lives according to a set of moral principles that took them through the Great Depression, a second World War, a Cold War and on into old age. This book makes for good reading and an interesting touchpoint for the times we find ourselves in today with American soldiers at war in foreign countries.

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