The Lafayette Escadrille was an all-volunteer squadron of Americans who flew for France during World War I. One hundred years later, it is still arguably the best-known fighter squadron ever to take to the skies. In this work the entire history of these gallant volunteers―who named themselves after the Marquis Lafayette, who came to America’s aid during its Revolution―is laid out in both text and pictorial form. In time for the centennial celebration, this work not only tells the fascinating story of the Lafayette Escadrille, it shows it. Already a student of the squadron, the author spent a full year sifting through university and museum archives in the United States and France for photographs and documents relating to the famed unit. To complement these images, he traveled extensively, taking snapshots of existing markers and memorials honoring the men of the Lafayette Escadrille. In France, he specifically sought out locations where the squadron operated and its pilots frequented. In several cases, he was able to match his present-day color photos with contemporary images of the same scene, thus creating a jaw-dropping then-and-now comparison. To add even more color, the author included artwork and aircraft profiles by recognized illustrators, along with numerous full-color photographs of artifacts relating to the squadron's men and airplanes, as they are displayed today in various museums in the United States and France. The result is undoubtedly the finest photographic collection of the Lafayette Escadrille to appear in print. Along with the expert text revealing air-combat experiences as well as life at the front during the Great War, it is a never-before-seen visual history that both World War I aviation aficionados and those with a passing interest in history will appreciate.
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 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.
Continue reading “Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America’s Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II”
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.
This work describes U.S. Marine Corps helicopter operations, including their actions and evolution, throughout the Vietnam War. The book is divided into parts spanning the three stages of the Corps’ combat deployment: “Buildup (1962–1966),” “Heavy Combat (1967–1969),” and “The Bitter End (1975).” Each part includes chapters devoted to “telling the story” of Marine helicopters from the individual to the strategic level. Vietnam has often been called our “first helicopter war,” and indeed the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as Army, had to feel its way forward during the initial combats. But by 1967 the combat was raging across South Vietnam, with confrontational battles against the NVA, on a scale comparable to the great campaigns of WWII. In 1968, when the Communists launched their mammoth counteroffensive, the Marines were forced to fight on all sides, with the helicopter giving them the additional dimension that proved decisive in repelling the enemy. The author, a Vietnam veteran, uses his experiences as a company commander to bring the story to life by weaving personal accounts, after-action reports and official documents into a remarkably readable narrative of service and sacrifice by Marine pilots and crewmen. The entire story of the war is here depicted through the prism of Marine helicopter operations, from the first deployments to support the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) against the Viet Cong through the rapid United States buildup to stop the North Vietnamese Army, until the final withdrawal from our Embassy. Colonel Dick Camp, a Purple Heart recipient, served 26 years in the U.S. Marine Corps before retiring in 1988. Upon retirement he served as the Deputy Director, U.S. Marine Corps History Division and as the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, Vice President for Museum Operations at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia. Currently residing in Fredericksburg, Virginia, he is the author of ten books and over 100 magazine articles on various military related subjects.