Welcome to the

Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

War Years in France 1917-1918--Aerial vs Trench Warfare

His Destiny: An American FlierHis Destiny: An American Flier by Alden Smith Bradstock III
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In today's age of space stations and space shuttles it is hard to imagine that aviation and aerial combat were new events in the War to End All Wars--The Great War--The First World War. The book follows the life of a combat pilot in France from 1917 through the establishment of an American Air Corps to the Armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. This date was forever in my parents' minds Armistice Day but the name was changed to Veterans' Day, reducing the importance of the original event if not totally erasing it from historical memory today. The description of the evolution of aeroplanes, their size, maneuverability, fire power in the armies of all of the combatants, French, British, German and eventually, American, is quite interesting. The depictions of aerial battles among them is gripping and exciting. The hero of this part of the novel is a Wisconsin boy, Jimmy Smitts. He is one of the best pilots flying for the French, prior to America's entrance into the fray. He is confident, somewhat cocky and very adept at what he does.

Interwoven with this aspect of the fighting is the story of American troops battling the Hun on the ground beneath the planes in a portion of France known as No-Man's Land. Here we are introduced to Sergeant Witherspoon and his commanding officer, Captain Sandhurst. Trench warfare was horrible and many movies and TV shows have depicted it but never have I read such a thorough description of how the trenches were built, how the men lived and fought from them, the wire surrounding them, the straffing of them. It was fascinating and the comparison with the German trenches not at all surprising. I actually liked this character, Witherspoon, and this depiction of the War better than the Jimmy portion.

In my mind, these are the best parts of the story. There is a bit of underdeveloped romance thrown in, possibly to indicate a growth and maturation of Jimmy but none of the three romantic involvements were satisfactory to him or to me as the reader. Another bit of history, the background political maneuvering of Eugene Stevenson, forbear of Adlai Stevenson, to initiate a Food for Soldiers movement was distracting. And the attempt on the part of Billy Mitchell to convince Congress and the US of the necessity to develop an air corps for this and future wars was rudimentary at best. The story of Billy Mitchell deserves much more attention than was given here. In my mind these threads could have been eliminated and more time spent on Jimmy's pursuit of his post war destiny.

The book is just over 300 pages in length: two thirds of it is spent covering the War, only one third is hurriedly devoted to more post war years in which Jimmy sets up a business, is awarded many metals and apparently convinces the Stevensons that he is worthy to marry their aristocratic spoiled daughter.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment