JR Hafer Book Reviews


Casemate Publishers, Havertown, PA & Oxford, UK  http://www.casematepublishing.com

JR Hafer, is an aviation writer and a widely respected book reviewer 



I review books. Most are aviation books because of course aviation is my passion and most probably the reason you are here as well. We hope you are encouraged to purchase the books we have reviewed.  Authors send us books to review because they know readers trust our judgement and agree with the views in literary critiques and straight forward opinions of our reviews. 

 Authors send review requests to:  

P.O. Box 90111, Lakeland, Florida 33804-0111

Honored Denied Cover

Honor Denied Back Cover

Help Came Over the Himalayas 

A Review By Michael J. Ybarra

this exciting story is told by Gregory Crouch in “China’s Wings.”

In 1931, William Langhorne Bond stepped ashore in Shanghai to take on a new job as operations manager of the China National Aviation Corp., or CNAC. The fledgling airline was a joint venture between the Chinese government, such as it was in the 1930s, and the U.S. Curtiss-Wright Corp. Bond was 37, a refugee from the construction industry. He was new to aviation and looking for a bit of adventure. He found it.

For the better part of the next two decades, Bond’s life would be intertwined with the airline—and with China, which was soon attacked by Japan and plunged into World War II, followed by civil war and communist victory. Bond’s adventures and China’s ordeal are at the heart of the exciting story told by Gregory Crouch in “China’s Wings.”

In the 1930s, China was a country in name only. The Nationalist government nominally ruled the Middle Kingdom to the east, while warlords and communists held sway in the interior. Aviation promised to help unite the land. A DC-2, for example, could fly from Chengtu to Chungking, at the center of the country, in two hours instead of two weeks.

In March 1933, Curtiss-Wright’s stake in CNAC was taken over by Pan American World Airways, an aviation powerhouse eager to own a part of what seemed like a promising business. The relationship got off to a rocky start—largely because of pilot error. “In six months,” Mr. Crouch writes, “Pan Am had wrecked two airplanes, killed four, injured nine, and its vaunted air service was at a complete standstill.”

It fell largely to Bond to whip operations into shape, which he did—just in time for Japan’s aggression. In 1937, Pan Am recalled Bond from China and offered him a plum job elsewhere. He declined and, at no little personal peril, returned to flying for the China National Aviation Corp. Dealings with Chinese officialdom were often tense, in part because the Middle Kingdom’s bureaucrats were suspicious of the Americans and often treated them as lackeys rather than partners. On one occasion Bond went to a meeting with a Colt .45 hidden in a shoulder holster, just in case.

Wartime flying was dangerous. In 1938 the Japanese forced down a CNAC plane (not flown by Bond) and strafed the survivors—one of many spine-chilling scenes vividly recounted by Mr. Crouch. After the Japanese overran coastal China, Bond and CNAC retreated to the country’s rugged hinterland, though Japanese bombing raids could sometimes still reach them. When the Japanese occupied Burma in 1942, the Nationalist government’s last overland supply line was cut off.

Before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a quasi-private air force called the American Volunteer Group, or Flying Tigers, had been helping China with its air defense against Japan. The unit was disbanded when the U.S. officially entered the war. Five of its pilots were recruited into the U.S. Army Air Corps. CNAC got 16. Both entities flew supplies to Chungking by traveling over the dangerous Himalayas, the so-called Hump. Despite “the hardest flying in the world,” Mr. Crouch says, “CNAC’s freight kept making it to China in per-plane quantities that dwarfed Army deliveries.”

CNAC lost a number of planes in the Himalayas. Two pilots thought to have died in a crash in early April 1943 turned up, weeks later, in a remote village in India. A British survey unit stumbled upon them smoking opium with the locals. An epic trek during monsoon season took the pilots, one of whom had a broken ankle and had to be carried by villagers, to an American military unit—47 days after ditching their plane.

CNAC’s supply efforts across the mountains were “one of the greatest aviation accomplishments of all time,” Mr. Crouch writes. “The Hump was the world’s first strategic airlift.” Yet the airlift’s rationale was to keep the Chinese government afloat so it could fight the Japanese—something that Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government was loath to do. It calculated that ending the war with Japan would just mean a new one with Mao’s forces. Washington sent missions to cajole the Nationalist to fight; the Chinese promised to do so but rarely did.

