A former South African Air Force pilot who saw action throughout the region from the 1970s on, Neall Ellis is the best-known mercenary combat aviator alive. Apart from flying Alouette helicopter gunships in Angola, he has fought in the Balkan War (for Islamic forces), tried to resuscitate Mobutu’s ailing air force during his final days ruling the Congo, flew Mi-8s for Executive Outcomes, and thereafter an Mi-8 fondly dubbed 'Bokkie' for Colonel Tim Spicer in Sierra Leone. Finally, with a pair of aging Mi-24 Hinds, Ellis ran the Air Wing out of Aberdeen Barracks in the war against Sankoh's vicious RUF rebels. For the past two years, as a “civilian contractor,” Ellis has been flying helicopter support missions in Afghanistan, where, he reckons, he has had more close shaves than in his entire previous four-decades put together. Twice, single-handedly (and without a copilot), he turned the enemy back from the gates of Freetown, effectively preventing the rebels from overrunning Sierra Leone’s capital―once in the middle of the night without the benefit of night vision goggles. Nellis (as his friends call him) was also the first mercenary to work hand-in-glove with British ground and air assets in a modern guerrilla war. In Sierra Leone, Ellis' Mi-24 (“it leaked when it rained”) played a seminal role in rescuing the 11 British soldiers who had been taken hostage by the so-called West Side Boys. He also used his helicopter numerous times to fly SAS personnel on low-level reconnaissance missions into the interior of the diamond-rich country, for the simple reason that no other pilot knew the country―and the enemy―better than he did. Al Venter, the author of War Dog and other acclaimed titles, accompanied Nellis on some of these missions. “Occasionally we returned to base with holes in our fuselage,” Venter recounts, “though once it was self-inflicted: in his enthusiasm during an attack on one of the towns in the interior, a side-gunner onboard swung his heavy machine-gun a bit too wide and hit one of our drop tanks. Had it been full at the time, things might have been different.” The upshot was that over the course of a year of military operations, the two former Soviet helicopters operated for the Sierra Leone Air Wing by Nellis and his boys were patched more often than any other comparable pair of gun ships in Asia, Africa or Latin America. Nellis himself earned a price on his head: some reports spoke of a $1 million reward dead or alive while others doubled it. This book describes the full career of this storied aerial warrior, from the bush and jungles of Africa to the forests of the Balkans and the merciless mountains of today’s Afghanistan. Along the way the reader encounters a multiethnic array of enemies ranging from ideological to cold-blooded to pure evil, as well as well as examples of incredible heroism for hire.
Reviews of Vanished Hero: The Life, War and Mysterious Disappearance of America’s WWII Strafing King. Vanished Hero: The Life, War and Mysterious Disappearance of America’s WWII Strafing King (9781612003955): Jay A. Stout: Books. Buy online at Aviation Bookstore.
A hell-bent-for-leather fighter pilot, Elwyn G. Righetti remains one of the most unknown, yet compelling, colorful and controversial commanders of World War II. Vanished Hero tells the story of this remarkable man and the air war that he and his comrades fought, while examining his possible fate. Arriving late to the war, he led the England-based 55th Fighter Group against the Nazis during the closing months of the fight with a no-holds-barred aggressiveness that transformed the group from a middling organization into a headline-grabbing team that had to make excuses to no one. Indeed, Righetti’s boldness paid off as he quickly achieved ace status and additionally scored more strafing victories―27―than any other Eighth Air Force pilot. However, success came at a high cost in men and machines. Some of Righetti’s pilots resented him as a Johnny-come-lately intent on winning a sack of medals at their expense. But most lauded their spirited new commander and his sledgehammer audacity. Indeed, he made his men most famous for “loco busting,” as they put more than six hundred enemy locomotives out of commission―170 in just two days! Ultimately, Righetti’s calculated recklessness ran full speed into the odds. His aircraft was hit while strafing an enemy airfield only four days before the 55th flew its last mission. Almost farcically aggressive to the end, he coaxed his crippled fighter through one more firing pass before making a successful crash landing. Immediately, he radioed his men that he was fine and asked that they reassure his family. Righetti was never heard from again.
Reviews of Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America’s Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II. Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America's Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II – Kindle edition by Jay Stout. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America's Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II.. Buy online at Aviation Bookstore.
The nearly half-million American aircrewmen who served during World War II have almost disappeared. And so have their stories.
Award-winning writer and former fighter pilot Jay A. Stout uses Unsung Eagles to save an exciting collection of those accounts from oblivion. These are not rehashed tales from the hoary icons of the war. Rather, they are stories from the masses of largely unrecognized men who—in the aggregate—actually won it. They are the recollections of your Uncle Frank who shared them only after having enjoyed a beer or nine, and of your old girlfriend’s grandfather who passed away about the same time she dumped you. And of the craggy guy who ran the town’s salvage yard; a dusty, fly-specked B-24 model hung over the counter. These are “everyman” accounts that are important but fast disappearing.
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Sometimes you do everything right, but it just isn’t your day. A part fails and your helicopter comes apart in flight, or, another aircraft runs into you and the pieces of both fall to the ground below, or the enemy gunner pulls the trigger at just the right moment and his rounds find your aircraft in exactly the right spot to take it out of the sky. Whichever way it happens, it wasn’t your day. Which is why, after 24 years and over 5,000 flight hours with four armed services, Major Robert Curtis was so surprised at being alive when he passed his retirement physical. Starting with enlisting in the Army to fly helicopters during Vietnam, and continuing on through service with the National Guard, Marine Corps and Royal Navy, he flew eight different helicopters―from the wooden-bladed flying he OH-13E, through the Chinook, SeaKnight and SeaKing, in war and peace around the world. During that time over 50 of his friends died in crashes, both in combat and in accidents, but somehow his skill, and not an inconsiderable amount of luck and superstition, saw him through. His flying career began with a misbegotten strategy for beating the draft by enlisting. With the Vietnam War raging full blast in 1968 the draft was inevitable, so he wanted to at least get some small measure of control of his future. Although he had no thought of flying when he walked into the recruiting office, he walked out signed up to be a helicopter pilot. What he did not know was that 43% of all the aircraft sent to Vietnam were destroyed in combat or accidents. Soon he was in the thick of the war, flying Chinooks with the 101st Airborne. After Vietnam he left the Army, but kept flying in the National Guard while going to college. He was accepted at two law schools, but flying is addictive, so he instead enlisted in the USMC to fly some more. Over the next 17 years he would fly around the world off US and British ships from Egypt to Norway and all points in between. His engaging story will be a delight to all aviation enthusiasts.
Reviews of Check Six!: A Thunderbolt Pilot’s War Across the Pacific. Check Six!: A Thunderbolt Pilot's War Across the Pacific eBook: Jim Curran, Jr, Terrence Popravak: Kindle Store. Buy online at Aviation Bookstore.
There were no mission limits for a pilot in the Pacific during World War II; unlike in Europe, you flew until it was time to go home. So it was for James “Jug” Curran, all the way from New Guinea to the Philippines with the 348th Fighter Group, the first P-47 Thunderbolt outfit in the Pacific.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Curran volunteered to try flying in the blue yonder, and trained as an Army fighter pilot. He got his wish to fly the P-47 in the Pacific, going into combat in August 1943, in New Guinea, and later helping start the “Black Rams” fighter squadron. The heavy U.S. Thunderbolts were at first curious to encounter the nimble, battle-hardened Japanese in aerial combat, but soon the American pilots gained skill of their own and their planes proved superior. Bombers on both sides could fall to fighters, but the fighters themselves were eyeball to eyeball, best man win.
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