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I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen [Kindle Edition]

Wolfgang W. e. Samuel
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Until now, no book has covered all of Cold War air combat in the words of the men who waged it. In I Always Wanted to Fly, retired United States Air Force Colonel Wolfgang W. E. Samuel has gathered first-person memories from heroes of the cockpits and airstrips.

Battling in dogfights when jets were novelties, saving lives in grueling airlifts, or flying dangerous reconnaissance missions deep into Soviet and Chinese airspace, these flyers waged America's longest and most secretively conducted air war.

Many of the pilots Samuel interviewed invoke the same sentiment when asked why they risked their lives in the air--"I always wanted to fly." While young, they were inspired by barnstormers, by World War I fighter legends, by the legendary Charles Lindbergh, and often just by seeing airplanes flying overhead. With the advent of World War II, many of these dreamers found themselves in cockpits soon after high school. Of those who survived World War II, many chose to continue following their dream, flying the Berlin Airlift, stopping the North Korean army during the "forgotten war" in Korea, and fighting in the Vietnam War.

Told in personal narratives and reminiscences, I Always Wanted to Fly renders views from pilots' seats and flight decks during every air combat flashpoint from 1945--1968. Drawn from long exposure to the immense stress of warfare, the stories these warriors share are both heroic and historic.

The author, a veteran of many secret reconnaissance missions, evokes individuals and scenes with authority and grace. He provides clear, concise historical context for each airman's memories. In I Always Wanted to Fly he has produced both a thrilling and inspirational acknowledgment of personal heroism and a valuable addition to our documentation of the Cold War.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Retired air force colonel Samuel was born in Germany, and the oral history he has assembled comes from fellow air force men of the generation that inspired him to immigrate and sign up. They were men who started flying during World War II and constituted the backbone of U.S. air power up to the early stages of the Vietnam War. Samuel's book covers the Berlin airlift, Korea, strategic reconnaissance, and Vietnam, and in each section even the fairly widely read aviation buff will learn something new. The airlift section includes material on the SAC backup and the ground crews. The Korean War segment has tales of the B-29s. The part concerned with strategic reconnaissance relays practically all new-to-the-public information because of the top secret status of such missions during the cold war (many were flights over Soviet territory). Even the Vietnam coverage opens up a few new perspectives. A valuable addition to any collection serving students of post-World War II military aviation. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From the Author

I Always Wanted to Fly is on the 2013 Air Force Chief of Staff's reading list.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4725 KB
  • Print Length: 363 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (August 21, 2001)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001M4HNYE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,221 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfgang Samuel does it again! January 7, 2002
Wolfgang Samuel does it again... After penning German Boy, a book relating his own experiences as a German youth fighting for survival at the end of WWII, Samuel examines the post-World War II Cold War through the eyes of American air force flyers. As a reader, I found it refreshing that throughout the book Samuel allowed military aviators to tell their own stories. But more importantly, he puts the events and activities into historical context so that readers who are not steeped in the history of the time understand the critical importance of the Cold War air effort documented by him. Early on, we hear American flyers saying "I Always Wanted to Fly" but I found the stories to be about commitment, motivation, dedication and the determined fight for the very freedoms we enjoy everyday. This book is a must read for history buffs and an adventurous, exciting and engaging work for any reader interested in the Cold War.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Always Wanted to Fly September 8, 2001
Another outstanding book by Wolfgang Samuel as he presents another facet of history in way it always needed to be told. We tend to look at history from the perspective of those who shape history - the politicians and statesmen, but here we see it from the perspective of those who make history - the military, as they go about doing their job. So eloquently written that the reader can't help but feel like being along on the mission as part of the crew - exciting, frightening and an unforgetable experience. The author has made it possible for the general public to get a taste of the airmen's world and to look behind the scenes of the many battles and wars fought since the end of World War 11. It makes one proud and appreciative of our Cold War Airmen, and thankful to them for a job well done. Highly recommend this book, as it's an eye opener for anyone who wants to know what has been going on during the last fifty five years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spy Flights of the Cold War December 17, 2001
By A Customer
In this extraordinary book you learn what it cost America to maintain our freedom - the many lives lost of airmen who flew what they called reconnaissance against the Soviet Union and Communist China. I never knew much about this secret war. Well, I Always Wanted to Fly, tells you all about those brave men who flew the RB-45 and the RB-47 in the coldest years of the Cold War. It tells you about the picture takers and those who gathered the electronic intelligence. At times their cold war flights got pretty hot. Samuel takes you along on one of those missions high over the Barents Sea, lets you experience what Hal Austin and his crew felt when they turned south, heading for Archangelsk. I admire those men and Samuel told their story beautifully. This is a book you don't want to miss if you have any interest in Cold War reconnaissance. I call them spy flights.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review: I Always Wanted to Fly January 9, 2007
What exhilarating suspense could I possibly find in a title such as I always Wanted to Fly? I always wanted both of my feet on the ground. So, I played it safe and fastened my seat belt for the trip. I knew from previous readings that a Wolfgang Samuel book is always loaded with hair-raising details that easily bring emotions to the surface. And it did; as in the past, a thoroughly rewarding experience.

