Reviews & Previews: Prodigal Son
A troubled man, Gregory Boyington found redemption commanding a U.S. Marine fighter squadron in the South Pacific.
- By Phil Scott
- Air & Space magazine, September 2011
National Archives and Records Administration
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Mission to Berlin: The American Airmen Who Struck the Heart of Hitler’s Reich
by Robert F. Dorr. Zenith Press, 2011.328 pp., $28.
After interviewing dozens of pilots and bomber crewmen, Air & Space contributor Robert F. Dorr has crafted a book that brings to life the daylight bombing raids the U.S. Eighth Air Force mounted against Germany’s capital. The following excerpt is from a chapter entitled “Squabbling.”
A typical Me 262 was powered by two 1,984-pound-thrust Junkers Jumo-004B axial-flow turbojet engines, was armed with four 30-mm nose cannons, and reached a speed of 540 miles per hour. “By the time the German jets went into production, it was too late and nothing was going to change the outcome of the war,” said British aviation writer Jon Lake. Me 262s shot down about one hundred Allied aircraft by war’s end, but the Allies also shot down dozens of them. Bomber crewmembers thought about the Me 262 on every mission, heard about it in many briefings, and probably credited it with more than the German jet was really capable of.
“We heard about them around January 1945,” said [B-17] copilot First Lieutenant Robert Des Lauriers. “We saw them. Man, would they go by fast! On a mission in January, I witnessed an Me 262 flying straight up with a Mustang on his tail, also flying straight up. In briefings, we were told to be alert for them and especially to make note of where they were. We were very much aware that the German jets were very vulnerable when they were taking off and landing. Our intelligence guys wanted to put Mustangs into a position to pick them off in the airfield pattern.” By this time, Mustangs and even portly P-47 Thunderbolts were regularly blasting the German jets out of the sky.
“I saw a few,” said Fancy Nancy Technical Sergeant Ray Fredette [a B-17 nose gunner]. “The jets I saw weren’t attacking us. They were observing our bomber stream from quite high up and off to the side. The P-51s took off after them. Just as the P-51s got close, the jets turned on the power and it looked like the P-51s were left standing still.”
Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next
by John D. Kasarda and Greg Lindsay. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 466 pp., $30.
This is not a flying book. Nor an airplane book. What, then, is it about? I’m tempted to say it’s about hubs, because at a conservative estimate the word “hub” appears about 500 times in these 400-plus pages, often three or four times per page, and once five times in four sentences. It’s even used as a verb, as in: “It makes more sense to hub that out of Dubai than Johannesburg.”
Essentially, the book reports on businesses that are made possible by airlines, airports, and air cargo: for example, the global flower business as represented by the Aalsmeer flower market, located six miles from the hub known as Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Aalsmeer is where some 20 million cut flowers arrive daily from Africa, are auctioned off, and then sent on to other hubs in Europe, the United States, and Japan. A second example is the global seafood business, the current hub for which is Germany’s Frankfurt airport, “where a veritable Garden of Eden is kept on ice.” And so on.
The “aerotropolis” of the title is simply the hub itself plus the total set of businesses associated with it, including those that house, feed, entertain, and otherwise serve the needs of passengers who fly to, connect through, or work there: hotels, offices, malls, warehouses, entire cities. Cities have always arisen at ports. What’s new are the speed of jet travel, the continuing increase in the number of travelers, and the complexity of the hub system, which together will supposedly transform everything.
But the future the book describes is largely here already, which makes it hard to take the subtitle seriously. If you’re not a fan of business literature, give this one a miss.
Ed Regis is a frequent Air & Space/Smithsonian contributor.
At a Glance
Airborne Dreams: “Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways
by Christine R. Yano. Duke University Press, 2011. 219 pp., $22.95.
Japanese-American women who began working as stewardesses for Pan American World Airways in 1955 tell their stories.