The best books about fighter pilots

2 authors have picked their favorite books about fighter pilots and why they recommend each book.

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Fighter Pilot

By Ed Rasimus, Christina Olds, Robin Olds

Book cover of Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds

I knew and interviewed General Robin Olds (he is in my next book out June 8th, 2021), and his daughter Christina. His story is a wonderful addition to the history of American airpower, leadership, and the character of a great man who defied the odds, and even his superiors rather than back down from what he knew was right.


Who am I?

I began reading about history as a child and fell in love with the WW II aviation stories. Later in life I was able to meet many of the men I read about, interview them, and then write my books with their first person accounts. The greatest satisfaction was putting former enemies together who I could prove had fought each other. The reunions were amazing.


I wrote...

The Star of Africa: The Story of Hans Marseille, the Rogue Luftwaffe Ace Who Dominated the WWII Skies

By Colin D. Heaton, Anne-Marie Lewis,

Book cover of The Star of Africa: The Story of Hans Marseille, the Rogue Luftwaffe Ace Who Dominated the WWII Skies

What is my book about?

This is the true story of a boy who became a fighter pilot, an expert at his craft of killing, but a humanitarian who was deeply disturbed by his profession. His uneasy relationship with the Nazis created a tense atmosphere that would have had disastrous results, had he not become one of Germany's most decorated and vaunted war heroes. His combat record is interspersed with the comments from the pilots he flew with and those he flew against. The story is so incredible, fiction could not duplicate it.

Call-Sign Kluso

By Rick Tollini,

Book cover of Call-Sign Kluso: An American Fighter Pilot in Mr. Reagan's Air Force

Plenty of memoirs have been written by combat pilots, but Call Sign Kluso is truly one-of-a-kind. It weaves a captivating personal narrative within the context of America’s resurgence from the post-Vietnam era, while demonstrating the US Air Force’s transformation into the high-tech, cutting-edge organization that defeated Saddam Hussein during Operation Desert Storm. 


Who am I?

Mike Guardia is an Amazon Top 100 Bestselling Author and military historian. A veteran of the United States Army, he served six years on active duty (2008-2014) as an Armor Officer. He has written and lectured on various topics of modern military history, including guerrilla warfare, air-to-air combat, and World War II in the Pacific. He holds a BA and MA in American History from the University of Houston.


I wrote...

Tomcat Fury: A Combat History of the F-14

By Mike Guardia,

Book cover of Tomcat Fury: A Combat History of the F-14

What is my book about?

For more than three decades, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat was the US Navy’s premier carrier-based, multi-role fighter jet. From its harrowing combat missions over Libya to its appearance on the silver screen in movies like Top Gun and Executive Decision, the F-14 has become an icon of American airpower.

Now, for the first time in a single volume, Tomcat Fury explores the illustrious combat history of the F-14: from the Gulf of Sidra…to the Iran-Iraq War…to the skies over Afghanistan in the Global War on Terror.

Into the Teeth of the Tiger

By Donald S. Lopez,

Book cover of Into the Teeth of the Tiger

When I met Don Lopez in the late 1970s while he was the deputy director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, I was interviewing him for a magazine article about his exploits as a fighter ace in China during World War II. The intelligence, graciousness and sense of humor I noted that day come through loud and clear in this memoir published in 1997. In contrast to the rest of the books I’m highlighting here, Lopez provides a vivid, first-hand account of what it was like to actually do the fighting in the skies over China, 1943-45. A terrific storyteller, he goes beyond descriptions of exciting air battles to explain the emotional highs and lows he experienced as his personal successes and those of his fellow pilots in the air failed to blunt the major enemy offensive that was underway on the ground at that time.


Who am I?

Carl Molesworth’s interest in China and the Far East dates back to childhood memories of stories told by his mother and grandmother of their experiences living in China during the 1920s. He acquired his interest in aviation from his father. Carl began researching the air war in the China-Burma-India Theater while working as a newspaper editor in the late 1970s and published his first book on the subject, Wing To Wing – Air Combat in China 1943-45, in 1990. Of his 14 subsequent books, nine have covered various aspects of air combat in the CBI.


