Recommend some books on post-WW2 military aviation

Exactly as it says on the tin, back when I was a young starry-eyed idealist I used to be massively interested in military aviation, to the extent that for the longest time I gave serious consideration to joining the RAF.

For various reasons that never happened but now that I have carefully cultivated my gritty cyncism I keep my aviation bug carefully repressed, still I have to admit to a thrill of boyish glee when the subject comes up and I’m currently on another aviation kick.

So, anyone have any recommendations, both fiction and factual books but set-in/about the post-WW2 era, as much as a friend contemptuously dismisses it as push-button warfare I find the complicated jet-age machines much more interesting…if you can see your opponent you’re doing something wrong…

Currently reading ‘Firebreak’ by Richard Herman Jr (which inspired this thread), just your bog-standard technothriller but its keeping me entertained so it must be doing something right.

Tanks in advance! (well they will be until an A10 Warthog makes short work of them) :wink:

The Right Stuff, of course, by Tom Wolfe.

The Quest for Mach One: A First-Person Account of Breaking the Sound Barrier by Chuck Yeager, Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Jack Russell.

Watched the movie a few weeks ago actually, pretty well done! And it makes good use of a large modern TV and soundsystem.

Thanks, I’ll keep an eye out for that. Bought At the Edge of Space: The X-15 Flight Program by Milton O. Thompson recently, a book I’ve been looking for for some time, haven’t got round to reading it yet though.

I was an extra in it. Didn’t make it into the final cut.

It was a very well done film, but it kind of suffers next to Apollo 13 and From The Earth To The Moon. I thought that Gus Grissom was treated very unfairly.

The book goes a little more into the military aviation aspects, including the hierarchies and competition.

“The Great Ziggurat of Flying”

The book’s more or less about the hierarchy of military pilots and their quest to go higher and faster, and how the Mercury astronauts kind of stepped outside the hierarchy and planted themselves on top, much to the chagrin of the rest of the military pilots.

Very interesting read, especially the first half or so before the space program was even mentioned.

Do helicopters count? Chickenhawk is one of the best military memoirs period, not just an aviation memoir. The author flew UH-1 Huey helicopters in Vietnam.

If you can find a copy of Sled Driver that doesn’t cost an arm and two legs, it’s an interesting look at what it was like to fly the SR-71.

Viktor Belenko’s story of flying the MiG-25 Foxbat, and famously defecting to Japan with one, is covered in, "MiG Pilot: the Final Escape of Lt. Belenko. It’s interesting as a look at how bleak life often was in the former Soviet Union, even for an elite pilot like Belenko.

Finally, I’m really interested in finding a copy of this one, “Loud and Clear: The Memoir of an Israeli Fighter Pilot,” by Iftach Spector.

Fulcrum: A Top Gun Pilot’s Escape from the Soviet Empire was good in more of a view into the late Soviet Union sort of way; it wasn’t really an “aviation” book per-se.

Do you think so? I don’t know much about the history but although it heavily hinted that he blew the hatch I thought it treated him sympathetically afterwards. I read up on that event and it seems the jury is still out on what actually occurred, although that is a thread itself.

Helicopters definitely count, I read that book a long time ago and remember liking it.

Wow, you aren’t kidding, £260 on Amazon UK!

I’ve been looking for that one for a while, but unless I import it from the US its pretty steep on amazon UK.

Thanks for the recommendations!

Have that one, haven’t read it yet, thanks though and it is the sort of thing I’m looking for.

Sea Harrier over the Falklands by Cdr Sharkey Ward.

I think it’s been conclusively proved that Grissom did not blow the hatch. The film did ‘heavily hint’ that he did… to the point that I think it boarded on slander. Consider that flying mistakes are not well tolerated by the flying community. Sure, some things can be overlooked; but if you lose your ship through your own fault, people are going to look at you funny. I’ve never been a military pilot or a test pilot, but I’ve been around enough of them. I don’t think they’d have much respect for someone who ‘screwed the pooch’.

And yet Grissom was chosen to command the first Gemini mission. (Grissom named the spacecraft Molly Brown, poking fun at his earlier mission.) And he was chosen as the commander of AS-204 (‘Apollo 1’), the first manned Apollo mission.

Even without having recovered the Mercury capsule at the time, it seems unlikely that Grissom would be made commander of the first manned missions of not one, but two new spacecraft if there was any doubt as to his performance.

And I think that the recovery of Liberty Bell 7 has shown conclusively that Grissom did not blow the hatch.

So yes, I think The Right Stuff treated Grissom unfairly.

I liked Chickenhawk but I liked Low Level Hell better. Probably because it was from a scout pilot in Vietnam and it hit close to home.

For fiction you might want to try W.E.B. Griffith’s Brotherhood of War series. It took some interesting turns. WWII ended during the first book in the series and much of it took place between wars or during lesser known conflicts. Some of the characters were in at the beginning of Army Aviation and showed how it formed after the Air Force was made. The books are a quick read and not that deep but it covers a lot of (fictionalized) history.

You might try Derek Robinson’s * Hullo Russia , Goodbye England * which deals with ex WW 2 bomber pilots in the RAF manning Britain’s Cold War nuclear deterrent V bombers . It is in his usual irreverent and satirical manner . The title derives from the fact that if they go out to do their job, England has already,been subjected to, or soon will, a devastating Russian nuclear attack. The book features several characters from his earlier books on RAF in WW 2.

Don’t think so. The hatch itself is still somewhere out there, even though the recovery crew looked pretty hard. There’s still no way of knowing.

But you’re right about Grissom. Scuttlebutt was also that he, not Armstrong, had been chosen by NASA to be the first man on the moon, too.

Glenn, Shirra, and Cooper blew the hatch. Shirra waited until the Sigma 7 was aboard the carrier so the hatch could be recovered. All of them developed bruises from where they hit the button to blow the hatch. Grissom did NOT develop a similar bruise. So that pretty much put an end to any “Gus blew the hatch” talk. The sad irony is that because of Liberty Bell 7’s hatch blowing itself, it was decided NOT to provide the Apollo with a hatch with explosive bolts for emergency exit. So Grissom died in the Apollo 1 fire because it was impossible to open the hatch under those conditions.

It hadn’t gotten very far in NASA to have Grissom make the first step on the moon. On the other hand, Slayton was ALL in favour of his friend Gus, a fellow Mercury astronaut, being the first man on the moon. And Slayton was in a position to make that happen.

Thanks for the answers everyone!

Cold War fiction:
North Cape by Joe Poyer – a terrific thriller about a pilot and his futuristic recon plane (the plane flies him as much as he flies it, mainly by jolting him with performance enhancement drugs).

Frances Gary Powers wrote a very good memoir of the U-2 shootdown – Operation Overflight.

I was going to recommend Yeager, Chuck’s autobigraphy. He covers a lot of his test pilot days.

Thanks, I’ll definitely check that out, one of the first ‘adult’ books I ever read was Firefox by Craig Thomas and I particularly like that technothriller genre, ‘Day of the Cheetah’ by Dale Brown was a fun read as well.

Can’t remember the title, but Brown also has one with a souped up heavily armed B-52 as the main “character”.

That’s another good one!