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Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16 Hardcover – June 24, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“An excellent, well-researched, literate overview of 20th century warfare and the development of the fighter plane. Lords of the Sky will captivate history and aviation buffs alike.” (STEPHEN COONTS, New York Times bestselling author of Flight of the Intruder)

“Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this must-read chronological history of fighter pilots reads like a great literary novel. Dan Hampton has crafted an important work that is sure to become a classic within the historic lore of military aviation.” (CHRISTINA OLDS, co-author of Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds)

Praise for Viper Pilot: “Hampton’s one of the most decorated pilots in Air Force history.... We may never see his like again.” (New York Post)

“Dramatic, fast-paced, and definitive -- a pleasure for everyone who loves reading about aviation, and the life-and-death drama of air combat.” (MICHAEL KORDA, author of With Wings Like Eagles and Ike)

“An epic history of the fighter pilot world by a gifted author and historian with the trained eye of a combat pilot. This will be an enduring work of aviation literature. Experience the thrill, hear the wind, encounter the danger: Read this book!” (Major General DON SHEPPERD (USAF Ret.), co-author of Bury Us Upside Down; former Director of the Air National Guard.)

“Superbly written. Paints a vivid picture of the skills, scares, scars, and science of air combat brilliantly, weaving them into a fascinating historical fabric that embraces technology, history, and politics. Buffs and the general public will agree that this is a first in the field!” (Colonel WALTER BOYNE (USAF, Ret.), Former Director of the National Air & Space Museum and author of Beyond the Wild Blue: A History of the United States Air Force)

From the Back Cover

By the USAF F-16 legend behind the bestselling memoir Viper Pilot, this is the first comprehensive history of fighter pilots and air combat—a unique, riveting look at the aces of the sky, their machines, their most daring missions, and the epic conflicts they shaped, from the trailblazing aviators of World War I to today's supersonic jets

Lords of the Sky is a thrilling history of the fighter pilot, masterfully written by one of the most decorated aviators in American history. A twenty-year USAF veteran who flew more than 150 combat missions and received four Distinguished Flying Crosses, Lt. Colonel Dan Hampton draws on his singular firsthand knowledge, as well as groundbreaking research in aviation archives and rare personal interviews with little-known heroes, including veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In a seamless, sweeping narrative, Lords of the Sky tells the extraordinary stories behind the most famous fighter planes and the brave and daring heroes who made them legend.

In the Great War, aces such as Manfred von Richthofen ("The Red Baron"), Eddie Rickenbacker, and Roland Garros faced horrific survival rates and became romantic heroes. The Second World War saw the RAF locked in a struggle for the fate of civilization during the Battle of Britain; on the Eastern Front, the German Luftwaffe and Soviet Air Force grappled in some of the fiercest and bloodiest air battles in history. In the Pacific, Japanese pilots terrorized Asia, culminating in their attack on Pearl Harbor. American flyboys quickly became instrumental to the Allies' ultimate victory, ravaging the enemy's navy, providing life-saving air support for ground troops, escorting bombers, and dogfighting with Japanese Zeros and Nazi Messerschmitts. During the Cold War, conflicts in Korea and Vietnam featured the dawn of the jet age, in which American pilots battled Soviet-made MiGs and increasingly sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry. Hampton then draws on his own experience as an F-16 pilot who fought in the 1991 and 2003 wars against Iraq to bring to life the dangers and demands of today's modern fighter pilot.

Here are the stories behind history's most iconic aircraft and the aviators who piloted them: from the Sopwith Camel and Fokker Triplane to the Mitsubishi Zero, Supermarine Spitfire, Nazi Bf 109, P-51 Mustang, Grumman Hellcat, F-4 Phantom, F-105 Thunderchief, F-16 Falcon, F/A-18 SuperHornet, and beyond. Here, too, are the Lafayette Escadrille, Flying Tigers, RAF Eagles, Wild Weasels, and other legendary units. Throughout this definitive history, Hampton clarifies the astonishing debt we owe to these daring Lords of the Sky who have ruled the air for more than a century.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1St Edition edition (June 24, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062262017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062262011
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Dan Hampton flew 151 combat missions during his twenty years (1986-2006) in the United States Air Force. For his service in the Iraq War, Kosovo conflict, and first Gulf War, Col. Hampton received four Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor, a Purple Heart, eight Air Medals with Valor, five Meritorious Service medals, and numerous other citations. He is a graduate of the USAF Fighter Weapons School, USN Top Gun School (TOGS), and USAF Special Operations School. A frequent guest analyst on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC discussing foreign affairs, military, aviation, and intelligence issues, he has published in Aviation History, the Journal of Electronic Defense, Air Force Magazine, Vietnam magazine, and Airpower magazine, and written several classified tactical works for the USAF Weapons Review. He is the author of the national bestsellers Viper Pilot and Lords of the Sky, as well as a novel, The Mercenary.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jack Frost East on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Lords of the Sky covers 100 years of aviation history at a thrilling pace. Each chapter starts with a gripping, well-chosen scene (chapter 1 begins with Roland Garros battling German Albatrosses in his Morane Saulnier equipped with jerry-rigged Hotchkiss machine guns; chapter 11 sees the legendary Robin Olds in his P-51 in 1944; and so on). Hampton does a great job of placing the combat episode (the exciting part) in the larger context of history, politics, and technological innovation. Overall a great read and very highly recommended.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Screen Name on September 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
1-Interesting discussion on the inter-war years between WW1 and WW2. How the Luftwaffe and Soviet Union worked together to develop aircraft and used the Spanish Civil War as a testing ground for equipment and pilots. I had heard this before, but never really knew any of the details.
2-Profiles of some little known fighter pilots. I especially enjoyed the profile of the woman ace who flew for the USSR.
3-Excellent discussion on the death of The Red Baron. I had seen a History Channel show that called into question that he was shot down by Roy Brown, but they themselves missed a few important details. Suffice to say, the author convinced me as to how The Red Baron died.
4-Great sections on Wild Weasel mission. That was expected since that is what the authors profession.