All creatures were not created equal. The flyers were brave men by virtue of their wanting to fly while aware of the perils. They were heroes because of what they did while flying under the horrors of battle. And they were brave and heroic again and again. Others, unlike them, although devoted and dedicated, tended to their menial undertakings, other than combat, while having both feet safe on the ground and the mess hall within reach.

I Always Wanted to Fly describe the missions in such vivid details that the reader is flying right along with the crew and experiencing the thrills of victory as well as the agony of all that goes wrong. A reader that always wanted both feet on the ground may be undeserving of either; for even in defeat there is the thrill of having done your best and one can only do that by been there flying the mission in flesh and blood. Oh, but the reader can surely gain a fuller appreciation of the brave and heroic deeds of our airmen in their many war missions, whether COLD or HOT.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book is four stars.

I was sort of expecting Colonel Samuels to write about his flying, kind of like a follow up to his very excellent book, "German Boy". However, Author Samuels only gives a few snippets about his flying for the USAF. Well over 95% of the book is about flyers and a small amount is about the aircrews.

The USAF was born in the late 40s, a result of military reforms by President Truman. The USAF found itself quickly involved in the Korean war. Samuels give a write up to the raids the B-29 bombers made on North Korea. Generally, the day light raids by the B-29 bombers were a debacle. The world war two era B-29 bombers stood little chance against the highly advanced MiG-15 fighters. The raids switched to night time bombings. Author Samuel gives stories from both the pilots and enlisted aircraft gunners point-of-view.

Author Samuels covers stories on the F-51 (ex WWII P-51) ground support and B-26 attack missions in Korea. Note, the stories on the F-51 are rather lacking in detail. A big problem of the F-51 was it had a water cooled engine and many were brought down in the ground support role by simple bullet holes in their radiators. This does not make the book and the excellent WWII fighter ended its days as only a fair ground support aircraft in Korea. The A-1 Skyraider was a better aircraft for ground support but was not assigned to the USAF at that time.

Author Samuels does give a bit of writing to the RB-47, RB-45, and the interwar period of 1954 to 1964, before heavy involvement in Vietnam. This is during the hard cold war era. Space craft really had not been invented yet and so it was left to the crews of the RB-47 to fly spy missions in Russian air space. More than a few RB-47s come back with cannon holes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I thoroughly enjoyed "I Always Wanted To Fly" I was a knuckle ...
I thoroughly enjoyed "I Always Wanted To Fly" I was a knuckle grinder maintenance technician having worked AC-130A, C-13A-B-E-H-WC-from 1968 until 2014 and all those years... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jeffrey Capwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate and exciting stories
I Always Wanted to Fly contains sixteen stories that convey the experiences of many different US Air Force pilots, navigators and crewmen from the end of WW2 through Vietnam. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Dave "Bio" Baranek
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
It is very thoroughly researched and educational. I learned about areas about which I had no previous knowledge. Really good read? John Lowery
Published 14 months ago by John Lowery
5.0 out of 5 stars CSAF 2013 Reading List
Excellent compendium highlighting the motivations behind some of America's iconic Cold War airmen. Chosen by Chief of Staff, US Air Force for his 2013 Reading List,... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Larry L. Benson
4.0 out of 5 stars personal histories of cold war airman
Excellent anthology of cold war airman, starting with the Berlin Airlift. It fills a historical gap that much of which was classified, until recent years. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Darrell Strasser
5.0 out of 5 stars Obviously written by flyers
While not the finest writing style, it resonated with me as authentic because I am a retired Air Force pilot. I knew some of these guys.
Published 19 months ago by David Hubert
4.0 out of 5 stars good historical account from actual pilots....very detailed which...
good historical account from actual pilots....very detailed which surprised me Gave it to my Dad who was in WWII as a flight engineer on the B17
Published 20 months ago by Quiltdog
3.0 out of 5 stars Average stories about flying
Some good stories about flying in different operations with the USAF. I would have liked to see more of SAC bomber and tanker operations during the cold war and the Cuban Missile... Read more
Published 23 months ago by SAC Buff
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read!!
This book is on General Mark Welsh's reading list for 2013. I can see why. The early Air Force pilots tell a compelling story of their profession and love of flying. Read more
Published on March 5, 2013 by John C Scherer
4.0 out of 5 stars Giving credit to ALL crewmembers....!
Good book ... but unfortunately, for those stories about the RC-135's (and in some cases the RB-47's)it is written only from the perspective of the "front-end" crews... Read more
Published on September 28, 2011 by A. Kriegel
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More About the Author

Wolfgang W. E. Samuel was born in Germany in 1935, immigrated to the United States at age 16, and finished high school in Denver, Colorado, two years later. He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1960 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. Wolfgang served 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, flew strategic reconnaissance against the Soviet Union in the Cold War years and combat against North Vietnam; being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times and numerous Air Medals. He obtained an MBA from Arizona State University and graduated from the National War College at Ft McNair, Wash DC. After retirement from the Air Force in the rank of colonel, he worked for a defense contractor in the Washington area, then retired once again to write German Boy, his first book, which was introduced by Stephen Ambrose and very favorably reviewed by the New York Times. German Boy is Wolfgang's story of survival in WWII Germany and the immediate postwar years. Other books followed.

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