Army Air Forces pilots of World War II were routinely called "eagles." This is the story of Mike Novosel -- the last eagle -- who, upon retirement in 1984, was still on active-duty flight status. It is a narrative of an impressive military career that began before Pearl Harbor, covered forty-four years, and is highlighted by the awarding of the Medal of Honor.
The story begins on the eve of Pearl Harbor and centers on a young soldier, Mike Novosel, who went through the aviation cadet program, then moved on to be an air corps instructor pilot and upgraded to faster, heavier, and more technically advanced airplanes. He tested planes ranging from P-39 pursuits to B-24 bombers. He flew the gigantic B-29 Superfortress on raids over the Japanese Empire and above the ceremonies on the USS Missouri when Japan surrendered.
The drawdown of forces after the war had a devastating effect on operations. Novosel was appointed the 9th Bomb Group operations officer and later took command of the 99th Bomb Squadron. Novosel and a cadre of dedicated officers kept the 9th Bomb Group flying. It is the only group in the 313th Bomb Wing that was combat ready. After more than two years, he returned home and was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base as a B-29 test pilot. It proved to be interesting, hard-flying work and was often dangerous; a number of his friends were killed.
Novosel was selected to attend the Air Tactical School, but within a week of graduation his career hopes were dashed by notification that he was on the reduction-in-force (RIF) list. After an unceremonious release from the service, he found success in civilian life.