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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.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.87(d)|
About 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.