Stirring though the airlift was for the bravery it involved, ultimately the effort diverted resources from the Allied effort in Europe while doing little to contribute to the battle against Japan. Mr. Crouch acknowledges the futility even as he memorializes CNAC’s daring pilots, such as Pete Goutiere, who flew over the Hump 650 times.

By 1947, CNAC was flying from Shanghai to San Francisco in a mere 40 hours. Two years later the communists were running the country. Pan Am sold its stake in the company to the government, and CNAC was dissolved. For his part, William Langhorne Bond retired from Pan Am not long afterward and eventually became a farmer in Virginia. “Bond always felt,” Mr. Crouch writes, “that he’d held the most interesting, exciting, and challenging job in the entire history of commercial aviation.”

Mr. Ybarra is writing a book about the 1968 Fun Hog Expedition to Patagonia.



Air Commando One

Heinie Aderholt and America’s Secret Wars

Author Warren A. Trest

I had the opportunity to befriend Heinie Aderholt in the fall of 2009 and he promised to give me his book when we came up to Pamama city to share dinner with he and his wife, (we were going to by some furniture in his furniture store as well). I could not wait, I bought the book and consumed it quickly. Afterward we had a lot of time on the phone talking, about “stuff” that happened in Laos and all. I wanted to do a book about Bill Lair, but after reading his book and learning so much about him (Heinie) and his world, I just wanted to share Heinie’s memories. Reading “Air Commando One” was like hearing it straight from “the man” himself. He was quite a story teller, he could really “spin a yarn”… Warren A. Trest has brought back this time I had with Heini Aderholt. (as I re-read Trest’s book) Mr. Trest brings back to the dinner table the discussions of the adventures of Heinie’s life and the account of a professional military man who stayed under the radar due to his clandestine work of a great man. The story should be told now that Heini is gone, it should be yelled from the roof tops. But just like so many great men who fought in secret wars doing the dirty work “Under the radar” so to speak, they will never get the recognition they deserve. This book; “Air Commando One” by Warren A. Trest is one of the best biographies I have read. I highly recommend this book, for it is very instructive and historically correct, interesting, amusing and will leave you smiling, sad, and scratching your head wondering what the heck does our government think they are doing? No matter where you stood on the Vietnam war politically speaking, in retrospect, we can now see perhaps, that just maybe the wars should be fought by those men who know what the heck they are doing, like Heini Aderholt. God bless all those guys who lived, died and fought by General Heinie Aderholt’s side in World War II, Korea, Tibet, Thailand, The Golden Triangle, and Laos especially. Great job Mr. Trest, Great Book, Get the book and read it, you will be glad you did. I give it ten stars… (JRH)     




JRH 99

28 Responses to JR Hafer Book Reviews

  1. Today we are discussing the book “Hell Hawks” By Robert F. Dorr that Paul just read and he is writing a book review that I am eager to read. Another book that Vincent read he will be here in a few minutes to discuss his book. We shall talk about it too.

  2. While we are waiting for Paul and Vincent, paul ssent me this about the book he is so excited about: “By the way, you can get an autographed copy like my two books if you order directly from him. Go be his friend or contact him directly. Robert.F.Dorr@cox.net
    His take on it was he couldn’t put the book down when he got it and it was a real page turner. I have not read it yet but I plan to get it, but meanwhile Paul will Review the book for us. His review should be up as soon as I get it, hopefully today!
    Thanks… JRH

  3. Jack says:

    I have read WEB Griffin “The Aviators” and I really liked the characters and went on to other books. The series of the Lt, Capt. Maj. Col. Generals etc had me hooled. I couldn’t get enough. Fort Rucker Alabama became my Mecca. I even went there for a visit and met sme interesting people and saw the location I had been reading about. I felt like I belonged there. I might have become obsessive compulsive from reading those books. Now that is going from zero to sixty so to speak in reading for me. That’s is real writing interest for me. I do recommend that book.
    I want to hear about this book Hell Hawk you guys are talking about.
    I live in the Atlanta area and I love this blog, I visit it every day. This is the first time I have left a comment but I assure you not the last now that I know you guys are talking about this stuff.
    Jack Lyle

  4. Cecil says:

    Hello I am Cecil from Long Beach Ca. I like your website and hope you do a lot more of these discussions with writers. I like books about aviators and their aircraft and missions. I am not an aviator but love airplanes. I like reading about them, being around them, everything about them. I like your whole website by the way.
    Cecil Rosenberg, Long Beach Ca.

