How does it really feel to be a fighter pilot in combat? Virtually all of the books on the subject tell of the thrill of living on the edge of death, where one slight miscalculation or turn of luck can end your life. Valor isn’t risking your life unafraid, it’s risking your life scared shitless but doing it anyway. That is Edwards Park’s story, and it’s fascinating. Sent to Australia to fly the already obsolete Bell Aircobra, P-39, Park flew out of Port Moresby, New Guinea in 1943, protecting the airfield from marauding Japanese bombers escorted by much superior fighters. The story is billed as fiction; the account of Beaver Squadron, young American heroes facing the war in their own fatalistic way, but it accurately follows Park’s actual experiences. I’ve cross referenced his dates and battles; he was there.
Park survived and became a writer and journalist, working for the Smithsonian Institution. He shows the human side of the pilots and gives the best descriptions I’ve read of what it was actually like to fly those old piston engine aircraft; the smells, the feeling, the thrills, the panic.
As America overpowers Japan the fight moves north and East from New Guinea, with Beaver Squadron following along in their inferior aircraft filling in however they can; taking casualties from accidents and the Japanese, making their contribution.
I’m doing research for a novel on this era and bought a used copy of this book because it is out of print and not available as an Ebook. If you want a humanistic, very different view of war, this is for you.