Continuing my two-book review series on the Korean War, I turn to Such Men as These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies over Korea by David Sears. The book is 395 pages with 46 black and white photographs.
Generally, the book covers the Navy pilots that flew over the skies of North and South Korea during the War. Many of the accounts of the pilots are from the pilots themselves. Sears follows the pilots from their deployment to their way home (if they were lucky enough to survive). He includes many stories of survival and loss during the war.
Sears was able to get an accurate portrayal of the Navy pilots because he worked off of James Michener’s’ notes (Michener used these notes to write the novel The Bridges at Toko-Ri). Michener’s influence on the book is abundantly clear. In fact, Sears periodically mentions when and where Michener observed carrier operations. I think Sears mentions Michener a little too much – it interrupts the flow of the book.
The book is a great tribute to those men who flew the dangerous skies over Korea. Although the propeller-driven planes were often attacked by Russian MiG fighters, the pilots of these props did not hesitate to try to complete their missions. They not only had to contend with the fighters, but also denser and more sophisticated anti-aircraft systems as the war progressed. Sears thoroughly explains how the pilots felt about their odds of returning from a mission.
Sears not only recounts the heroes stories of the pilots, but he also writes about the close bond that the pilots had for each other. Many would stay over a downed comrade until help arrived even though their fuel ran dangerously low. Sears recounts how one pilot flew alongside an injured pilot until he was able to land on an emergency air strip – the pilot stayed with his buddy even though his fuel was running out quickly.
Such Men As These is a great tribute to the U.S. Navy pilots who flew in the “Forgotten War.”