Flying against Fate: Superstition and Allied Aircrews in World War II.

Author:Werrell, Kenneth P.
Position::Book review

Flying against Fate: Superstition and Allied Aircrews in World War II. By S.P. MacKenzie Lawrence KS: University Press of Kansas, 2017. Index. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. 256. $29.95 ISBN:

When I joined my USAF flying unit I was surprised to learn that a number of the older pilots I flew with were superstitious. Personally, I was not so inclined and regarded this as a joke--a put on. I never asked and never was told what was the basis of these beliefs. In Flying against Fate, S. P. MacKenzie explores this subject in considerable detail.

He has produced a small book with 104 pages of text, 83 pages of notes, and a 43-page bibliography. His research is impressive in its volume and is overwhelmingly based, as might be expected for this subject, on air crew memoirs, diaries, and interviews. The book focuses on American army and naval aviators along with Commonwealth aviators during World War II. It covers the subject in exhaustive detail dealing with talismans and mascots, incantations and rituals, jinxes and Jonahs, numbers and symbols, as well as premonitions of disaster.

The basis of these beliefs by those who believed in them, according to MacKenzie, was the high loss rates among those who flew bombers and fighters in combat (there is no mention of those who flew cargo, ferrying, or training missions). MacKenzie does write that those flying anti-submarine patrols sustained lower loss rates than those flying bombers and fighters and, thus, were much less likely to be superstitious.

Clearly this is a book that fills out what the air crews were experiencing and how they tried to cope with dangers that were involved. While MacKenzie...

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