Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aces High

Aces High by Bill Yenne

Summary: The true story of the two top scoring Aces of WWII, Dick Bong and Tommy McGuire. The book recounts their boyhoods, what led to them becoming pilots, and their time in the war.

I saw this book at my local bookstore many times and spent months trying to decide if I wanted to buy it or not. I knew I'd like it - WWII, pilots, and I thought Dick and Tommy were good friends. (They were, but they didn't spend much time together until near the end of the war.) I put off buying it because I already owned a lot of WWII books. When I finally did give in and  buy it I regretted not getting it sooner.

Dick and Tommy were complete opposites, not just personality wise but in everything. Dick grew up on a farm with a big family and parents who loved each other. He was quiet and shy. Tommy grew up in the city, his parents divorced when he was young, and he was talkative and as the book puts it, "Wise cracking." They were born only a few weeks apart but had no idea the other even existed until the war.

Both were sent to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, though Tommy was sent over much later than Dick. By the time Tommy got over Dick had already scoured many hits and was on his way to being an ace or already one. When Dick broke Eddie Rickenbacker's record for the most planes shot down no one thought Tommy McGuire would be the one to come close to breaking Dick's record.

It wasn't until later in the war that Tommy caught up and the "race" to stay the top scouring ace of WWII began between the two of them. Most of the competition between them was from the media. Though the two did have a kind of rivalry going on they got along really well and were more concerned with keeping the pilots in their command alive then besting the other one.

I really came to admire both men as I read their story, though I think one of the best parts was when Dick's mom baked him a fruit cake for Christmas. She made it early so she could get it to him by Christmas but it got lost in the mail. By the time it got to him it was nine months old, but he still ate it.

When I started the book I didn't know how Dick and Tommy died. I'd gotten so used to reading about WWII heroes who lived long after the war. I must admit, I cried when I read about their deaths. Both died at age 24, a few months apart from each other. Tommy was killed in action and Dick died after the war, when a plane he was testing malfunctioned.. (Dick died the day the atomic bomb was dropped.) Both left behind widows but no children.

Dick and Tommy have both been added to my list of WWII heroes. On top of the things they did for their country, both were just admirable men in their own different ways and I recommend their book

No comments:

Post a Comment