I wrote...

Flying Tiger Ace: The story of Bill Reed, China’s Shining Mark

By Carl Molesworth,

Book cover of Flying Tiger Ace: The story of Bill Reed, China’s Shining Mark

What is my book about?

Bill Reed had it all ­- brains, looks, athleticism, courage, and a talent for leadership. After a challenging childhood in Depression-era Iowa, Reed joined the US Army Air Corps, but the outbreak of World War II saw him give up his commission. Instead, he travelled to China to fly for the American Volunteer Group - the legendary Flying Tigers. 

This book is a biography of his extraordinary life, focusing on his time spent flying with some of the famous aerial groups of World War II. It draws heavily on Reed's own words, along with the author's deep knowledge of the China air war and years of research into Reed's life, to tell his compelling story.

Devotion

By Adam Makos,

Book cover of Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice

The true story of two men (one I knew), a son of a poor Mississippi sharecropper Jessie Brown and Thomas Hudner. Brown was the Navy’s first black pilot, and Hudner was a Medal of Honor recipient in his squadron who tried to rescue him when he was shot down at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea.


Who am I?

I began reading about history as a child and fell in love with the WW II aviation stories. Later in life I was able to meet many of the men I read about, interview them, and then write my books with their first person accounts. The greatest satisfaction was putting former enemies together who I could prove had fought each other. The reunions were amazing.


I wrote...

The Star of Africa: The Story of Hans Marseille, the Rogue Luftwaffe Ace Who Dominated the WWII Skies

By Colin D. Heaton, Anne-Marie Lewis,

Book cover of The Star of Africa: The Story of Hans Marseille, the Rogue Luftwaffe Ace Who Dominated the WWII Skies

What is my book about?

This is the true story of a boy who became a fighter pilot, an expert at his craft of killing, but a humanitarian who was deeply disturbed by his profession. His uneasy relationship with the Nazis created a tense atmosphere that would have had disastrous results, had he not become one of Germany's most decorated and vaunted war heroes. His combat record is interspersed with the comments from the pilots he flew with and those he flew against. The story is so incredible, fiction could not duplicate it.

Fork-Tailed Devil

By Martin Caidin,

Book cover of Fork-Tailed Devil: The P-38

Being a pilot who flew F-4’s over North Vietnam, I have always been fascinated by WWII planes and how sophisticated they seemed at the time but, in retrospect, they were quite unsophisticated flying machines. The first model plane I built as a child was the P-38 and this book puts me right in the cockpit. The P-38 was a huge advancement in technology and demanded special skills to fly as it foreshadowed the complexity of the upcoming generation of jet fighters. Why not join me in the cockpit? 


Who am I?

Having been born two months before Pearl Harbor, as I grew older, I vaguely remember hearing my parents talking about the war. When I was able, I used to pull my little red wagon around the neighborhood to collect bacon grease I donated to the local butcher shop to support the war. After retiring from the technology industry, I tried my hand at writing books. After a few futile attempts, I finally started writing novels about WWII. I first wrote Return to La Roche-en-Ardenne, then Innocence Lost - A Childhood Stolen, and finally Thou Shall Do No Harm – Diary of an Auschwitz Physician which will be re-released in early 2023.

I wrote...

Innocence Lost – A Childhood Stolen

By Philip Sherman Mygatt,

Book cover of Innocence Lost – A Childhood Stolen

What is my book about?

A fictional Holocaust survivor's story. The autobiographical story of a young, Polish Jew caught up in the Holocaust who is sent to Auschwitz in cattle cars along with her entire family. While standing in the Auschwitz selection line, she is pulled out of line by an SS doctor who takes her home to raise as his own daughter as she watches her entire family being marched to the gas chambers. As she begins to unravel the lies he tells her about her family being resettled in Russia, she also comes to love and trust him.

