Unsung Eagles: The True Stories America’s Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II by Jay Stout is the story of the common men who answered the call of duty. Stout is a retired Marine Corps Aviator who flew F-4 Phantoms and later F-18 Hornets. A graduate of Purdue University he was commissioned in June of 1981 and retired a Lieutenant Colonel in 2001. With 4,500 flight hours and thirty-seven combat missions missions in Operation Dessert Storm, Stout knows his aviation.
Unsung Eagles gave me three surprises. First, looking at the cover I thought another book about the Army Air Corps in Europe. It’s not. Stout covers both theaters and Army, Navy, and Marine pilots. Second, I thought its going to cover famous raids. Again, no. The book covers a wide variety missions and none that stood out as famous air battles or bombing missions. The third surprise came after the realization of the first two surprises. Who would write about the “average Joe” pilot? Who else but a Marine. Of course, I am a bit biased in that last statement.
Unsung Eagles does what few war time books have done. It highlights the men who joined the war to fight. Men who left their homes and families and signed up, not the professional airmen. Many joined, and when the war was over quietly went on back to the civilian world leaving the military behind. These are the men whose uniforms are put away deep in a closet and never talk about the war except when prodded after a few beers. Twenty-two such pilots have their stories told in this fast paced history. The stories told, show all sides of the war from good deployments with plenty of support to cannibalizing planes to keep as many flying as possible. One absolutely amazing story is of a USAAF bomber pilot found himself flying in the dark behind two Japanese bombers and followed them in their landing pattern. The Japanese mistakenly assumed that the American was one of their own and proceeded to land. As the Japanese landed the American dropped his bombs on the Japanese planes and runway.
Unsung Heroes tells some fine stories of American pilots who you probably never heard of, flying missions that aren’t in very many history books, but still were very important in the Allied war effort. There were over a half million aircrewmen who served in World War II. This is a staggering number, it is more than twice the number of Marines serving when I was on active duty. Unsung Eagles is an outstanding history, and a personal history too. It is a reminder that not everyone who flew is recorded in history and that many who served then and now made important contributions that few will ever know about. Very well done. Semper Fi, Colonel.