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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1ST edition (June 24, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062262017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062262011
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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)

“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.

More About the Author

The New York Times bestselling author of Viper Pilot, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Dan Hampton flew 151 combat missions during his twenty years in the USAF (1986-2006). 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 elite USAF Fighter Weapons School, USN Top Gun School, and USAF Special Operations School. Hampton was named his squadron's Instructor Pilot of the Year six times and pioneered air combat tactics that are now standard. A graduate of Texas A&M University, he has published articles in the Journal of Electronic Defense, Air Force Magazine, and Airpower Magazine, as well as several classified tactical works for the USAF Fighter Weapons Review.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
Superb blend of meticulously researched historical fact and rich storytelling.
I only bought this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Hampton's first book, Viper Pilot.
A. Carter
Better yet, make it a hard-copy on the bookshelf; this one is definitely a keeper.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 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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11 of 12 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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11 of 13 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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Huddleston on July 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I am well into the book and, as a writer and one-time fighter jock, I find Hampton a talented writer who has performed excellent research on his subject: FIGHTER PILOTS AND AIR COMBAT, FROM THE RED BARON TO THE F-16.

But he left me puzzled as to why NO American fighter pilots in World War II were mentioned. That's correct: he ignored Richard Bong our top ace with 40 victories, a recipient of a the Medal of Honor along with Major Jim Howard who also received a MOH. Also left out were P-47 pilots Bob Johnson, Hub Zempke (one of the truly great commanders), even Gabby Gabretski (and never even mentioned the P-47 Thunderbolt though he covered in detail the German Ju-87 Stuka and its pilots though the aircraft was no fighter and the pilots not fighter pilots.) And how about Major George Preddy the superb Mustang ace? To my way of reasoning, this omission is inexplicable and I welcome all comments from those who agree or disagree with my criticism.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By George E. Nolly on July 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
If you like the television series Dogfights, you'll absolutely love this book. Hampton puts you into the cockpit of every major fighter aircraft of the last hundred years, from the Great War to the Iraq War. You'll feel the G-forces as the adversaries duel in the skies, and you'll learn the back stories that only a historian can tell. For example, you'll meet the German pilot with over a hundred aerial victories who nonetheless would land next to his injured victims (the ones who lived) and administer first aid and provide Geneva Convention cards. And you'll learn about Russian aces in World War II – and some were women!

One of the unique aspects of the book is the detailed description of the selection and training of fighter pilots by each of the combatant sides in each war. And we learn about how politics affected the outcome of battles – and wars – when leaders didn't understand how to employ their weapons systems. We all know about the misuse of the ME-262, but there are other, similar, examples. And Stalin's paranoid removal of 90 percent of his generals due to political incorrectness has an unfortunate present-day counterpart with the current environment in our own military today.

The book is, on the one hand, a comprehensive history of the major conflicts of the past hundred years. And it is into this history that Hampton weaves the story of air combat. As he describes the evolution of the combat aircraft, he explains subtle changes that dramatically affected the aircrafts' successes, such as modifiacations in gun placement and caliber.

But to call it a history book would be like simply calling a Ferrari a car. It is more, a lot more. It's an adventure story that will rivet you from the time you pick it up until you finish reading all 549 pages.
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