Alexander P. de Seversky and the Quest for Air Power. By James K. Libbey. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2013. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xii, 349. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-61234-179-8
Libbey is a professor emeritus at Emory-Riddle University, where he taught American aviation history and American-Soviet relations. He brings ideal qualifications to this work on the Russian immigrant who passionately argued for an independent American air force and remained an advocate of air power until his death in 1974.
De Seversky today may best be remembered for authoring Victory through Air Power and later appearing in a Walt Disney feature film as himself. However, his lifetime achievements in aviation go beyond his time in the media spotlight. Libbey traces de Seversky's life from his early interest in aviation in St. Petersburg, Russia, to his final years when his obsession with air power began to undermine his credibility as a media commentator on technology and military affairs. To say de Seversky entered aviation on the ground floor is almost an understatement. His father purchased a 1909 Farman and a 1910 Bleriot while de Seversky was attending the Russian naval academy, from which he would graduate as an officer at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. De Seversky flew with his father and with his father's friend, Igor Sikorsky. Ultimately, de Seversky would become a naval aviator serving with distinction in the Baltic, where he lost his lower right leg. Despite this handicap, he eventually returned to combat.
The Bolsheviks' ascension to power forced the de Seversky family to flee to the west. De Seversky cunningly did so, joining a Russian naval mission in the United States. He established ties with American military flyers and became a disciple of William "Billy" Mitchell. In time, he was awarded the rank of major in...