- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (May 8, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1586483285
- ISBN-13: 978-1586483289
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.3 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 46 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Millionaire's Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys who Fought the Great War and Invented American Airpower Hardcover – May 8, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Nostalgia permeates this romantic account of how U.S. air power was established in WWI by a privileged, patriotic group of undergraduates known as the Yale Flying Club. The book was developed from an article published in the Yale Alumni Magazine, and it shows: Wortman harkens back to a bygone era when campus regattas were the place to be seen, Harvard-Yale football games drew crowds 80,000 strong and, perhaps most jarringly, American isolationism placed the country's air command not just behind Germany's fearsome air service, but behind British and French forces as well. Preparing themselves for fire fights and bombing missions that generated harrowing casualty figures, these wealthy, elite Yale students saw it as their responsibility to fight on the front lines, and in the first wave. In a brief but important epilogue, Wortman spells out just how profoundly the times, and in particular the Yale campus, has changed in the past 90 years. Though times have indeed changed, and not entirely for the better, Wortman's creeping nostalgia serves to make attractive a history littered with inconvenient details; how readers react to this viewpoint-especially with regard to the compare-and-contrast epilogue-will largely determine their opinion of the book.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This entirely readable history of the First Yale Air Unit describes a flying club of well-off undergraduates whose money helped buy flying lessons and planes, enabling them to transform themselves into a group of trained military pilots who actually served with distinction in World War I in both the navy and the air service. First, however, they had to survive their instructors (including Frenchmen), their training planes, and the weather in the U.S and then Europe, all before getting within sight of the Germans. Among those who didn't return was Kenneth MacLeish, brother of the poet Archibald; among those who survived was Robert Lovett, eventually President Truman's secretary of defense. Others served further in World War II, and even those who never again climbed into a cockpit became an influential constituency for air power in business, the professions, politics, and academia. Wortman has researched thoroughly and written clearly, thereby enhancing our knowledge of aviation history, Yale, and World War I. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The author is an elitist-educated and employed writer who has been well-situated in life, enabling his writing of this fascinating book. In his introduction, Wortman writes, "Today, relatively few young Americans from comparable [elitist] backgrounds would consider military service -- or self-sacrificing service of any kind as an obligation that comes with the privileges that define their lives." This candid confession of perhaps one of those types is revealing and assuring that the author isn't merely interested in blowing smoke about a bunch of sugar-spooned, spoiled brats who think an HYP education sets them apart from the common folk.
This is a well-conceived and written story about a group of young men, with lots of specific, personal insight to a handful of members, who all went on to great things. Yes, they all came from great "things", read largess, power, privilege, but they used that for so much more than becoming a government drone. These men were real heroes. In this time when we watch elitist snobs and persons of dwarfed-character coming out of the Ivy League, sure they are American royalty, this book is a refreshing look back at what and who these Yalies once were. Don't we need to know there were once men like these?!? I do.
If you love history, particularly military and/or aviation and/or WW I turn-of-the-century stuff. Or just a fascinating insight into the lives of a handful of sons of industrial and commerce barons, try this. I love it!
Expertly researched and beautifully told, I highly recommend this book.
Recently, I was delighted to learn about and read Marc Wortman's title, "The "Millionaires' Unit", which documents the grass-roots formation of a flying squadron of fresh-faced Yale boys almost a hundred years ago. A war was raging in Europe and America was decidedly unprepared for their eventual involvement. Their experiences together at Yale gave them a deep sense of duty to a greater cause. Their privileged upbringing and family connections gave them access to the money to fund their own military flight school and to the captains of industry and state to endorse and champion their mission. Millionaires' Unit is not simply a tale of "iron men with wooden wings", although we certainly grow with each of them from boys to men.
Much less a documentary and much more a narrative, Wortman weaves their personal ambitions and flaws together with their collective mission to fly and to serve. Not since "The Blue Max" has such a complex story of class, ambition, romance and defiance - set against the exhilarating and dangerous backdrop of the pioneering age of aviation - been told.
Your excellent story truly helped connect me with the storied history of Yale and its long-time connection to service (military and otherwise).
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