  5. I’m the author (or co-author) of three books currently in print — “HELL HAWKS!” about a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter group in Europe in World War II; “MISSION TO BERLIN” about B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crews; and “AIR FORCE ONE” about presidential aircraft. “HELL HAWKS!” is sometimes called the companion to “Band of Brothers” because Stephen Ambrose was at one time planning to tell this story and because our P-47 guys supported troops on the ground, including Easy Company. It is one of the most successful World War II titles in many years, thanks in part to many book signing appearances I donated at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. I’m flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as WEB Griffin, who is a very prolific and talented writer (albeit, one with a questionable military biography). I can provide signed, inscribed, first-edition copies of any of my books and they make great gifts. Find me at robert.f.dorr@cox.net

  6. Vince Smith says:

    My reviews can be found be searching for “Southernpilot”. I highly recommend Bob’s books. I have read “Hell Hawks!” and am half way through Mission To Berlin, which is also very good. I just received from Bob six book I purchased for gifts this Christmas, all autographed. I am very happy doing business with him.

    • Vince, if you would revise those reviews and send them to me by email at HaferAviation@yahoo.com I will post your review and credit you on our review page. It would be nice to have your reviews on all the books on our website as well. You can become a regular book reviewer for us, if you would? Please let me know if you will do that for us asap. Thanks “JR”

  7. First of all I apologize for ommiting the F. out of Bob’s name upon my first contact, the truth is I am old and forgetful. I actually have no excuse! So sorry ’bout that!
    Secondly, thank you for coming here today. I will be ordering several copies myself for my library which is mostly of course aviation books.
    This is a pleasure to have you here. Hope you are patient with us here. This is a little slower pace than you are use to. It can go on for days. so you can go and check back evey few hours and it can be quite productive for you. You can check the button below to be notified when there is a reply or comment to your blog!
    Thanks again Bob. “JR”

  8. George says:

    Mr Dorr I am going to order your book as well. Your book, Whta’s the name Mission to Berlin? Please tell us about that book in summary, and also about Hell Hawks, and haow they differ.
    Can you also give us a brif bio on yourself? You were in the Army Air Corps I presume? Or the the Air Force I don’t know when the transition was. You mentioned the questionable military background of mr. Butterworth or WEB Griffin, wasn’t he in Intelligence and he said his career was brief, I don’t much like his Police series, just his military stuff. But he is a hell of a writer, as I hear you are. I hear you are in the class of Clancy, Griffin, Coontz, Berent, Scheffeld, and Aderhold which is saying a lot, I must admit I am skeptical but willing to read you and I hope you are all thos things and more. It is about time we had another writer that flys the pages for us!

  9. Thank you for all the kind words. If you’re going to get my books (excuse me for shouting) PLEASE GET THEM DIRECTLY FROM ME: robert.f.dorr@cox.net

    I’ll be glad to try to answer George’s many questions when I can take the time to do so, but you can find most of the answers by googling my name: Robert F. Dorr.

    The most questionable thing in Griffin’s bio is the combat infantryman badge, which is customarily awarded only to those in the infantry branch (plus Special Forces) who have been in combat for a specified period. Griffin’s bio lists him as a military journalist. I don’t believe he claims to have been in Intelligence.

  10. Maybe the following will help with George’s questions:

    My book about B-17 Flying Fortress crews was published this past spring. The purpose of this message is to encourage you to order a first edition, signed copy directly from the author — that’s me.
    The book is a great gift for an aviation person or a military history buff.
    I expect to run out of first-edition copies by late November so if you want one, I need to hear from you now.
    “MISSION TO BERLIN” is a general-interest, Stephen Ambrose-style World War II history that focuses on B-17 Flying Fortress crews throughout the aerial campaign and especially those who attacked Berlin on February 3, 1945, in the largest mission ever flown against a single target. The book also includes a new look at the entire bombing campaign in Europe.
    The young men who flew and maintained the B-17 are at the center of the story but “MISSION TO BERLIN” also has lengthy passages about Americans who flew and maintained the B-24 Liberator, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang. The 486th Bombardment Group had a key role. This book also contains a considerable amount of B-24 Liberator material. “MISSION TO BERLIN” is the same size as my “HELL HAWKS” book of three years ago. I have copies of both books available here with the authors’ signatures. The two books look great together.
    “MISSION TO BERLIN” is dedicated to pilot Marvin D. Lord, co-pilot Robert Des Lauriers, togglier Ray Fredette and tail gunner Frank Chrastka. You’ll encounter air aces like Brooks Liles and Grant Turley and bomber pilots like John Pesch and Harris Rogner. Medal of Honor recipient Maynard Smith is in this narrative. The book will interest historians, the warbird community and veterans’ and reunion groups. A member of the 305th Bombardment Group said, “I learned something new from this.” He felt the book described what life was like for these men. A bomber crewmember who served in a different theater called this “a universal bomber crew story.”
    HOW TO GET IT: For a first-edition signed copy directly from me, the author, send me a check for $35.00 to cover book, signature, packaging and shipping. And remember that I’ll need your ADDRESS. If you’d like to get a signed copy from me, send a message confirming (1) whom to sign the book for, and (2) the address to which to send it. You do not need to wait for your check to reach me in the mail. For purchasers in Europe and Australia, the price is $45.00. If you pick up the book from me in northern Virginia, the price is $28.00.
    NOTE: I have a big discount for anyone who wants to order six books at once.
    First edition copies will be gone in a few weeks. If you have questions, please PICK UP THE PHONE.
    PLEASE NOTE: I am no longer making appearances at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (UHC) and I will soon be leaving Facebook. I have NEVER signed THIS book at UHC
    Thanks for your support.

    Best wishes.
    Bob Dorr

    Robert F. Dorr
    of “HELL HAWKS!”
    3411 Valewood Drive
    Oakton VA 22124
    (703) 264-8950


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  12. I love your post, it’s nice when you can tell somebody actuallly puts effort into a page, and gives the designs. If you set up updates value.

  13. Watch For the new third installment of the Nick Grant adventure series “MISSION TO SHANGHAI” by Col Jamie Dodson the author of “Flying Boats and Spies” and “China Clipper”. We hope to have an in-depth interview published on our blog soon after the Sun n Fun Fly-in is over in Apirl. This guy is one of the most talented writers I’ve run across in a very long time. Jamie Dodson is a historian and really knows his Pan Am history, nineteenth century Asian history and the Pacific WWII era sequencs’ as well. Colonel Jamie Dodson is a great “Factual-Fictional history author” folks you can take that to your reading chair and “Bank-it… But don’t plan to get up for a while because the plot is great, the story has the threads that binds the whole thing together with amazing interest and instructive accuracy. I highly recommend this book, watch for it…
    JR Hafer

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  16. Thank you I am very glad you like it. I am sure the Authors do as well.

  17. Please message me with some tips on how you made your blog site look this good , I would be thankful.

    • First of all you must have the right platform. I suggest worpress. (WordPress.com) then it takes a focal point focus on one subject and become an expert of that subject and do a lot of research and you must keep your website / blog frest by tending it every day. There are 196 countries in this world. We have regular visitors from 55 countries. That is aprox. one third of the countries in the whole world that that knows about us… that is a real acomplishment. But it is a labor of love. True dedication of a lot of people. A Passion for Aviation. What is your passion?
      Thank you for asking. any more questions: write email to: “JR” at JRHaferAviationBlog@RocketMail.com

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  21. BB says:

    Very interesting website. Thanks for putting all this information out there. I especially like the book reviews. I’d only heard of one of the books but have ordered the one on Heinie Aderholt now. Please keep ’em coming since I know there are plenty of good flying books out there I haven’t heard of.

    • BB, Thank you for your comment. I review many aviation books for a lot of authors and enjoy doing so not only to help the authors but also to help readers like you to find good reading material. I only read books that have avation themes and I never, ever run out of reading material. I love aviation and if you do to you can find a lot of great novels available.
      Thank you so much for you saying you like our book review section. Too many folks visit but never take the time to leave a comment. when you do take time to leave a comment it really make a difference to us. Thank you so much, you are really appreciated too…

  22. jamiedodson1970 says:

    JR Great News! Audible. com picked up the FLYING BOATS & SPIES audio book. Only $7.49 at the link below.

  23. Ed Cobleigh says:

    Col Hafer,
    Last year, I sent you copies of my books; War for the Hell of It, and The Pilot. Have you had a chance to read and review them? War for the Hell of It: A Fighter Pilot’s View of Vietnam has been republished in a second edition with a new, modern cover, and an additional chapter inexplicably left out of the first edition.
    Ed Cobleigh
    Paso Robles, CA

    • haferaviation says:

      Greetings Ed, affirmitive, on both. It was a positive experience. We had a crash and we have yet to re-establish all of the reviews and articles. I also am in the middle of moving. When we get settled again I will find both reviews and make sure you get copies of them.
      Highest regards,

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