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Book Reviews

Looking for a good book about your aviation hero or your favorite aircraft? You might just find it here! Book reviews published in The Daedalus Flyer can now be found on this web page. If you would like to review a book you’ve enjoyed, or even one you’ve written yourself, please send a short review (approximately 200 words) to the The Daedalus Flyer editor at debbie@daedalians.org.

Reviews are posted in order of the publication they were featured in, with the most current ones at the top.
To go directly to a review, click on its title below.

“First to Fly”

By Charles Bracelen Flood

The subtitle of this book is “The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, the American Heroes Who Flew for France in World War I,” so it immediately caught my attention and I looked forward to reading it. After the first several chapters, I was thinking that this would be a good book for a teenager who likes history and flying, but further reading proved me wrong. Author Flood, who may be better known as a Civil War historian, has written a book unlike any other WWI flying story I have read. In its 30 short chapters, he tells stories of the men of the squadron that show the types of people they were, not just how they flew and fought. At the same time, the stories show the conditions they had to fly and live in.
I think the author had to use memoirs and chronicles not often cited before to come up with some of the stories. I liked it, and, as usual with a book I like, I had trouble putting it down. Good news for the reader; as most chapters are short and go on to other stories, there is always a good spot to mark and come back to another day. Published in 2015, “First to Fly” should be easy to find.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Summer 2020 Edition

“Air Commando One”

By Warren A. Trest

I enjoyed this biography of Brig. Gen. Heinie Aderholt, known to all former Air Commandos and Special Operations warriors as Air Commando One. Air Force Historian Warren Trest does a great job of detailing the tumultuous Air Force career of General Aderholt, a warrior who ranks at or very near the top of great wartime leaders. Based upon his early experiences in the Korean War and CIA assignments leading up to the Southeast Asia war, he was a strong, outspoken supporter of an air war that used older, propeller-driven aircraft that could be supported and maintained by smaller countries involved in an insurgency. Using advisors, they could learn to use them to fight their own battles, keeping the intensity of the conflict at a lower level. This did not sit well with the “all jet” Air Force and higher intensity format envisioned by Heinie’s superiors. The result: he had to work around higher headquarters’ restrictions and hostility to get his counterinsurgency missions done. His older, lower-flying, slower aircraft often produced better results than the heavy-handed approach of the bigger, faster, more modern aircraft.
The key founder member of the Air Commando Association, Heinie spent a lot of his post Air Force time helping the Lao Hmong people who fought on our side during the SEA war and working hard to preserve the history and legacy of the Air Commandos. Any serious air warfare enthusiast should have this book in his/her library.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Summer 2020 Edition

“Fighting the Flying Circus”

By Capt. Eddie V. Rickenbacker

A Daedalian donated a box of books to our headquarters. In it were a few treasures that addressed flying by our Founder Members during WWI. This book by Founder Member #169 Eddie Rickenbacker, originally published in 1919, is a terrific recounting of his flying experiences during the Great War, culminating with his selection as commander of the 94th Pursuit Squadron. As every Daedalian (and most aviators) knows, Eddie was America’s “Ace of Aces,” ending the war with 26 kills, more than any other American pilot. The book is well written and does a very good job of explaining conditions, the aircraft, the battles, and the losses during America’s involvement in WWI.
The 94th Squadron’s insignia was the “Hat in the Ring” and every time I see a picture of Eddie, there he is standing by his SPAD fighter with that emblem on its fuselage. What I did not know was the 94th and several other American squadrons were placed opposite some of the best German Jastas, hence the book’s title. When America entered the war, flying cast off French Nieuport fighters, they had a very steep learning curve to avoid being shot out of the skies by the Germans. You will love this book and Eddie’s insights into it. I noticed that this copy was purchased at an estate sale for 50 cents – that was a real bargain!

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Summer 2020 Edition

“To the Ends of the Earth”

By Sir Alan Cobham

The book is subtitled “Memoirs of a Pioneering Aviator,” and it is a very interesting look at two trips made by Sir Alan that were initially published in two separate manuscripts. The first roundtrip was from London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 16, 1925, to March 13, 1926. The second, even more daunting roundtrip voyage, was from London to Melbourne, Australia, from June 30 to Oct. 1, 1926. Both flights were made in the same aircraft, a DeHavilland DH50J, with the same single radial engine power plant, the 385 horsepower Siddely Jaguar engine, giving Sir Alan 160 more horsepower than the standard DH50. The first voyage, almost all over land, used wheels, while the second, flown over a lot of water, used primarily pontoon floats. This latter was necessary to and from Australia due to a lack of airfields, requiring most landings to be made in seaports.
Author, and pilot Cobham took a lot of photos and film of the trips. On the first, shorter flight, he carried a mechanic and a photographer. On the longer flight, he carried a mechanic, so there was less filming done. I found the descriptions of the dead reckoning required over vast spaces, where there were poor or no maps, no radios, no navaids, and often bad weather, to be fascinating and very, very scary. There was an enormous amount of preflight planning that had to be made, and a lot of equipment and fuel that had to be pre-positioned to make the flights work. The two trips were historically significant, as the first opened the continent of Africa to air travel, and the second as it proved the possibility of connecting the entire English Commonwealth by air, making the world seem a lot smaller. Worth reading – they don’t make pilots like that anymore!

