Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America's Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II.

Author:Agoratus, Steve
Position:Book review

Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America's Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II. By Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jay A. Stout. Havertown, Pennsylvania: Casemate Publishers, 2013. Index. Pp. 288. $32.95 ISBN: 978-1-61200-209-5

Unsung Eagles consists of first-hand accounts of the experiences of Americans who matured in the 1930s and became military pilots in World War II. What motivated them? How did they become combat military aviators? What were their reflections on the outcome later in life? This book more than answers those questions, giving the reader unique insights into the American tradition of the citizen soldier. Jay Stout, an award-winning military historian (Fortress Ploesti and The Men who Killed the Luftwaffe), is a Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot veteran of Desert Storm familiar with the experiences of his subjects. His descriptions of aerial combat, strafing, bad-weather flying, navigation issues, or fear ring true.

Stout sought an angle on aerial battles untold in standard histories, asking his subjects about their childhoods, interest in aviation, joining the military, training and combat, and subsequent fives. For example, most writings on the Yamamoto mission concentrate on the relatively few shooters; but Julius Jacobson, of the top-cover flight, related a new perspective on that mission. Donald Whitright searched in low-level P-47 patrols for pilots downed in freezing English Channel waters; Willard Caddell flew reconnaissance in F-5 (P-8) aircraft; and Marine pilot Emilius Ciampa conducted forward air control in the Philippines.

A short background of the campaign in which the subject flew precedes each chapter. The battles are well known; the participants' perspectives shed fresh light on them. It's one thing to know that Admiral Kurita's ships "suddenly closed in on" Admiral Sprague's escort carriers as so many histories relate; it's quite another to read how Avenger pilot Ray Crandall had to be dragged out of his bunk on the USS Manila Bay to see them right outside his porthole!

The unfettered personal impressions...

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