Written by gifted storyteller Winston Groom (author of Forrest Gump), The Aviators tells the saga of three extraordinary aviators–Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Jimmy Doolittle–and how they redefine heroism through their genius, daring, and uncommon courage.
This is the fascinating story of three extraordinary heroes who defined aviation during the great age of flight. These cleverly interwoven tales of their heart-stopping adventures take us from the feats of World War I through the heroism of World War II and beyond, including daring military raids and survival-at-sea, and will appeal to fans of Unbroken, The Greatest Generation, and Flyboys. With the world in peril in World War II, each man set aside great success and comfort to return to the skies for his most daring mission yet. Doolittle, a brilliant aviation innovator, would lead the daring Tokyo Raid to retaliate for Pearl Harbor; Lindbergh, hero of the first solo flight across the Atlantic, would fly combat missions in the South Pacific; and Rickenbacker, World War I flying ace, would bravely hold his crew together while facing near-starvation and circling sharks after his plane went down in a remote part of the Pacific. Groom’s rich narrative tells their intertwined stories–from broken homes to Medals of Honor (all three would receive it); barnstorming to the greatest raid of World War II; front-page triumph to anguished tragedy; and near-death to ultimate survival–as all took to the sky, time and again, to become exemplars of the spirit of the “greatest generation.”
U.S. naval intelligence was aware that the Japanese had established a defensive picket line of ships about three hundred miles off its eastern coasts; it was not aware, though, that they had established a second early warning line of shing boats about seven hundred miles out. This was what the task force had encountered.
Halsey, in the Enterprise, sent the cruiser Nashville to deal with the offending picket (later identied the seventy-ton Nitto Mam), and soon Nashville’s big guns roared to life. People on the other ships ran to the sides to see what was going on. Less than two miles away in the mist lay the Japanese vessel. By then, on the carriers, there was no doubt – if they could see it, surely it could see them. Radio scanners on all ships were picking up messages in Japanese code.
It turned out not to be a glorious day for American gunnery. In the thirty-foot swells the enemy boat was bobbing so much it took an amazing 934 six-inch shells before one finally hit and blew the bows off the enemy boat, sinking her.
A Japanese survivor who was fished out of the water told of how he had spotted the American task force and ran to his captain’s quarters to report “two beautiful Japanese carriers” passing by. The captain went topside and after taking a look said to the seaman, “Yes, they are beautiful, but they are not ours.” Then, according to the sailor, after ordering the radioman to signal the warning, the captain “returned to his cabin and shot himself in the head.”
Doolittle and the navy task force were in a nasty predicament. Halsey had wanted to get Doolittle and his bombers inside four hundred miles off the Japanese coast, but they were still eight or nine steaming hours away from that point. Japanese bombers were certainly being scrambled at this moment. Doolittle’s bombers’ fuel had been calculated down to nearly the last drop to get them to Japan and then to China.
Worse, almost, instead of arriving over Japanese cities at night when they were fairly safe from Japanese ghters and antiaircraft, they would arrive in broad daylight; worse still, they would arrive over China at night. Doolittle did not hesitate. Within moments the Klaxon sounded and Hornefs loudspeakers blared, “Army pilots man your planes!”
At the Hashirajima naval base near Hiroshima, the chief of staff to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, ]apan’s supreme naval commander, received word of the presence of the American ships and ordered his entire fleet to converge on the coordinates where the unfortunate Iapanese fishing boat reported its location. This included an enormous five carrier fleet under Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, who had been in command during the Pearl Harbor attack.