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Summer 2020 Edition

“Fighter Pilot”

By Robin Olds, with Cristina Olds and Ed Rasimus

Christina, daughter of Hereditary Daedalian Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, was the guest speaker at a Red River Valley Association (River Rats) meeting in San Antonio this past February. She spoke about her fighter pilot Dad, Robin, who passed away in 2007. The talk, and some time spent with her before and after the meeting, inspired me to get my copy of the book “Fighter Pilot” out and read it again. I am glad I did. Many of you have likely read the book, since its publication in 2010, but if you haven’t, and love a terrific flying story, this is it.
Robins, a WWII double ace, was not only a terrific pilot, but an outstanding commander and leader of men. He was not a shrinking violet, and was not afraid to “fly, fight, win.” I think he is arguably the finest combat aviation leader the U.S. has ever produced. Re: his flying ability, several of his non-combat flying stories will cause you to pause and say “YGBSM, he really did that?” That will likely be followed by a “That took brass ones.” Specific instances are his first flights in the F-80 and in the Meteor IV (the RAF’s first jet). Robin really comes into his own as wing commander of the Wolfpack, flying the F-4 in Vietnam. The stories of flying and having to develop tactics to avoid losing men and aircraft, and training/teaching aircrew members to survive and succeed in a tough war are worth remembering if you are still in the business of flying and leading. Also well worth remembering is his style of “management by walking around,” which gave him detailed knowledge of his people and their duties. Terrific job with Robin’s memoirs, Christina, I will look forward to reading your upcoming biography of your grandfather and Founder Member, Maj. Gen. Robert Olds, when it comes out.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Summer 2020 Edition

“Sagittarius Rising”

By Cecil Lewis

I thought I had read widely in aviation books, so the cover of “Sagittarius Rising” by Cecil Lewis caught my eye as did the positive review by George Bernard Shaw. On the basis of the review alone, I picked the book out of a discard bin and took it home to read. What a delight! First published in 1936 and based on the author’s diary, it covers his entrance into the RAF at the beginning of WWI and includes some of the best descriptions of fighter combat in the Great War from which we trace our Daedalian roots. I might not be the only member of our Order who had missed this book, so I thought I’d forward a recommendation to all to read this classic. Long out of print, but readily available online.
Colonel Kapp notes: I bought a copy of the book for my library, read it and absolutely loved it. Author Lewis has a terrific way with words. Mike’s review is spot on. By the way, I found my copy, a 1963 2nd edition, online at www.abe.com. I paid $4.50 for it, with free shipping from the used bookstore – what a deal! There were at least another two dozen copies available on abe.com for varying prices.

Reviewer: Michael R. Gallagher, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Summer 2020 Edition

“Tap Code”

By Col. Carlyle “Smitty” Harris and Sara W. Berry

With the help of Ms. Berry, Col. Carlyle Harris has finally written the story of his Air Force service to our country, and it is a good read. Smitty, an F-105 pilot in Vietnam, was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese, and spent roughly eight years in captivity. The story is well worth adding to your library for three reasons.
First is the author’s personal experiences as a POW and how he coped. Second, the book is written in a back-and-forth style of chapters by Smitty discussing his situation, and chapters by his wife, Louise, as she details how she contended with the efforts of raising a family by herself throughout his captivity – there are two good stories here. Third, the book details Smitty’s revival of a long-unused communication code, the Tap Code, which improved the POWs’ ability to communicate with each other. That ability to communicate was a huge morale booster and enabled them to establish a chain of command and organize resistance against efforts by the North Vietnamese to break their discipline and wills. The result: that simple code allowed them to come home as heroes and with their honor intact. You older River Rat-type readers will recognize a lot of names. For you younger guys and gals, this story is good information to have in your flight suit pocket – just in case.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Spring 2020 Edition

“So I Bought An Air Force”

By W. W. Martin

Many thanks to fellow Daedalian, Col. Joe Morgan, USAF (Ret), for loaning this book to me. The owner of the “Air Force” in the title is author, W. W. Martin, a non-military pilot. This is his story, and it is a doozy! In 1963, Mr. Martin noticed an ad in “Trade-A-Plane” magazine, which said that the Nicaraguan Air Force (FAN) was getting rid of its P-51s, P-47s and C-45s. They were getting rid of the planes because their then ally, the United States, was bringing them into the jet age. After asking his wife, “Where is Nicaragua?” the author decides (with the help of his brother) to arrange to buy the FAN aircraft. With visions of making millions in his eyes, months later and armed with all the paperwork he needs, Martin heads south to Nicaragua. The country was then run by Nicaraguan strongman and dictator General Samoza, and bribes were the way of life in the country.
What Martin figured should be 6-9 months of work to get the planes into shape and out of the country turned into years, in part because of a lazy FAN workforce, equipment and spare parts pilfering, and ferry pilots who lied about their abilities to fly P-51s and P-47s. Crashes were many, and, in fact, not one P-47 made it back to the U.S. I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to find out how T-28s, B-26s, Costa Rica, and Mexico fit into the story. This is another hard book to put down.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2020 Spring Edition

“Tupolev Tu-95 & Tu-142”

By Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov

Now that you have loaded up your coffee table with some large (and heavy) aviation books, here is one more. Authors Gordon and Komissarov do yeoman’s work detailing the history of the Tupolev “Bear.” Approximately 400 of the Tu-95 bomber and the Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance/anti-submarine warfare variants were built from the 1950s to the 1990s. It is the only prop-driven strategic bomber still in service today. Primarily flown by the Soviet, now Russian, Air Force and Navy, it has been continually upgraded, much like our B-52. The book covers development of the aircraft, its variants and modifications, as well as the armament and avionics changes throughout its life, whether they were successful, or not.
The book is very detailed and uses a lot of photos and drawings to assist the reader. It is so detailed, many of the missions list the aircraft commander and his crew. While the development of the “Bear” is interesting, the best part of the book covers operational use and individual missions. There are quite a few photos of the aircraft being intercepted by US, British, and other allied aircraft, as well as naval ships they shadowed and photographed. Accidents and incidents are detailed as well. The book is not an easy read, but it is a fascinating look into Soviet/Russian aircraft operations. Anyone with an Air Defense or an ASW background will likely enjoy it even more than I did.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Spring 2020 Edition

“The Storm on Our Shores”

By Mark Obmascik

Right up front I will tell you there is little about airpower in this book. It is basically an infantry story. Pulitizer Prize-winning author Mark Obmascik has written a remarkable book, subtitled “One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II.” The island is Attu, westernmost in Alaska’s Aleutian Island chain. It is a strategically useless island, with the distinction of being the first U.S. territory captured by a foreign power. The two soldiers are an American infantryman and a Japanese Army doctor. The former born into an impoverished, depression-era Ohio coal mining family, enlists in the Army to escape the mines, and becomes his unit’s First Sergeant. The doctor, a 7th Day Adventist pacifist born in Hiroshima, is a graduate of college and medical schools in California. When he returns to Japan, he is conscripted into the Imperial Army. Because he was trained in America, he is not trusted and refused a commission, becoming an enlisted doctor in his unit.
The forgotten battle is the American retaking of Attu, as seen through the eyes and words of the two soldiers. The Japanese took Attu, and later Kiska (much more strategically useful), with well-conditioned units that are well prepared for arctic conditions and willing to die for their Emperor. The American military 7th Division leadership figures they can retake Attu in three days. They send in a unit that was training to go to war in North Africa, which is not only untrained for Arctic-type warfare, but is not equipped for it either. Guess how well that goes? Airpower does not play a key role, primarily because of the horrible weather. The battle is brutal and costly, but overwhelming U.S. manpower and American spirit eventually win. What happens after the war up to 2011 with the characters and their families makes the story doubly interesting. I think you will add this one to your library.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2020 Spring Edition

“Kenneth N. Walker”

By Martha Byrd

Subtitled “Airpower’s Untempered Crusader,” this is the biography of Founder Member Brig. Gen. Kenneth N. Walker, who, very early on (1928-29), embraced the theory of the invincible bomber. He remained a vocal supporter of strategic bombers and bombing until his untimely death in 1943 while on a B-17 mission in the Pacific. He remains one of the highest-ranking aviators to be lost in combat. Known by his friends as a “rabid” defender of strategic bombing, he was relentless in its support against Chennault and the other pursuit (fighter) enthusiasts. His major achievement was co-authoring the War Department’s Air War Plans Division document, AWPD-1, which detailed the number of planes, men, and equipment the U.S. air forces would need to go into WWII. The thrust of that document put daylight strategic bombing to the fore, allowing the air forces to prepare the way for ground forces, and raised the possibility that a bombing campaign might render a ground campaign unnecessary.
Doug Walker, General Walker’s youngest son, sent this Air University published book to our Communications Manager, Annette Crawford, to add to our library, in the hope it will keep the general’s story alive. If you are an airpower enthusiast, you will enjoy this book, as I did. P.S. If you click HERE you’ll access the Air Power History Fall 2014 issue; you’ll find an interesting article from that magazine, titled: “The Search for General Walker – New Insights,” on Page 6. It’s a great update to the book.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Spring 2020 Edition

NOTE: Learn more about General Walker, Daedalian Founder Member #634, on his Spotlight page HERE.

“Fly Fast…Sin Boldly”

By William P. Lear Jr.

Over drinks at the Auger Inn, a friend suggested this book. It was a good recommendation. Author Bill Lear Jr. has written a biography that will keep you turning the pages to see what comes next. And, yes, he is the son of aviation legend, Bill Lear Sr. OK, what 17-year-old kid (with a pilot’s license, but no driver’s license) talks his Dad into buying him a war surplus P-38, with 14 hours on its airframe, for $1,250? For an extra $75, he gets two drop tanks, a full load of high-octane avgas, and blasts off into the air with his own warbird. What a deal! The trick now is how to keep it fueled, in the air, and away from creditors, who want their money for parts, fuel, etc.
But wait, it gets even better. Dad asks him to enter the 1947 Bendix Air Races, which he does, finishing toward the bottom of the pack, but as the youngest pilot to ever fly that race. Ok, no more spoiling what is in the book, except to say he joins the air show circuit, flies with the Air Force for a while (good stories here), flies A LOT, gets married and divorced a bunch of times, goes to work for Daddy (selling Learjets and other Lear products in Europe), and even runs guns for a while. Bill Jr. tells it like it was. It was a hard book to put down.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, Spring 2020 Edition

“Chickenhawk”

By Robert Mason

A good friend, John McNabb, loaned me this book. He said it was a great read, and he was right!  “Chickenhawk” is Robert Mason’s personal story of his experiences during the Vietnam War, while flying as a warrant officer pilot on UH-1 Huey helicopters in the mid-1960s. He covers his more than 1000 combat missions tour with the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions during a very active period of the war. Interspersed throughout the constant shuttling of “grunts” (soldiers) into and out of very hot landing zones, and bringing supplies in and wounded/dead soldiers out of those same LZs, the author’s stories reveal an extremely talented pilot, who amazes at some of the situations he gets into and out of.  The stories are told well, and with a good touch of humor.
If you want to know what it was like flying helicopters in Vietnam with the Army, this is it. The author also covers his post-Vietnam problems with PTSD. If you like this book, which covers helicopter operations by the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, you will also like another Vietnam helicopter story, “Dead Men Flying,” by Medal of Honor awardee Brig. Gen. Patrick Brady, who writes extremely well about the “Dustoff” (MedEvac) mission. Both books cover flying, tactics, and having to improvise as you go, when the tactics don’t always work well.

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Winter Edition

“NAIL ’67-68”

By Pat Sweeney and Jerry Dwyer with Ned Helm

Whooee – this is a great read! Life Member Pat Sweeney sent me this book, and I am glad he did; it was hard to put down until I finished it. Billed as a novel, to protect the guilty and/or heroic parties involved, Pat says 90 percent of the stories are true or were broken up for ease of telling the story. They are about the Nail FACs of the 23rd TASS, flying the Cessna O-2A in Laos, primarily over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, mostly at night, during 1967 and 1968. During this time Tactical Force Alpha (TFA) is trying to introduce “trail sniffer” technology into the area, as they think they will be able to improve finding/killing NVA trucks moving down the trail. TFA also thinks they can do better than the FACs, which results in them being at odds with each other throughout the book (spoiler note:  the FACs win).
The stories are well told, as the Nails use self-help to become better FACs, put in air strikes, run search and rescue operations, hunt for trucks, deal with crashes and shoot downs, and survive R & R escapades. You will also read about some legendary bar tales; it’s all there. At the end of most chapters, the authors add a “historical note” which lets the reader know this is not a B.S. story. Sierra Hotel, Nails, you guys did a great job!

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Winter Edition

“The Rustics:  A Top Secret Air War in Cambodia”

Edited by Claude G. Newland, James W. Reese, and Fellow Rustics

Putting this book together must have been a major undertaking. It is the story of the Rustic FACs, who did the majority of the Forward Air Control work during the Top Secret air war in Cambodia, and they do a great job of telling it. The Rustics flew the OV-10 in Cambodia, from 1970 to 1973, from bases in South Vietnam and Thailand. They got support from the O-2 for night work. The book is a compilation of the history of the war and politics in Cambodia (which is not as familiar to most people as the larger efforts in North and South Vietnam are), augmented with a lot of “there I was…” stories told by the pilots, interpreters, back seaters, maintenance and ground support personnel, Cambodian military, and persons from the American Embassy in Phnom Penh. These stories are well told, and leave the reader with a good understanding of what happened in Cambodia at the time.
The last part of the book covers what happens in Cambodia after the USAF leaves, up through the 2011 timeframe, when the second edition is printed. It also lists all who flew as Rustics, and a very interesting life story of one of the OV-10s. There is a lot going on in this book, and, despite its large size, it is hard to find a good spot to stop reading for the night. The book is coffee table size. If you think you have no more space for this book on your table, well, then, just buy a larger one to hold it. You will be glad you did.

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Winter Edition

“Nightfighter”

By Ken Delve

While this was not my favorite aviation book, it did fill a void in my knowledge of aircraft built as dedicated night fighters. I think it is the evolution of the nightfighter that is most interesting. In that light, author Ken Delve does a commendable job of explaining and detailing the development and use of aircraft designed to solve the night air warfare problem. First developed in WWI, the nightfighter was more deadly to its pilot than to the enemy, as Air Forces struggled to fly, intercept, and fight at night. I suspect landing accidents claimed more aircraft than were shot down, but it was a start.
WWII is where the nightfighter comes into its own, as both dedicated and ad hoc aircraft are used in conjunction with something called radar (both on the ground and, later, in the aircraft) to find and shoot the enemy. The author covers Allied and Axis Air Forces efforts at night fighting. Some of the aircraft modifications and tactics are very clever, and, as WWII continues, become more and more efficient. Night fighting in the Korean War is covered. The demise of the nightfighter is the development of the all-weather fighter interceptor. Anyone want to guess at the last fighter built to fly only at night? You will have to read the book.

