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The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy…

The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and… (2013)

by Winston Groom

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I saw a review of this book in the WSJ and added it to my list of books to check out at the library. I am glad I did, Groom has written a very readable look at three American aviation pioneers and their accomplishments. All three men did not have a father in the picture they came from poor backgrounds but did have a strong mother figure.

Rickenbacker, was a WWI flying ace and he started commercial aviation in the US. He made and lost fortune in the great depression but came back to create another. He was called upon by his government many times to help with tour to bring up troop morale. He pushed for more to happen with aviation in the USA but many felt it was a fools folly at the time and that air power was not feasible or important.

Lindbergh, as we many of us know made the trans Atlantic solo flight from New York to Paris. The flight was a challenge to see how far a plane could fly a look to the future someday of commercial aviation. There was a $25000 prize awarded to the man who accomplished the feat. Lindbergh made his money barnstorming and had to go to friends to help raise the money he needed to build the plane to attempt this flight. Others had already tried and died trying to accomplish the trip. He was in a race against at least two other teams who had announced their intentions. It was this successful flight that threw Lindbergh into the limelight of the press and the paparazzi of the time period. They were so ridiculous on one occasion to get a picture they ran over a family dog showing no signs of concern or care for what they had done. Lindbergh grew to hate and his efforts to avoid the press led the press to write whatever if felt wether it was true or not. Groom takes the time to give Lindbergh his day in court for speeches that were taken out of context or missed what Lindbergh was trying to point out. Before WWII, LIndbergh was with those that did not want to get dragged into WWII, the majority of the country was war weary and still recovering financially from WWI and the Great Depression. Many in Roosevelt's cabinet including Roosevelt wished to stomp the life out of Lindbergh.

Dolittle, led an air raid against Tokyo which turned the tide of the WWII in the allies favor. His air raid combined with cryptographers who finally figured out the Japanese code helped to close the gap and eventually win the Pacific Theatre of the war.

All three men allowed themselves to be human guinea pigs in various aspects of aviation to show that it could be done and that they themselves would not ask anyone else to do it unless they themselves did it too. They were adventurers, heroes and of course men who were flawed but who all had a strong love for their country and who were willing to die for their country.

I will be adding this book to my own library what a great reference on these men. Highly recommend! ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
This book intertwines the lives of three great American aviators: Lindbergh, Doolittle and Rickenbacker. They are all known for individual events that changed history and this book provides the other parts of their stories and describes how those changes were institutionalized by their actions during the rest of their lives. I thought that Groom did a good job with Rickenbacker and Doolittle, but did not describe the controversy around Lindbergh adequately. I was; however, enlightened by the other things that he did during his lifetime...including flying combat during WWII as a civilian. ( )
  buffalogr | Sep 28, 2015 |
Not one of Groom's better efforts. If you are familiar with aviation technology and military aircraft designations you may find it a more readable effort. I thought it got bogged down in mountains of detail that detracted from the narrative. ( )
  VGAHarris | Jan 19, 2015 |
The Aviators starts off awkwardly but once you get used to the round-robbin technique sit back and enjoy a fine 3-for-one biography of aviation pioneers from the heroic age of flight. There are many famous events skillfully retold by novelist Winston Groom. Most of it is new to me but even the parts I am familiar with give the impression of fresh perspective and new details. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Robertson Dean whose gravely voice is perfect for the heroic theme. Groom gives time to all aspects, for example not just Lindbergh's cross Atlantic flight but his actions during WWII and later environmentalism which I didn't know about; similar with Doolittle and Rickenbacker who led interesting lives. What they had in common Groom doesn't really say other than fame, airplanes and heroism. There's no thesis but it's a well done retelling. There are many other books by and about the three, which I hope to read more of, and I now have some perspective on their importance, it is an excellent easy to read introduction. ( )
  Stbalbach | Dec 31, 2014 |
The book is long and sometimes tedious to listen to because it goes on and on and flips around from character to character and timeline to timeline. Chapters alternate with each character at first, but as the book develops, one or another characters is relegated to several. It felt like a greater portion of the book was devoted to Lindbergh, but that may simply be because of the writer’s method of presenting the information. Sometimes, a chapter which was devoted to one aviator, also included another.
The book is chock full of information and detail, but it is also full of a lot of information that can easily be found with an internet search. It is, however, well written, and it is obviously well researched. There is a plethora of facts, sometimes too many to retain. I would have preferred the book to have three distinct parts, with each part devoted to a single “star”, rather than the way it was written with all of our war “heroes” jumbled up together. There was repetition which I believe would have been less disconcerting if the focus had been continuously focused on one of the men.
Several times, over the years of these men’s lives, their paths intersected and their purposes paralleled each other. The war effort of both World Wars played a large part in the three men’s lives, although Lindbergh was younger and not involved as much with the events of WWI. He actually managed to make himself a persona non grata during part of WWII, with his loose lips.
All three pilots were devoted family members and patriots. All three were interested in air travel from their youth. One or another may have been worldlier, more educated or more financially able, but all were driven by the promise of being free in the sky, becoming birds and taking flight, opening the skies to the general public and the fighting men of our armed forces.
Each of the men figured prominently in airplane development and in the development of the airline industry as well as the automobile industry, and without them, our fighter planes would not have gained such a place of honor in history’s backward glance. Each was prominent in his own right, each made enormous contributions to society and each suffered life’s slings and arrows in one form or another.
All of the men were born within a twelve year span, and they were instrumental in, and witnesses to, the rise of the American air industry and its growth throughout the world. Of the three, only Jimmy Doolittle lived to a really ripe old age, just three years shy of his 100th birthday. Rickenbacker and Lindbergh died within a year of each other though separated by a dozen years in age. Lindbergh died the youngest, at 72, with Rickenbacker dying at age 83. Still they lived beyond the average lifespan of their day, and throughout their own lives they were dedicated to their country and to improving the lifestyles and lives of their countrymen. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Oct 30, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Winston Groomprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dean, RobertsonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Explores "the saga of three extraordinary aviators--Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Jimmy Doolittle--and how they redefine heroism through their genius, daring, and uncommon courage"--

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