Category Archives: Book and Media Reviews

Review: Fighter Pilot, Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds

Robin Olds
St Martin’s Press, 2010

Robin Olds is a legend in the fighter pilot community, though he may not be recognized outside of it.  Many people may remember, for example, the famous Operation BOLO during Vietnam, which used F-4s to impersonate F-105s and succeeded in destroying a third of the North Vietnamese MiG-21s in a single mission – but few know then-Col Robin Olds was responsible for it.  Fighter Pilot is his story, and it is explicitly delivered as a memoir, rather than an autobiography.  Thus, it is not a detailed birth-to-death retelling of his life, but a first-hand recounting of the things he wishes to convey.  (The book was completed after his 2007 death by his daughter, Christina Olds, and Ed Rasimus, himself a retired fighter pilot.)

The book starts off somewhat slowly, almost as if (despite its status as a “memoir”), Olds (or his co-authors) felt obligated to include some stories from the early parts of his life.  He mentions his early pilot training days and a few significant events briefly, but provides little detail or introspective.  For example, he casually mentions, without further insight, that he attended the Air Corps Tactical School, which would ultimately form the basis for all air doctrine in the Army Air Forces and eventually the independent Air Force.  He also covers his entire training, from his early wartime graduation from West Point through becoming a pilot, in a scant 20 pages.  Some of the lack of detail may be for a very understandable cause: he simply didn’t remember much from those early days.  Another may be more pragmatic: Olds is known for his time in Vietnam, not pilot training.

Unlike some other fighter pilot books, Read more

Book Review: Refiner’s Fire, A Fighter Pilot’s Journey

CreateSpace Online Publishers, 2009.
Douglas Haig Jenkins, Jr.

The title of Refiner’s Fire makes it sound as if it is the perfect book for examining the integration of faith and the fighter pilot profession.  While it has potential, it regrettably falls short.

Refiner’s Fire is Jenkins’ autobiography.  It is literally written chronologically, with the first chapter talking about childhood dreams of flying and Read more

Book Review: When Faith Takes Flight

When Faith Takes Flight was written by Jim Walters, a Pastor, civilian flight instructor, and former US Air Force fighter pilot. Walters became a Christian in a military chapel in Vietnam, and was quickly taken under the wing of a Christian in a local military Bible study.

When Faith Takes Flight isn’t an autobiography or memoir, however; it is an instructional book on Christian doctrine. The author is both a faith instructor and a flight instructor, and both perspectives are evident throughout the book.

Each of the 10 chapters covers a basic Christian doctrinal element (the existence of God, sin, grace, the Bible, etc.). The chapters (or “lessons”) begin with a flight related story, draw an analogy to a Biblical concept, and then relate a Biblical lesson — complete with a “quiz” and questions for group discussion. Each lesson is, in many ways, a miniature sermon.

The book’s primary objective is to teach theological concepts using Read more

Book Review: The Eye of the Viper: The Making of an F-16 Pilot

Peter Aleshire
The Lyons Press, 2004.
Topic: F-16 Pilot Training

Peter Aleshire is an author who shadowed a B-Course class through their 6 months at Luke Air Force Base. His book is an interesting summary of the time at Luke with some additional information on other training that specific pilots required. The decision on whether to recommend this book was not easy; it is somewhat informative for someone who might want insight into the fighter pilot culture, though it is specific to the F-16.

On a moral level, it is written as a fighter pilot might write it: profanity (including the use of God’s name in vain), is casually common. More importantly, there are some factual errors or misleading implications. Unimportant examples include the statement that Kunsan butts up against the Korean Demilitarized Zone (p155; it doesn’t), or the implication that an F-16 pilot can Read more

Movie Review: Fighter Pilot Operation Red Flag

Image Entertainment, 2005.
Topic: Military Fighter Pilot

Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag is a documentary originally produced for IMAX.  It has a nominal plot, following a single F-15 fighter pilot as he participates in Red Flag at Nellis AFB, Nevada.  The primary officer is Captain John Stratton, who also narrates as he plans, flies, and acts as a simulated evader during combat exercises in the Nevada desert.

The film has some almost comical flaws (or theatrical necessities, depending on how you view them).  For example, Read more

Book Review: In His Service

Rick Bereit
Dawson Media, Colorado Springs, 2002.
Topic: Military life, Christian living

Col. Bereit wrote a good overall view of the military for those who know little of it or are considering joining it. The book is somewhat light on behavioral details and is not service specific (though the author is a USAFA graduate), but it is well referenced to Bible. His most in-depth chapter is that of discipleship. Col. Bereit relates the potential for hidden moral dangers in the military to “moral minefields.” He makes good use of this analogy to communicate the dangers of sex, drugs, profanity, lying, and then summing it up in a section of “How to Live Right.”

Recommended for any Christian interested in military service.

This book is available from Amazon.

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R.G. LeTourneau: Mover of Men and Mountains

Though they may not recognize his name, virtually the entire world has been affected by the innovation of R.G. LeTourneau.  Mover of Men and Mountains documents both the faith and profession of one of the world’s most influential people.  Essentially an inventor of machines, LeTourneau (1888-1969) created many of the massive earth movers that miraculously accomplished what is now taken for granted.

LeTourneau’s inventions eventually measured movement of earth in thousands of tons, and made many modern marvels possible.  His company subcontracted on the Hoover Dam, creating the challenging road that allowed heavy equipment to build one of the modern wonders of the world.  In his book he recounts that thousands of heavy machines used by the Army in World War II were built by his company, including those that filled the bomb craters in Hawaii after the attack on Pearl Harbor Read more

Book Review: Yeager

Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos
Bantam Books, 1985.
Topic: Autobiography

Yeager’s book is interesting for several reasons. Yes, he is famous for piloting the Bell X-1 through the “sound barrier.” Perhaps less famously, he was also a World War II P-51 pilot and F-86 and F-100 squadron commander. (He was fired from that last one.) In many ways his book describes the “standard” antics of a fighter pilot and can help an aspiring fighter pilot understand the “history” of the fighter pilot culture.

The book is by no means completely factually accurate and is obviously biased by the author. Nonetheless, it is an interesting read, particularly for those with an interest in military aviation, flight test, and military history. It should not be read as gospel, but it is worth the read.

Recommended. While not specific to the Christian fighter pilot, it can provide a greater understanding of the the stereotypical fighter pilot life. This recommendation should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Yeager’s actions or attitudes, some of which are contrary to what a Christian should exhibit.

This book is available from Amazon, as well as from Yeager’s own site.

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