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Winter Edition

 

“My Service Life”

By Harvey W. Prosser

Our Daedalians Communication Manager, Annette Crawford, sent me an email, asking if I would review a Founder Member’s book. I said I would be glad to, then found out there was a catch:  the book is only available online. I can now say I have read my first “e-book.” I did not like reading a book by computer – it is not as much fun as holding a book in your hands, but the story was terrific!
Author and Founder Member #135 Col. Harvey W. Prosser wrote about his aviation career, and it reads like a “Who’s Who” of aviation. Here are a few teasers:  In August 1917, he solos a Curtis JN-4 with 4 hours of flight time, and at 14 hours, he is made an Instructor Pilot. His stories are humorous, and I got the feeling the early fliers had little respect for rules and did a lot of socializing. By my count, he personally wrecked/damaged 14 aircraft. He was a member of Quiet Birdmen and in 1936 joined the Daedalians. I will mention a few of the people that pop up in his stories: Chennault, Doolittle, Wheeler, Andrews, Lackland, Lahm, Maxwell, Arnold, March, Douglas, MacArthur, Holbrook, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Twining, George, and Halsey. Do you want to read this book? Yes, you do. You can find it HERE.  Enjoy!

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Winter Edition

“The Münster Raid”

By Ian Hawkins

This book is very aptly subtitled “Bloody Skies Over Germany,” and author Hawkins does an excellent job of detailing one of the most brutal and destructive air battles ever fought by the 8th Air Force. It happened over the German town of Münster on Oct. 10, 1943. The author tells the story through the words of more than 200 Army Air Force and German Luftwaffe aircrew and maintainers involved in the mission, as well as the English and German civilian viewpoints.
The story is told in chronological order, from training and preparing for the mission, the mission, and the aftermath of the mission. In the latter, struggling to get back to England, bailouts/crashes, escape and evading, and being captured and interred as a POW give the reader a total picture that makes the book a hard one to put down. It also will give you a lot of respect for the courageous aircrews that had to fly this mass, daylight bombing mission. One thing that still has not left my mind is that in one 25-minute period 30 Allied bombers (300 aircrew members) and 26 German fighters went down – and this was just one raid. Terrific book!

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Winter Edition

“Spectre 07”

By Lt. Col. Robert Reneau, USAF, Retired

Life member Colonel Robert Reneau’s book, subtitled, “Memoirs of a Risk Taker,” was originally written as an autobiography for his immediate family and future generations. It is published through Kindle and Amazon, so you can find it at those sources. The book is short and an easy read. After completing UPT with some interesting experiences, he started out his rated career as a C-130 co-pilot. Colonel Reneau ends up flying just about every model of the C-130, including the JC, RC and AC models. The stories he relates are both funny and interesting. He was involved in the Gemini Space Program, and flew top-cover on every Gemini capsule splashdown except one. I particularly liked the parts of the book that cover his experiences as one of the six original pilots selected to fly the AC-130 in Southeast Asia. At the time, it was the only AC-130 in theater, and they had to figure out how to best use it – now that’s some historical aviation stuff. For a book designed for grandkids, I really enjoyed it.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Fall Edition

“Bloody Sixteen”

By Peter Fey

Thanks to Daedalian, Col. Bill Fitzpatrick, USAF (Ret.), for sending this book for review. To quote Stephen Coonts, an author who also read the book, “Magnificent, superbly researched.” I agree. Peter Fey has done a great job of bringing to the fore, the courage, dedication, skill and valor of the men of the aircraft carrier Oriskany and Air Wing 16 during the Vietnam War and, more specifically, during Operation ROLLING THUNDER. The Oriskany was an older, small carrier that had to be used because the Navy was short of them during Vietnam. The planes on her deck were smaller and older than those handled by larger carriers (think A-4s and A-1s). That did not make any difference to the aviators and sailors on the vessel – they were going to do their jobs and do them well. As the Vietnam War started, the Navy was not prepared for it; plans, tactics, etc., had to be developed quickly. Compounding the situation, politicians controlled what became a no-win war, not letting the war fighters do their job properly. Through it all, the Oriskany, its aviators and its men deployed three times. This is their gripping story and their valor and accomplishments deserve to be remembered.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Fall Edition

“Football, Flying & Faith”

By Brig. Gen. Dick Abel, USAF (Retired)

This book by Daedalian Brig. Gen. Dick Abel, USAF (Ret.), is different from his last book I reviewed. This one is a memoir, an autobiography covering his life and his very interesting and unusual Air Force career. At various places and key points throughout the story, his wife Ann offers commentary when another viewpoint is needed. It is very effective. Woven through the book is General Abel’s very strong Christian faith which impacts his career and the careers of others. Originally a pilot, he was medically grounded, which opened up a terrific career in public affairs. One of the events I liked best in the book was the return of our POWs from North Vietnam, in which General Abel played a primary role. After a long, successful career, he retired as the Air Force Director of Public Affairs. He then became president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Following that, he served as the national director of the military ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International. The book ends with commentaries by key persons he had great impact on. I think you will like General Abel’s story.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Fall Edition

“Cold War Kid”

By Tom Hanley

Talk about a book giving you flashbacks; “Cold War Kid” certainly did for me. Like me, author Tom Hanley was an Air Force brat, raised in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He calls the book “a memoir of sorts,” but it is also a good look into the life of a typical kid whose father was serving at a time when moves happened quickly and often. Remember the “duck and cover” exercises of the ‘50s or the Army two-story barracks that had been converted into family housing? Remember the constant parade of schools as Dad moved to a new assignment? It’s all here and Tom has a knack for telling a story well. In addition to his younger years, he also covers what happens after high school through today, where his older adventures and current life are still influenced by his Air Force brat upbringing. Good job, Tom; I like your book.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Fall Edition