Right before Auschwitz is liberated by the Russians, she and her savior flee Auschwitz disguised as refugees. They finally have a discussion they have long avoided. What really happened to her family? A view of the Holocaust through two different lenses.

Viper Pilot

By Dan Hampton,

Book cover of Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat

Few histories have been written about the F-16, much less from the perspective of the pilots who flew it in combat.  Dan Hampton offers his unique insights into the world of American airpower. From Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hampton logged 608 flight hours across 151 combat missions. From this deftly written account, we relive the days of “Shock and Awe” from the pilot’s seat.  


Who am I?

Mike Guardia is an Amazon Top 100 Bestselling Author and military historian. A veteran of the United States Army, he served six years on active duty (2008-2014) as an Armor Officer. He has written and lectured on various topics of modern military history, including guerrilla warfare, air-to-air combat, and World War II in the Pacific. He holds a BA and MA in American History from the University of Houston.


I wrote...

Tomcat Fury: A Combat History of the F-14

By Mike Guardia,

Book cover of Tomcat Fury: A Combat History of the F-14

What is my book about?

For more than three decades, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat was the US Navy’s premier carrier-based, multi-role fighter jet. From its harrowing combat missions over Libya to its appearance on the silver screen in movies like Top Gun and Executive Decision, the F-14 has become an icon of American airpower.

Now, for the first time in a single volume, Tomcat Fury explores the illustrious combat history of the F-14: from the Gulf of Sidra…to the Iran-Iraq War…to the skies over Afghanistan in the Global War on Terror.

First Light

By Geoffrey Wellum,

Book cover of First Light: The True Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies above Britain

First Light is also a memoir by a Battle of Britain veteran, but Wellum was not an ace. Wellum was a very young and very junior pilot during the Battle, and this book, written with the wisdom of hindsight by a mature Wellum, is more reflective and analytical than Deere’s account. That is its value. Wellum is a masterful writer and possesses a marked ability to evoke a mood. It is precisely because Wellum writes with mature understanding that he captures so well the innocence and naivety of his past self. This book does not educate one about the Battle of Britain, but it pulls you into the cockpit and the heart of a young man caught up in it. A wonderful read.


Who am I?

I'm a retired diplomat and award-winning novelist with a PhD in history. I became fascinated by the Battle of Britain because of a visit to RAF Tangmere, a Battle of Britain airfield, when I was still a girl; that encounter captured my imagination for a lifetime. I read every book I could find, I spent hours in the Imperial War Museum gazing (and touching) the Spitfire. I purchased the memoirs of pilots, watched films, and interviews. I started writing a Battle of Britain novel while still at university, but it was 30 years before I released a book. Within weeks one of the few surviving aces, Wing Commander Bob Doe, wrote me that I had got it “smack on the way it was for us fighter pilots.” There can be no higher compliment to an author of historical fiction.  


I wrote...

Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Where Eagles Never Flew: A Battle of Britain Novel

What is my book about?

This superb novel about the Battle of Britain, based on actual events and eye-witness accounts, shows this pivotal battle from both sides of the channel through the eyes of pilots, ground crews, staff — and the women they loved.

Summer 1940: The Battle of France is over; the Battle of Britain is about to begin. If the swastika is not to fly over Buckingham Palace, the RAF must prevent the Luftwaffe from gaining air superiority over Great Britain. Standing on the front line is No. 606 (Hurricane) Squadron. As the casualties mount, new pilots find a cold reception from the clique of experienced pilots, who resent them taking the place of their dead friends. Meanwhile, despite credible service in France, former RAF aerobatics pilot Robin Priestman finds himself stuck in Training Command -- and falling for a girl from the Salvation Army. On the other side of the Channel, the Luftwaffe is recruiting women as communications specialists -- and naïve Klaudia is about to grow up.

Where Eagles Never Flew won the Hemmingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction awarded by Chanticleer International Book Awards

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