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Pushing the Envelope: The Career of Fighter Ace and Test Pilot Marion Carl Hardcover – April, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Carl's life story is the stuff of film scripts and TV miniseries. At Midway and Guadalcanal he became the first Marine ace of WW II. He was a test pilot in the pioneer days of jet aviation, flying early versions of almost every model of fighter adopted by the U.S. armed forces and flew clandestine reconnaissance missions over China in the 1950s. More than a pilot with the "right stuff," Carl, as a brigadier general, commanded the first Marines to land in Vietnam; in 1973 he retired as Inspector General of the Marine Corps. Unfortunately, Carl's cursory, lifeless narrative reads like a collection of after-action reports. Even the collaboration of Tillman, a leading aviation writer, fails to give Carl's career its appropriately dramatic impact. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A blunt, spare autobiography from a past president of the American Fighter Aces Association. Carl neither minces nor wastes words in recalling a distinguished career as a US Marine Corps aviator, which began immediately after his 1938 graduation from Oregon State and ended 35 years later when he retired with the rank of major general. Having earned his wings in 1939, the author (now 78) was an early- bird arrival in WW II's Pacific theater. Flying F4F Wildcats in the unfriendly skies above Midway and Guadalcanal, he downed 16 Japanese planes. Sent stateside to be showcased as the USMC's first ace, Carl wooed and won his wife (then a Powers model). He survived a second tour in the Solomons, adding two more kills to his victory total, and ended the war as a test pilot. Adapting easily to the jet age, the author set a variety of altitude and speed records that (though long since broken) attest to his willingness to push the envelope, i.e., take experimental aircraft (and, it would seem, his own convictions) to, even beyond, their theoretical limits. He led photoreconnaissance flights over Red China in the mid-1950s and logged more than 100 missions in Vietnam. In the course of his lengthy service, Carl met and took the measure of many notables. While he remembers Joe Foss, Melvin Laird, Charles Lindbergh, and a host of lesser lights with fondness, the author has precious little use for Greg (Pappy) Boyington (of Black Sheep Squadron fame), Jacqueline Cochrane, LBJ, Ted Kennedy, Robert McNamara, and John Wayne. In a series of parting shots, moreover, he offers considered, if politically incorrect, pronouncements on gun control, the handling of the Tailhook sex scandal, women in combat, and other touchy issues. The dead-honest memoir of an accomplished military professional. The forthright text has 13 contemporary photos. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (April 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557501165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557501165
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #951,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Barrett Tillman on October 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
By a quirk of incredibly bad timing, Naval Institute Press declared Marion's memoir out of print the same week he was killed in June 1998. The sudden nature of his death created an instant demand for the book, but NIP had neglected to inform the Carl family or me (his coauthor) that the book would be unavailable. We are, however, seeking another publisher and hope to have the story of this incredible aviator and exceptional man available again.
Barrett Tillman
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By England's own. on March 10, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I admit some of the technical words were over my head but one has to acknowledge Maj. Gen. Carl's 35 years in the Marine corps. He was quite a guy. It is unfortunate we have so few of his caliber today. I think we owe it to him to read his story. What a tragedy after such a life to have his life ended the way it did.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Duane Bralley on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
I live in Oregon and had the honor of visiting with Marion Carl on several occasions. During an airshow, I was escorting him around the aircraft and he spotted several Marine aircraft with there pilots standing near their aircraft. Marion spent a good deal of time speaking with them. Later I stopped by the pilots Marion had been talking with and to say the least these young men were impressed. The book is easy to read. Barrett did a great job of writing. I would recommend this book to any aviation buff.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Watson on March 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
As usual Tillman does a masterful job in covering his subject, but this time it was almost a "no brainer". Marion Carl's life was like a nearly unbelievable movie. The man was a true hero. His story from combat pilot, to test pilot and even his tragic heroic death at the hands of a low-life in his own home makes a person regret that he never had the opportunity to meet the man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By KOMET on July 22, 2015
Format: Paperback
This concise book represents the story of a unique individual. Marion E. Carl was, perhaps, one of the finest aviators who ever lived - FULL STOP. A natural pilot, he soloed after 2 hours of dual instruction. He later went on to become the U.S. Marine Corps' first fighter ace, seeing action at the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal during the Second World War. (A little more than 20 years later, Carl commanded a Marine combat air wing in Vietnam, flying several missions himself.)

Carl became known for achieving a number of "firsts." He became the first Marine to fly a helicopter, the first Marine to land a jet on an aircraft carrier, and he also set a number of altitude and speed records. Carl also was an outstanding test pilot, and by the time, he retired from the USMC (United States Marine Corps), he had flown 14,000 flight hours.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Tomlinson on June 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
Fortunately collaborator Barrett Tillman was a personal friend of General Carl and therefore able to deliver a fine insight into the character, actions, and attitude of a tactiturn, one of a kind, Marine fighter pilot.The Marine's first ace and, all things considered, probably the Marine's greatest pilot, he was one of a small group of fighter pilots available when the war started. The odds facing him and his fellows against the superbly trained and experienced Japanese were incredible. Their actions using the terminally obsolete Wildcat fighter, above all else, started the decline and demise of Japanese fighter aviation.In this group and in those times the verification of victories by the then honorable Marines was demanding and quite accurate compared to all others.(Carl points out that the Japanese claimed forty kills against his squadrons twenty-five that took off and thirteen of these returned plus one pilot who made it back without his airaplane.Even the venerated Winston Churchill had the termidity to question the number of kills claimed during the Battle of Britain by the RAF).
Shortly after the Guadalcanal show, the grevious lack of operational training for Marine pilots was corrected,the flying machines sharply up-graded, and hordes of new pilots trained.Meanwhile the Japanese were headed in the opposite direction and soon became more target than worthy foe while the verifiction of kills became a great deal more casual.
Making a career of the Marines after the war, Carl was part of that magnificent group of test pilots who improved aircraft so greatly that very soon a man will not be required to operate them. This will effectively end the short glamorous history of fighter pilots.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Gleason on December 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic book on a little known hero. Although I only met him one time and had limited time with him, there was a feeling of confidence and humility that is shown in this book. One of the best reading books in a long time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. A. Croft on January 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Marion E Carl is a true hero and this book is a well written documentation of the man. Even if you are not interested in Fighter Pilots this is an excellent book to read!
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