“Hunting Warbirds”

By Carl Hoffman

I have to thank Daedalian Lt. Col. Dave Wagner, USAF (Ret.), for bringing this book to me. Freelance journalist Carl Hoffman has penned a captivating book on how WWII warbirds are researched, located and funded, and expeditions put together to recover these aviation relics with the end goal of restoring them or using the recovered parts to restore other partially completed airplanes. One such effort to recover a B-29 Superfortress, the “Kee Bird,” that landed on Greenland’s ice in 1947, is an excellent example of the time, money, skills, back-breaking work, and egos of the teams that are needed to do the work. This particular recovery included a NOVA photographer, whose documentary of the work I saw on NOVA television a year ago will hold your attention up to the end of the story. If you saw that documentary, reading the details is particularly exciting because you know what the story is leading up to. Other recovery stories are told, giving the reader a greater appreciation for the restored warbirds that we often take for granted at the airshows we love to attend.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Fall Edition

“Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot”

By Starr Smith

If you ask anyone of my generation who their favorite male movie actor is, the answer is almost always John Wayne. A very close second is Jimmy Stewart. When I saw this book I had to read it. Boy, is it a good read! Jimmy Stewart was one of a large number of celebrities who served during the WWII. He could have had any number of cushy jobs, but he was “the real deal” and he wanted to serve as a pilot. Not only did he serve, but he excelled, going from private to full colonel in a three-year period, finishing his tour as a Wing Commander. He flew more than 20 combat missions in the B-24 Liberator, some of them over Berlin. He was a superb leader and commander, and was adored by his men. One chapter, “Jimmy and Andy – The Buzzin’ Twins,” gives a very interesting look into his personality. I’ll say no more, but I know you will like this one.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)            

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Fall Edition

“Victory Through Air Power”

By Maj. Alexander P. de Seversky

This review is of an “old school” book that has been a favorite of mine for years. The author, Major de Seversky, was a pilot (ace) in the Russian Air Force during WWI before immigrating to the U.S. He was friends with Gen. Billy Mitchell (he dedicates the book to him), was an aircraft designer, Harmon Trophy winner, and an air power enthusiast. He was also an honorary Daedalian. He designed and built the P-35 (Seversky Fighter). The P-35 had qualities similar to the later P-47. Interestingly, his company, Seversky Aircraft Corporation, later became Republic Aviation Corporation, which built the P-47. The book was written in 1942 during the war for the American public so that they could understand air power and how, he believed, it was going to win the war for us. He explains the Axis Powers’ strategies and capabilities, compares them to ours, and concludes we will win because of our air power and the way we use it. He also goes through Allied capabilities, listing strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, he puts forth a strong argument for a separate Air Force, equal to the Navy and Army (with Naval aviation becoming part of the new Air Force), and explains his visions of how it should be organized and run. I have always been fascinated by the fact the book was allowed to be published during the early part of the war. Maybe the censors didn’t understand airpower, either. If you have never read this book, you should.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Summer Edition

“Bury Us Upside Down”

By Rick Newman and Don Shepperd

This book has been around since 2006, but I had not read it. Daedalian Foundation Chairman, retired Maj. Gen. Jerry Allen asked me if I would be interested in reading it, and I am glad I did. The book is subtitled: “The Misty Pilots and the Secret Battle for the Ho Chi Minh Trail,” and that summarizes what the book is about.  I think SEA era aviators know the Mistys were the first fast FACs, who flew the two-seat F-100 during the Vietnam War, but the story of what they did and how they did it, may not be known by all. Authors Newman and Shepperd, the latter a retired major general, and Misty 34, do an excellent job detailing the unit’s history, its tactics, its unique solutions to problems as they arise, and the trials and tribulations of fighting a politicized war that gets increasingly more dangerous each day.  The book also uses, to great effect, a back and forth style that weaves stories of the Mistys, their families, and recovery efforts for pilots shot down, some of those efforts lasting decades. Loved the book, couldn’t put it down!

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Summer Edition

“Boeing B-47 Stratojet”

By C. Mike Habermehl & Robert S. Hopkins III

If you have ever flown the B-47, you will need this book for your coffee table. However, if you have never flown the B-47, or don’t have a coffee table, this is still a book worth adding to your collection. The B-47, which bridged the gap between the piston-powered bombers of the late ‘40s and ‘50s, and the B-52, started out as an experiment and is a terrific look into an airplane that was constantly evolving. I found this hard to believe, but some early models didn’t even have a bomb-nav system on board, so were almost worthless as a bomber. The swept wings, which were a stroke of design genius, had their share of growing pains (at some point, detailed in the book, SAC lost five aircraft in one month when the wings failed). Under-powered, short of needed range, and an airplane CinCSAC, Gen. Curtis LeMay, didn’t want, the B-47 was our main defense against the Soviet Union before the ICBM and B-52 came into being. I will bet that most military aviators know little about this transitional aircraft. Did you know the B-47 shot down at least one MiG or that the last organization to fly it was the U.S. Navy? Well, here is a chance to improve your knowledge with a well-written book. The book also includes information on every tail number and what happened to most.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Summer Edition

“Shadows of Saigon”

