October 2016. With the release of Heroes in the Sky Ian Darling, author of Amazing Airmen: Canadian Flyers in the Second World War, again ventures into the aerial realms of the Second World War. This latest offering presents twenty-two interesting personal accounts of combat and service related by selected American aircrew. The stories are not just about male pilots, navigators, and gunners, for the story of Betty Guild, who flew with the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 6th Ferrying Group of Air Transport Command, is included. Her tale reminds readers of the contributions of female aviators during World War II.
For those of the “Baby Boomer” generation, the lives of our parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins during the Great Depression and afterward continue to fascinate and instruct. Most of our post-war generation was personally touched by these men and women. For example, this reviewer’s father and uncle served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps respectfully during the conflict. Furthermore, he recalls his first time in uniform within a foreign land. The much older man bunking across from him was on his last military-related endeavor. This individual, in 1942, and at the time only seventeen years of age, was a U.S. Marine and positioned with his rifle at the ready on the beach of hotly contested Guadalcanal Island. In Heroes in the Sky Ian Darling relates the account of Harold Snider who was also posted to the foul, melodious, malaria-ridden jungle land mass.
Two of the chronicles relate the experiences of George McGovern and George Herbert Walker Bush, both notable former American politicians. The former, a party nominee for President of the United States, flew Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and the latter, who eventually became a President of the United States, piloted Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers from a light aircraft carrier. Another noteworthy profile included in the book is Alexander Jefferson, who was one of the now legendary Tuskegee Airmen, a North American P-51 Mustang fighter pilot, and a prisoner of war.
Ian Darling, a Canadian, says he wrote Heroes in the Sky because “Americans and Canadians have much in common” by sharing “joint colonial beginnings” and both peoples have perennially maintained mutual dedications “to the traditions of democracy and the rule of law. . . .”
Heroes in the Sky is recommended reading. Readers will be exposed to select histories not usually recounted, and hopefully, by absorbing the lessons contained within the texts, they will gain an appreciation of perseverance and dedication. Mr. Darling succeeds in his goal of reminding us that the legacies of the veterans of World War II have left us a legacy that we must never forget” and stating that, “By remembering and celebrating these ideals we not only honor these veterans, we better prepare ourselves to meet the challenges ahead.”
The sagas contained within Heroes in the Sky, and narratives of a similar nature in other books, can serve to make us stronger when we face adversities. At the minimum people who read Mr. Darling’s work will learn of the sacrifices made, and the hardships endured, by the subjects of the chapters while they were striving to preserve and restore freedom in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Mediterranean between 7 December 1941 and 2 September 1945. We owe these Americans and their colleagues our gratitude.
Citation: Darling, Ian. Heroes in the Sky. Sterling Publishing: New York, 2016.
The reviewer (John Stemple) and 20th Century Aviation Magazine thank Ian Darling for writing this book and furnishing a copy for review.