1-While discussion of the overall strategic and tactical situation on the ground or sea is vital to understanding the air war, he could go on far longer than was necessary. Even if some readers were unfamiliar with these histories, they still seemed long. This left less room to discuss other things, such as...
2-No discussion about how the various maneuvers used in air to air combat developed. While it may be obvious that Max Immelmann developed The Immelmann, what about all the other maneuvers? Indeed, what are the other maneuvers? Do we know who developed them? When they came about? I'm sure (I guess) that not all the maneuvers were possible right from the start. I'm guessing that as airplanes grew more powerful and designs progressed, more and more maneuvers became possible. Who developed the Chandelle, Yo-Yo, Wing-Over etc, and when were they developed? Perhaps some illustrations of the more common maneuvers and when they are employed.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A. Carter on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I only bought this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Hampton's first book, Viper Pilot. Hampton, once again, captures his audience's attention in the first chapter alone with the birth of fighter aviation in the form of a French pilot, Roland Garros. In my opinion, all history books should be written from a holistic and personal approach, so we can gain a better understanding of the true stories encountered. I am confident that Hampton will continue to arouse my emotions and deepen my appreciation and respect for the all of the heroes in our sky.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By psteeves on July 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Dan Hampton, with his autobiographical Viper Pilot, has already joined the ranks of the several fighter pilots in history who have been able to describe to the world the uniquely thrilling experiences of a fighter pilot in combat. The genre of fighter pilots, those warriors in the tradition of medieval knights whose weapons happen to involve the airplane, has existed now for one full century. World War I started one hundred years ago this month (June, 1914). The history of fighter pilots and air combat begs to be properly set down. And there must be only a few fortunate persons who (1) have experienced first-hand the terrors and thrills of aerial combat, (2) have lived to tell the tale, obviously, and (3) have the literary skills to create an accurate, readable and engaging book. If you add a fourth criterion that the person should be active at the completion of the first hundred years, then the number of people who could write this book is extremely small.
Indeed, that number might be only one. Dan Hampton has ambitiously produced the most comprehensive, authoritative account of the first century of military aviation and specifically the role of the principal military aviation combatant: the fighter pilot. His latest book, Lords of the Sky, is an unusually well researched account of the major conflicts of the entire one hundred years of fighter pilots and air combat, and it immediately becomes the definitive such book now in existence. It should promptly find its place in the libraries of every operational fighter and LIFT squadron, every fledging or wannabe fighter pilot, even the Army, Navy and Air war colleges. FNG and old-timer Ace-of-the-Base alike will want to be conversant with virtually everything in this book. There really is no other such book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Smith on December 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a pity true editors no longer exist as spell check has too many holes in it.
There is a disappointing number of misspelled and misused words and a number of serious technical errors regarding aircraft and aerodynamics, but this book was fascinating and educational, particularly the views from other countries' fighter pilots. An excellent commentary.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Groen VINE VOICE on October 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a history of fighters and fighter pilots over the past 100 years, as fighter pilots initiated with the start of WWI in 1914. There are some very good parts of this book, and in fact in some instances, excellent and there are some parts of this book are not so good. The very good and excellent parts of the good are those were the author provides the experiences of former pilots. Since he was a fighter pilot himself, he does an excellent job of relating this.

The book is written in three major sections: World War I, World War II and the Jet Age. The review will cover each section and pluses and minuses of each.

The World War I section is very good. The author does an excellent job of covering the main fighter aces of the period and their experiences. He also provides good strategic context behind the air battles. In fact, this is the best relating of the fighter pilots experiences of this period that I've read mainly because, I guess, because the author is a pilot himself and can relate to the horrors that these men experienced.

The World War II section has its good points and not very good points. In some sections, the author covers a great ace of this period and does an excellent job. One example is Jochen Marseilles, who was a fighter pilot in the North Africa campaign. The author also provides individual experiences of fighter pilots. One example is Robin Olds experience shooting down a German jet in late 1944. However, a couple of chapters are inadequate. There is almost no coverage of fighter pilots in the Pacific (and this is in spite of the fact that the cover shows a Corsair from the Pacific.) Also, the coverage of fighter pilots over Europe during the late war is inadequate.
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