Reviews & Previews: Soldier of Fortune
The life and mysterious death of an American ace in the Spanish Civil War
- By The Editors
- Air & Space magazine, March 2012
(Page 4 of 5)
In the asteroids section, we find out how to deflect one from ramming into Earth, potentially the most important skill in space exploration. In the Mars section, the lighting turns—surprise—red, and there is a prototype worksuit for nimbly negotiating a barren surface. In a hands-on display, you can attempt to terraform Mars—reducing to seconds a process lasting around 1,000 years—but usually with bleak results. I tried with a combination of pollution-spewing factories, nuclear weapons, and other fun stuff, and failed. Do we really need to pump another habitable planet’s atmosphere full of greenhouse gases?
n n n Phil Scott is a frequent contributor to air & space. he
wrote “take a ride in a b-25” for the apr./may 2011 issue.
Finish Forty and Home: The Untold World War II Story of B-24s in the Pacific
by Phil Scearce. University of North Texas Press, 2011. 352 pp., $29.95.
In the randomness of World War II combat assignments, which bomber crew service do you choose: Europe or the Pacific? Before you decide, read Finish Forty and Home. “The role of chance could be depressing to a bomber crewman if he dwelt too much on it,” writes Phil Scearce. It’s one of the themes in his exhaustive account of a B-24 Liberator crew island-hopping from Hawaii to Iwo Jima.
Scearce’s father, Herman, a B-24 radio operator and gunner, flew his 40 missions and came home with stories that enthralled his son. The younger Scearce has grown up to be a meticulous researcher, and he builds on the frame of his father’s memories a chronicle of daily life in the lesser-known bomber theater. Without delay, the reader is grounded in reality. Herman Scearce doesn’t step out of a Norman Rockwell scene with Glenn Miller playing in the background; he lies his way into the military at age 16, fleeing severe family dysfunction, toxic poverty, and small-town aimlessness.
The elder Scearce’s tour of the Pacific begins with a mission on which every bomb misses a Japanese-occupied island entirely. It ends with pinpoint placement of 2,000-pound mines while flying a hundred feet above blazing enemy warships. In between, the detail is high-resolution.