I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen. (Book Reviews)

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I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen. By Wolfgang W E. Samuel. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001. Maps. Tables. Illustrations. Photographs. Glossary Bibliography Index. Pp. xix, 363. $30.00 ISBN:1-57806-399-X

On a beautiful spring morning in 1940 when he was six years old, Wolfgang Samuel looked up from his sandbox and saw a Junkers Ju 52 fly overhead. Ever since that day he always wanted to fly. In 1951, he immigrated to the United States; in 1960, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Following flight training, Samuel was assigned to a reconnaissance wing at Forbes Air Force Base near Topeka, Kansas. Mr. Samuel served his country for twenty-five years before retiring with the rank of colonel.

Col. Samuel always had a deep respect for those aviators who flew the Berlin Airlift and who flew over the Soviet Union on reconnaissance missions, He realized that no one ever put their personal stories to paper. To rectify that, he collected information in the form of interviews, tapes, and letters from 29 aviators and put their stories-- in their own words--into the book. The book is dedicated "To the flyers who gave their lives during the Cold War from 1945 to 1991 in the service of their country. In memory of the friends I served with who did not return from their last flights."

The story is divided into four parts: the Berlin Airlift, 1948; Korea, 1950; Strategic Reconnaissance; and Vietnam, 1965. In each part, Col. Samuel recounts the stories of the men who flew those missions, For example, in the chapter entitled "The Last Flight of 3-4290," Col. …