Synopses & Reviews
If the Wright brothers 1903 flights in Kitty Hawk marked the birth of aviation, World War I can be called its violent adolescencea brief but bloody era that completely changed the way planes were designed, fabricated, and flown. The war forged an industry that would redefine transportation and warfare for future generations. In First to Fly
, lauded historian Charles Bracelen Flood tells the story of the men who were at the forefront of that revolution: the daredevil Americans of the Lafayette Escadrille, who flew in French planes, wore French uniforms, and showed the world an American brand of heroism before the United States entered the Great War.
As citizens of a neutral nation from 1914 to early 1917, Americans were prohibited from serving in a foreign army, but many brave young souls soon made their way into European battle zones: as ambulance drivers, nurses, and more dangerously, as soldiers in the French Foreign Legion. It was partly from the ranks of the latter group, and with the sponsorship of an expat American surgeon and a Vanderbilt, that the Lafayette Escadrille was formed in 1916 as the first and only all-American squadron in the French Air Service. Flying rudimentary planes, against one-in-three odds of being killed, these fearless young men gathered reconnaissance and shot down enemy aircraft, participated in the Battle of Verdun and faced off with the Red Baron, dueling across the war-torn skies like modern knights on horseback.
Drawing on rarely seen primary sources, Flood chronicles the startling success of that intrepid band, and gives a compelling look at the rise of aviation and a new era of warfare.
Charles Bracelen Floods lively account of the group of American pilots known as the Lafayette Escadrille provides a striking counterpoint to news stories about radicalized young Americans who have run off to join ISIS . . . Flood . . . has an eye for the high-octane drama when young men mix with war, airplanes, booze and women . . . First to Fly
shows us that there was something noble and honorable about the Escadrille, men who did not turn against their own country but put their lives up to fight for a cause, not because they had to but because it was the right thing to do.”Wall Street Journal
A perfect fit for the center of a trilogy of the beginning of aviation [alongside David McCulloughs The Wright Brothers and John F. Rosss Enduring Courage] . . . These three excellent books clearly show how the Wright Brothers achievement at Kitty Hawk and their sound basic technology was picked up by the Europeans, and how the wartime scenario in 1914 accelerated development of observation, pursuit and bomber aircraft.”Washington Times
The compelling story of the squadron of adventurous young American pilots who were among the first to engage in air combat.”Tampa Bay Times
Floods final book is a page-turner, written in spare, vivid style like that of his literary hero, Ernest Hemingway.”Lexington Kentucky Herald-Leader
Profiles a handful of the courageous and colorful men who flew in [the Lafayette Escadrille] and were among Americas first combat pilots.”American History
Charles Bracelen Floods book on the most legendary outfit of World War I is utterly absorbing, full of great anecdotes and harrowing dogfights. A compelling tribute to the young American men who fought in those flimsy contraptions that were the first warplanes, as well as the women who supported them behind the lines.”Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd
Rare is the book that combines authentic history with the vivid characterizations of the finest novels. Add to that achievement the gripping story of the war in the air in World War I and you have First to Fly, the most unforgettable drama that novelist and historian Charles Bracelen Flood has created in his long and distinguished career.”Thomas Fleming, author of Over There, past President of the Society of American Historians and the PEN American Center
Fusing his talents for narrative and characterization with a scholars passion for research, Charles Bracelen Flood has seamlessly woven an epic story of the American airmen who served in the Great War. The reader is rewarded by an achievement of literary excellence that enlightens as it entertains.”Sidney Offit, novelist, critic, memoirist, and Curator Emeritus of the George Polk Awards for special achievement in journalism
This riveting look back at a catastrophe that changed our world tells the tale of a fascinating group of young men at war. With his well-turned prose, Charles Bracelen Flood recreates a time that was dreadful yet also contained an innocence foreign to us today. First To Fly deserves a wide reading audience.”John Buchanan, author of The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas
Charles Bracelen Flood gives us a vivid account of the Lafayette Escadrille, young American pilots who took to the air against Germany nearly a year before the United States entered World War I. Some were idealists; some adventurers; all were present at the beginnings of Americas combat airpower. All of Floods formidable writing skills are on display here, as he tells this important story.”General Merrill A. McPeak, USAF (Ret.), Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force
About the Author
Charles Bracelen Flood
(1929-2014) wrote fifteen books, including Lee: The Last Years
and Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War
, which Salon named one of the Top 12 Civil War Books Ever Written,” and the New York Times
bestselling novel Love is a Bridge
. He graduated from Harvard and was a past president of the PEN American Center.