"This is a winner, combining an engaging narrative and appropriate documentation into one solid study of three iconic aviators and their times." Library Journal, starred review
"A gripping document of a brilliant era in our history and a few of the men who helped make it so." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“As Mr. Groom's absorbing narrative unfolds, we see one man enduring a horrendous ordeal on the open sea; another nearly losing his life in a bombing run; and yet another finding a sort of redemption for his battered public image.”
–The Wall Street Journal
"Groom’s rich narrative tell the intertwined stories of these aeronautical pioneers as they took to the air to become exemplars of the spirit of the “greatest generation.” Flight Journal
"That the imagination that conceived Forrest Gump could conjure up fresh ways to tell stories of American history is astonishing...Groom's epic story is a tribute...Readers of all his fiction and nonfiction might well feel inclined to testify that he is fast becoming a national treasure. Forrest Gump would agree." The Advocate
“Winston Groom writes history like a novelist. Readers will appreciate his careful and accurate use of aviation and military terminology, and description of each aircraft in the narratives. Groom handles this complex subject in clear, understandable terms, woven into a great air war story.” –American Aviation Historical Society
"Groom is at his best sharing history through the personal stories of the people involved. Not only is this history a learning experience, it is a joy to experience the suspenseful adventures of these extraordinary aviators as they spent their lives developing and promoting aviation in this country. An important narrative not to be missed!" Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette Bookstore
This will be an alternate selection in History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book-of-the-Month Club.
Groom's (Shiloh, 1862) interwoven biographies confirm that in their day no American figures received such public adulation as Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, and Charles Lindbergh, each of whom became a colossus in the annals of flight. In 1918, Rickenbacker was the number one U.S. combat pilot; Lindbergh, of course, thrilled the world in 1927 when he flew solo nonstop across the Atlantic; and Doolittle ushered in modern airpower in 1929 by flying aircraft on instruments alone. All three visited Nazi Germany in the 1930s and warned their indifferent countrymen about Hitler's burgeoning war machine. Doolittle and Rickenbacker called for U.S. diplomatic engagement and military preparedness, while Lindbergh backed a policy of isolationism. During World War II these men were middle-aged, famous, and wealthy, yet they volunteered to fly again. Groom's farewell chapter is a masterpiece, in which he concludes, "They were giants who ruled the air…and years after they died their dust still sparkles in the lore that binds the national trust." VERDICT This is a winner, combining an engaging narrative and appropriate documentation into one solid study of three iconic aviators and their times. Recommended for students of military history and biography, as well as aviation historians and enthusiasts.—John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland
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.