University of North Texas Press

Military Biography and Memoir Series

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Military Biography and Memoir Series

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In Hostile Skies

An American B-24 Pilot in World War II

James M. Davis, and edited by David L. Snead

James “Jim” Davis lived what he considered “an impossible dream” as he piloted a B-24, as part of the 8th Air Force, on nearly thirty missions in the European Theatre during World War II. In this memoir, Davis offers heart-wrenching detail concerning the difficulties of qualifying for the U.S. Army Air Forces pilot program, the strenuous nature of the pilot training program, the anxiety caused by a wartime marriage, and the dangers of flying combat missions over Nazi Germany. Few, if any, other memoirs provide the genuineness and honesty of his story. From his struggles to become a pilot, to seeing death up close on his first mission, to his expected deployment to the Pacific Theatre in the fall of 1945, Davis takes the reader through a fast-paced and exciting narrative adventure. Davis and his crew flew support missions for Operations Cobra and Market Garden and numerous bombing missions over occupied Europe in the summer and fall of 1944. He piloted his B-24 on missions over twenty German cities, including Cologne, Hamburg, Metz, and Munich, and attacked enemy airfields, airplane factories, railroad marshalling yards, ship yards, oil refineries, and chemical plants. While he and his crew survived without serious injuries, they witnessed the destruction of many of their friends’ planes and experienced serious damage to their own plane on several occasions. Readers of his memoir will come away with a much greater appreciation for the difficulties and dangers of the air war in World War II. David Snead happened upon the memoir and its author during his time at Texas Tech University. He was immediately hooked and began the process of preparing it for publication. Snead met with Davis on several occasions, examined his military records, researched in detail at the National Archives, and investigated numerous published sources in order to corroborate the account and add explanatory notes for context.

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Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II

Sarah Byrn Rickman

She flew the swift P-51 and the capricious P-38, but the heavy, four-engine B-17 bomber and C-54 transport were her forte. This is the story of Nancy Harkness Love who, early in World War II, recruited and led the first group of twenty-eight women to fly military aircraft for the U.S. Army. Love was hooked on flight at an early age. At sixteen, after just four hours of instruction, she flew solo “a rather broken down Fleet biplane that my barnstorming instructor imported from parts unknown.” The year was 1930: record-setting aviator Jacqueline Cochran (and Love’s future rival) had not yet learned to fly, and the most famous woman pilot of all time, Amelia Earhart, had yet to make her acclaimed solo Atlantic flight. When the United States entered World War II, the Army needed pilots to transport or “ferry” its combat-bound aircraft across the United States for overseas deployment and its trainer airplanes to flight training bases. Most male pilots were assigned to combat preparation, leaving few available for ferrying jobs. Into this vacuum stepped Nancy Love and her civilian Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). Love had advocated using women as ferry pilots as early as 1940. Jackie Cochran envisioned a more ambitious plan, to train women to perform a variety of the military’s flight-related jobs stateside. The Army implemented both programs in the fall of 1942, but Jackie’s idea piqued General Hap Arnold’s interest and, by summer 1943, her concept had won. The women’s programs became one under the name Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), with Cochran as the Director of Women Pilots and Love as the Executive for WASP. Nancy Love advised the Ferrying Division, which was part of the Air Transport Command, as to the best use of their WASP ferry pilots. She supervised their allocation and air-training program. She proved adept at organizing and inspiring those under her command, earning the love and admiration of her pilots. Her military superiors trusted and respected her, to the point that she became Ferrying Division commander Gen. William H. Tunner’s troubleshooter. By example, Love won the right for women ferry pilots to transition into increasingly more complex airplanes. She checked out on twenty-three different military aircraft and became the first woman to fly several of them, including the B-17 Flying Fortress. Her World War II career ended on a high note: following a general’s orders, she piloted a giant C-54 Army transport over the fabled China-Burma-India “Hump,” the crucial airlift route over the Himalayas. Nancy Love believed that the women attached to the military needed to be on equal footing with the men and given the same opportunities to prove their abilities and mettle. Young women serving today as combat pilots owe much to Love for creating the opportunity for women to serve.

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Rattler One-Seven

A Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's War Story

Chuck Gross

Rattler One-Seven puts you in the helicopter seat, to see the war in Vietnam through the eyes of an inexperienced pilot as he transforms himself into a seasoned combat veteran. When Chuck Gross left for Vietnam in 1970, he was a nineteen-year-old Army helicopter pilot fresh out of flight school. He spent his entire Vietnam tour with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company flying UH-1 Huey helicopters. Soon after the war he wrote down his adventures, while his memory was still fresh with the events. Rattler One-Seven (his call sign) is written as Gross experienced it, using these notes along with letters written home to accurately preserve the mindset he had while in Vietnam. During his tour Gross flew Special Operations for the MACV-SOG, inserting secret teams into Laos. He notes that Americans were left behind alive in Laos, when official policy at home stated that U.S. forces were never there. He also participated in Lam Son 719, a misbegotten attempt by the ARVN to assault and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S. Army helicopter support. It was the largest airmobile campaign of the war and marked the first time that the helicopter was used in mid-intensity combat, with disastrous results. Pilots in their early twenties, with young gunners and a Huey full of ARVN soldiers, took on experienced North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery gunners, with no meaningful intelligence briefings or a rational plan on how to cut the Trail. More than one hundred helicopters were lost and more than six hundred aircraft sustained combat damage. Gross himself was shot down and left in the field during one assault. Rattler One-Seven will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War and to all armed forces, especially aviators, who have served for their country.

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