There were two striking ideas that came to me while reading The Aviators, the pace of innovation that happened in the period between the World Wars was staggering and that one man can easily fall in and out of grace. The Aviators follows the lives of Eddie Rickenbacker, the ace of aces in World War I, Charles Lindbergh, the first person to fly across the Atlantic and Jimmy Doolittle the first person to fly blind, i.e. only by instruments. The amount of danger involved in what these men did every day was terrifying. Forget about the firefights in WWI and WWII, even just flying from one city to another was risky early on. Not knowing the distance between the plane and the ground and at any moment becoming wrapped up in violent weather, could easily end your life.
The commercial opportunities and mounting war ignited innovation. Flights across the US in clear conditions were nearly impossible and had top speeds of 100 mph. By the battles in WWII, planes were flying several hundred miles an hour, in any kind of weather, all over the world. All three men warned of the need for the United States to become a world leader in aeronautics. Stumping for building the air power of the United States, and fear of future wars brought political enemies. For myself, it’s always interesting to read about isolation and anti-war sentiment, especially in the World Wars. It’s arguably the most brushed aside issue in any history class. Despite the successes of each man, crashes, political enemies, financial troubles, and the Lindbergh baby tribulations force dark times. It is inspiring to see how each man deals with the hard times, overcomes them and ends up so greatly contributing to the US success in WWII.
The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight