Terror of the Autumn Skies: The True Story of Frank Luke, America's Rogue Ace of World War I

Overview


Frank Luke, Jr., was an unlikely pilot. In the Great War, when fliers were still "knights of the air," Luke was an ungallant loner, a kid from Arizona who collected tarantulas, shot buzzards, and boxed miners. But during two torrid weeks in September 1918, he was the deadliest man on the Western Front. In only ten missions, he destroyed fourteen heavily-defended German balloons and four airplanes, a rampage unequaled even by the dreaded von Richtofen, and the second highest American tally of the entire war. ...
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Overview


Frank Luke, Jr., was an unlikely pilot. In the Great War, when fliers were still "knights of the air," Luke was an ungallant loner, a kid from Arizona who collected tarantulas, shot buzzards, and boxed miners. But during two torrid weeks in September 1918, he was the deadliest man on the Western Front. In only ten missions, he destroyed fourteen heavily-defended German balloons and four airplanes, a rampage unequaled even by the dreaded von Richtofen, and the second highest American tally of the entire war. Cocksure and constantly reprimanded, Luke was actually under arrest on the day of his final flight, but he stole a plane to join the fatal action that won him the first Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to a pilot. Blaine Pardoe retraces and refreshes Frank Luke's story through recently discovered correspondence. What emerges is a portrait of a life out of an "Old West" that was, by the late Teens, colliding with modernity. Frantic, short, and splendid, the life of Frank Luke, Jr. dramatizes the tragic intervention of an American spirit in the war that devastated Europe.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Breezy, journalistic biography of America's greatest World War I fighter ace-until a German ace shot him down six weeks before the armistice. Frank Luke Jr. (1897-1918) grew up in turn-of-the-century Arizona; high school classmates in Phoenix noted his fondness for guns, horseplay and football. In 1917, the year America declared war on Germany, he enlisted in the fledgling Army Air Corps. Everything about this revolutionary new branch of warfare, including the aircraft, training and tactics, was improvised, unreliable and extremely dangerous; combat pilots had a life expectancy of three weeks. Novelist and military writer Pardoe (The Cruise of the Sea Eagle, 2005, etc.) recounts Luke's training in the United States and France, summarizes America's role in the war and provides short biographies of fellow pilots and commanders. In July 1918, the rookie pilot joined the 27th Squadron at the front, where his self-confidence, boastfulness and aggressiveness quickly made him unpopular with the squad's veterans. They warmed up to Luke as his score of kills grew. By autumn, it had reached 18, and stories of his achievements began appearing in American newspapers, which extolled him as the "balloon buster." (Destroying observation balloons was a very dangerous mission because balloons were heavily defended.) Within days of Luke's death in September, fellow ace Eddie Rickenbacker had replaced him in the headlines, and Luke's name eventually faded away to become the answer to a trivia question. Readers may wince at the author's overheated writing style and penchant for describing his subjects' inner feelings, but they will admire the research that turned up a generous trove of letters and diaries,enabling Pardoe to deliver a detailed picture of the not-very-introspective airman's short life. Military buffs who overlook the purple prose will enjoy a brisk, nuts-and-bolts description of air warfare in the murderously flimsy flying machines of 1918.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616082949
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/27/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 658,875
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Blaine Pardoe is a novelist and military historian. His books on the Great War include The Cruise of the Sea Eagle and Terror of the Autumn Skies.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Prologue xiii

1 First Blood 1

2 The Wild Boy 13

3 Fly with the Eagles 29

4 Into the Air 43

5 The American Expeditionary Force 53

6 The Front 71

7 Busting Balloons 87

8 Fire in the Sky 99

9 The Dynamic Duo 107

10 Roar in the Skies 117

11 Recognition 127

12 The Darkest of Times 133

13 In the Limelight 141

14 Ivan the Missing 151

15 Crescendo 161

16 "Watch for burning balloons ahead..." 165

17 Into the Setting Sun 173

18 When Time Stood Still 181

19 One Man, Many Lives 195

20 The Stuff of Legends 207

Afterword 225

Bibliography 247

Notes to Chapters 267

About the Author 301

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    I read Balloon Buster as a kid and thought I knew the Frank Luke story. This book changed that. We finally get to see the German perspective of Frank Luke's rampage. Pardoe also brings in a wealth of new material about his love life and even some photographs that have never been published. Finally, Luke is more than just a pilot blowing up balloons -- this book makes him a real person. This is not a story of Frank Luke's death, this is a story about his entire life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 23, 2009

    Much new material.

    This book is better researched than any I have previously read on the topic. It is well written and quite absorbing. In fact, it reads more like a novel than non-fiction, even though it is factual.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 29, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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