I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen

I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen

I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen

I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen


Until now, no book has covered all of Cold War air combat in the words of the men who waged it. In I Always Wanted to Fly, retired United States Air Force Colonel Wolfgang W. E. Samuel has gathered first-person memories from heroes of the cockpits and airstrips.

Battling in dogfights when jets were novelties, saving lives in grueling airlifts, or flying dangerous reconnaissance missions deep into Soviet and Chinese airspace, these flyers waged America's longest and most secretively conducted air war.

Many of the pilots Samuel interviewed invoke the same sentiment when asked why they risked their lives in the air--"I always wanted to fly." While young, they were inspired by barnstormers, by World War I fighter legends, by the legendary Charles Lindbergh, and often just by seeing airplanes flying overhead. With the advent of World War II, many of these dreamers found themselves in cockpits soon after high school. Of those who survived World War II, many chose to continue following their dream, flying the Berlin Airlift, stopping the North Korean army during the "forgotten war" in Korea, and fighting in the Vietnam War.

Told in personal narratives and reminiscences, I Always Wanted to Fly renders views from pilots' seats and flight decks during every air combat flashpoint from 1945--1968. Drawn from long exposure to the immense stress of warfare, the stories these warriors share are both heroic and historic.

The author, a veteran of many secret reconnaissance missions, evokes individuals and scenes with authority and grace. He provides clear, concise historical context for each airman's memories. In I Always Wanted to Fly he has produced both a thrilling and inspirational acknowledgment of personal heroism and a valuable addition to our documentation of the Cold War.


I Always Wanted to Fly is a comprehensive collection of first-person narratives depicting the heroism of young men who grew up with a compelling desire to fly airplanes as well as of the changing nature of the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War. The author is a veteran of many reconnaissance missions against the Soviet Union and of air combat in the Vietnam War. I found this book to be a series of gripping stories, told in such remarkable detail that I felt I was alongside the pilots and crew members, living with them through every thrilling moment in the sky.

On March 7, 1945, I served as combat historian with III Corps, part of General Omar N. Bradley’s 12th Army Group, as it advanced toward the Rhine River near the little town of Remagen, just a few miles south of Bonn. That afternoon I learned that the Remagen Bridge had been captured by U.S. forces before the Germans had a chance to blow it up. Second Lieutenant Karl H. Timmermann, the commander of A Company, 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division, had led his men in a death-defying charge across the bridge and gained a foothold on the east bank of the Rhine River, securing the bridge in the process. For his leadership and extraordinary heroism, Lieutenant Timmermann was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service . . .

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