By Dr. Larry Elton Fletcher

Daedalian Don Smith asked me if I had read this novel. When I said, “No, but I would like to,” he loaned it to me. “Shadows of Saigon” piqued my interest, not as a novel, but as the first book I had seen that covers the AC-119G “Shadow” and the AC-119K “Stinger” aircraft in any kind of detail. Both aircraft were the gunships that followed the AC-47 in Southeast Asia, and were prior to the first AC-130s. The 17th Special Operations Squadron operated the Shadows, twin reciprocating engine cargo/troop carrier planes, equipped with four 7.62 caliber miniguns, and painted black for night operations. The 18th SOS operated the Stingers, a more powerful version, which added two jet engines to the recips, and two 20 mm cannons to the miniguns. The story has the Saigon-based Shadows spending most of their time over Cambodia, trying to keep the Viet Cong, Khmer Rouge, and North Vietnamese forces from overrunning Cambodian (Khmer Republic) forces. The Stingers either are busting trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, or assisting the Shadows in Cambodia. I think Dr. Fletcher does a good job getting across the strengths and limitations of both aircraft, and he does a really good job with mission tactics, crew coordination, and how they worked with USAF Forward Air Controllers and friendly forces on the ground. A good read; thanks, Don.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Summer Edition

“World War II Fighter-Bomber Pilot”

By Bill Colgan

Author and fellow Daedalian Bill Colgan tells his WW II story as a P-40 and P-47 pilot. His approach to his story is different from most WW II flying stories, as it concentrates on his squadrons’ missions of ground support and interdiction. Air-to-air combat, which garnered a lot of news back in the day, was a very small part of Bill’s flying. He spent his time on the less glamorous, often unsung, but arguably more dangerous missions going after well defended targets on the surface (think bombing and strafing troops, trucks, airfields, trains, armor, ships, you name it) that supported the German and Italian war machines in North Africa, Italy, and points north in Europe. As Author Colgan points out in a well-written story, a momentary lapse in concentration on any of his 200 plus combat missions could have resulted in crash and death – and did for many fellow fighter-bomber pilots. I have never read a flying story that documented so well the details and tactics used on these missions. Great job, Bill!

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Summer Edition

“Letters from the Cockpit”

By Neil Cosentino

At first glance, this is a very non-descript book. It is thin, has a soft-back cover, and the title on the cover looks handwritten. In fact, on a shelf with bright color books that shout AVIATION STORY at you, with exciting photos/artwork on their hard-back covers, you might just pass over this book, and that, my fellow aviators, would be a big mistake. Author and Life Member Daedalian Neil Cosentino is a terrific storyteller. This book is filled with well told, short, flying stories, all from his military, general aviation, and commercial flying background. Reading them, you can feel his love of flight, and, I am sure, it will bring back some of the readers’ experiences, too. Thanks, Neil, some of those stories brought back the days when I couldn’t believe we were being paid to fly.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Summer Edition

“Earning My Wings”

By Shirley Dobbins Forgan

Shirley Dobbins Forgan graduated from college in Oklahoma and moved to Dallas to work. While living in Dallas she met her future husband, 1st Lt. David Forgan, who was in F-86 training at Perrin AFB. David would come to Dallas on weekends to enjoy the city activities and met Shirley there. They soon started dating and they became engaged after David graduated from fighter training.  David’s first assignment was the 40th FIS in Japan. David returned and married Shirley and she joined him in Japan. After Japan they returned to the states and enjoyed life at Tyndall AFB, Florida. David attended the weapons ground controller school and they lived at Mexico Beach. After the good life on the beach they were transferred to Missouri and Kansas where David worked as a weapons ground controller; next Dave went to Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Shirley’s book continues to track her life with her husband for most of his 32-year Air Force career from first lieutenant through major general, including his tour in SEA flying F-105s while she waited for him with their two sons in her home state of Oklahoma. For the rest of the sort pick up a copy of the book on Amazon – an interesting read.

Reviewer: Louis Seldon

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Spring Edition

“Journey”

By General (Ret) Norty Schwartz and Suzie Schwartz, with Ronald Levinson

This is an interesting book. While it is billed as the memoirs of an Air Force Chief of Staff, it is a little more than that.  Perhaps that is why the title “Journey” was chosen. General Schwartz was an unusual CSAF, primarily because he was not a fighter or a bomber career officer. He was the first CSAF with a Special Ops background, and was, I think, the right guy for the job at the right time, as he plays a key role in the development of new special ops capabilities, the buildup of the remotely piloted aircraft and cyber-warfare communities. From an aviation reader’s perspective, one of the more interesting chapters has to do with Project Credible Sport, a C-130 on steroids – fascinating. What makes General Schwartz’s memoir different from most is that this is a “journey” for two people. His wife, Suzie, plays a key role throughout the book as she injects her thoughts as the general’s career progresses and her involvement increases. I won’t spoil your read, but I will say the lady is not afraid to speak her mind. I think you will like the book – I know I did, and my Special Ops son did, too.

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Spring Edition

The Great War’s Finest, Volume 1: Western Front 1914

By Matt Bowden

The Great War burst upon Europe in August 1914 with the German Empire’s invasion of Belgium and France. The theme of this aviation history is the contribution of the German Air Service to this offensive ground campaign and the army’s later retreat to trench warfare. The German defeat at the Battle of the Marne is well known, but the role of the German Air Service has never been detailed. Matt Bowden does that spectacularly in this well-documented volume on 1914. The author focuses on the Operational Level of War, how the campaign and major operations were planned and conducted to accomplish the strategic objective of winning the war in the theater of the Western Front. Four chapters detail the Battle of the Frontiers, the Marne, the “Race to the Sea,” and the First Battle of Ypres. The author explains the role of each of the seven German Armies and the contribution of the German Air Service Fliegertruppe to the conduct its the battle. Since the aircraft on both sides were unarmed, the main air missions were reconnaissance and artillery spotting. For example, the First Army in the North mistakenly sent most of its aircraft to the West to hunt for the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and totally failed to find them to their South! This critical mistake caused First Army to miss the opportunity to flank the BEF and the left wing of the entire Allied force. Poor planning, poor communications between air and ground and a faulty organizational structure were all features of this introduction of the airplane to the instruments of war.
The author is a professional historian and the son of Scott Bowden, a noted author of Civil War historian. The sources for this volume were squadron histories, German archive holdings, first-hand-accounts and staff officers’ reports. He appropriately gives credit to John Cuneo’s pioneering work, The Air Weapon 1914-1916 (1947). Cuneo and others have recorded and discussed in detail the ground movements in the execution of the Schlieffen Plan. Bowden digs deeper and details the reconnaissance plans and daily reports provided by the aviators. Some were obstructed by weather, some were neglected and never forwarded and others provided critical intelligence that affected the outcome of the campaign.
 I enjoyed the book thoroughly. The vivid portraits from the author’s collection, the many photos of 1914 aircraft and the colorful maps greatly enhance the value of the work. The only fault with the battle maps is some lack of coordination between places mentioned in the narrative and those shown on the map. Overall, the book fulfills its objective to provide a balanced picture of air operations and ground maneuver at the operational level of war. Thus, it connects the many colorful and tragic memoirs of tactical aviation with the strategic and political histories of the combatants. Highly recommended for military historians, aviators, students of the First World War, and military officers interested in professional insights into aviation and combined arms doctrine. We cannot wait for the next volume in the series.

Reviewer: R.G. Head, Brig. Gen., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Spring Edition

“The Complete History of U.S. Cruise Missiles”

By Bill Yenne

This book was a different one for me as there are no military aviators pushing aluminum around in it. However, I think most military aviators will find Bill Yenne’s book worth reading as it covers a side of aviation we don’t often think about: cruise missiles. The author starts with Charles Kettering’s 1920s- era “Bug,” development of early guidance systems, and various other early attempts through WWII. During the Cold War and after, there were many different Army, Navy, and Air Force cruise missiles developed and fielded. Older Daedalians might recall such systems as Snark, Matador, Mace, Regulus, and many others, while newer members will be more familiar with ALCMS and Tomahawks. The author includes a good number of pictures (some 339 of them) of various systems, very useful diagrams to show how they work, as well as their performance specifications. The book is up-to-date, as of 2018, and it also includes what might be coming in the future (Waverider?). It helped me fill a gap in my aviation knowledge and it was an interesting read.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Spring Edition

“Because I Fly”

Edited by Helmut H. Reda

This book is subtitled “A Collection of Aviation Poetry.” POETRY? What aviator reads poetry? After looking over the acknowledgements section, I noticed Brig. Gen. Robin Olds was one of those cited by the editor for his assistance. Well, if poetry is good for General Olds, perhaps I ought to take a closer look. The book is actually pretty interesting. It is an anthology of poems, written as far back as 1869, through this century. The poems come from the 115 books researched and studied by Editor Helmut Reda. He wanted the poems used to be easily read and experienced; flow smoothly; transmit significant meaning and emotion; possess excellent imagery, symbolism and tone; and surpass other poetry in total impact. The book does that. The reader will recognize some of the poems; I guarantee you will like some of the others and scratch your head over a few. The poems are broken into chapters that cover the classics, flight, pilots, training and solo, grounded, religion and prayer, military service, soaring, and poems for children. There is also a grouping of poems about famous pilots, the ground crew, pushing the envelope of flight, and death by flying. Read the book; I think you will like it.

Reviewer: Francis L. Kapp, Col., USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Spring edition

“Kangaroo Squadron”

By Bruce Gamble

This book was a gift from one of my sons this past Christmas, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Written by Bruce Gamble, who seems to specialize in WW II Pacific theater history, the book is subtitled “American courage in the darkest days of World War II.” Many of you will recall that a flight of B-17 bombers flew from the United States to Hawaii, arriving just as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. This is the story of that unit, which becomes Southern Bomber Command, operating out of bases around Australia for the next nine months initially under control of the Navy. Under some unbelievably austere conditions, they become one of the only effective Army aviation units in the Pacific during the early days of the war. With the long-range capability of the B-17, it became very useful, not only as a bomber, but as a reconnaissance platform. In one of the more interesting missions the squadron evacuates Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his family and staff from the Philippines to Australia, allowing him to begin planning the defense, and later offense of the theater. The unit went through several reorganizations, finally ending up as the 435th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy). Author Gamble does a great job telling the story of these early, heroic aviators. You will like this book!

Reviewer:  Francis L. Kapp, Col, USAF (Retired)

Daedalus Flyer, 2019 Spring Edition