The airplane turned the sky into a new domain of human activity, a fast-developing frontier. The first to brave that frontier were adventurous young men. Then came the rich and the hurried. Then just about everybody else. Until now, no one has told the story of aviation as one of frontier expansion. David Courtwright does so in Sky as Frontier. He has written an ambitious history of American aviation ranging from the patent fight between the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss through the tragedy of 9/11 and the Iraq War. Along the way, Courtwright stops to consider dogfighting, barnstorming, the first air mail pilots, the development of airlines, air power during World War II, flight’s impact on the environment, the troubled space frontier, and how the male-dominated aviation enterprise was domesticated and democratized.
Aviation’s frontier stage lasted a scant three decades, then vanished as flying became a settled experience. Sky as Frontier recreates that pioneer world and shows how commercial and military imperatives destroyed it by routinizing flight. At bottom, it is the story of a fateful tradeoff. Rationalization killed the adventure in flying but made possible rapid aerial expansion. With it came commercial growth and glob8al military reach. In no other country did social life, business, and military operations become so intertwined with aerospace advances, or have such large consequences for national power and prestige.
Mitchell’s experiences were similar to those of thousands of young men. Because his mother kept his wartime letters, readers of this book can catch glimpses of a world long vanished and an era that now seems innocent and naive. Mitchell worried about washing out, but he eventually learned to do nighttime “blitz” landings without lights, to loop and roll and recover from a spin, to identify an aircraft from its silhouette, and to navigate cross country. Like many of his peers, he wanted to be a pursuit pilot, but he was assigned to C-47s, a disappointment to which he resigned himself. As a member of the 73d Squadron of the 434th Troop Carrier Group, he delivered glider infantry at Normandy, dropped airborne troops during Operation Market Garden, and supplied the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
Mitchell’s letters remind us that learning to fly was a romantic and unexpected adventure for the young men of the Greatest Generation who flew for the USAAF.
In this precise, interpretive, and informative volume, Higham looks at everything from the roots of strategic bombing and tactical air power, to the lessons learned and unlearned during the invasion of Ethiopia, the war in China, and the Spanish Civil War, as well as the problems posed by jet aircraft in Korea and the use of Patriot missiles in the Persian Gulf. He covers anti-guerrilla operations, doctrine, industrial activities and equipment, as well as the development of commercial airlines.
Turning his attention to civil aviation in the closing pages, Higham discusses the “wars” that saw Braniff fold as Continental filed for bankruptcy and Brazil’s Embraer emerged as a third-world success story. He considers the rise and fall of Soviet civil aviation. He discusses the development of new aircraft and the expansion of airports such as O’Hare, which handles more than 200,000 passengers daily.
Higham synthesizes a hundred years of aviation and air power into sets of principles and lessons for future generations of airmen and politicians. Like his earlier works, this book will capture the interest of scholars, students, enthusiasts, and general readers looking for a serious overview by one of the country’s leading aviation historians.
From Charles Wesley Peters, who flew his own plane in 1911, and Eugene Bullard, a black American ace with the French in World War I, to the 1945 Freeman Field mutiny against segregationist policies in the Air Corps, Broadnax paints a vivid picture of the people who fought oppression to make the skies their own.
The routine and risk of daily airlift operations and the differing air bases are discussed--and colored with personal memories.
Cargo included everything from elephants to dancing girls, and accidents and errors were all part of the mission. The author describes the work as a "history-based, humorous, satirical, and bitter recount of a major national wasted effort," with commentary on American attitudes, the costs and the lingering social impact of the war. Photographs. Index.
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