We are excited to announce the paperback release of Casemate’s Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America’s Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II by Jay A Stout. Unsung Eagles traces the combat careers of 22 different pilots from all the services are captured in this crisply written book which captivates the reader not only as an engaging oral history, but also puts personal context into the great air battles of World War II.
Jay Stout is a native of Indiana and a 1951 graduate of Purdue University. He was commissioned into the Marine Corps that same year and earned his designation as a naval aviator in 1983 with orders to fly the F-4 Phantom. He later served as an instructor on the T-2C Buckeye and transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet. As a Hornet pilot, he flew 37 combat missions during Dessert Storm.
Continue reading for excerpts from a fascinating interview with Jay Stout where he told us all about his writing process and personal history with military aviation.
I was born in Indianapolis, where my father and mother and sisters were also born. My dad worked for the government and we moved around a little bit, to include Okinawa, Japan, at the height of the Vietnam War from 1966-1969. We lived on Kadena Air Force Base, which was an enormous staging point for the air war in Southeast Asia.
It was at Kadena that I had my first real exposure to military aircraft and flying. It was roaring over my head every single day. There were F-105s and F-4s and B-52s and the SR-71 and…virtually everything the Air Force flew at the time. As boys, my friends and I had the run of the base and lots to do. Aside from school, there were little league sports and movies (for a quarter!) and exploring on the beach and out in the bush for relics from the war—mostly shell casings and such. It was a great few years and imbued me with a desire to become a fighter pilot that I never lost.
He told us about his family’s history of military service:
Like many American families, mine includes ancestors who served during the Civil War and even before, but I’ve never discovered anyone of particular note. I have a copy of a civil war diary from one of my great-whatever-many-times-grandfathers. He served in the West in Tennessee and Missouri and such. It sounded dreadfully boring and dirty. And then he was shot in the stomach at the Pea Patch and his recovery—considering the state of medicine then—was gruesome and painful.
My grandfather fled home early in life and joined the army. He chased Pancho Villa as a fourteen-year-old. Later he joined the Navy and was discharged soon afterward, following a fight of some sort. My father was too young for World War II and Korea but served in the Air Force as a radar technician during the 1950s. And then, of course, I served in the Marine Corps as a pilot from 1981 to 2001.
Not all writers can articulate the reasons why they took to writing, but Jay Stout thoroughly impressed us with the following response to our questions about his reasons for writing.
I was similar to just about everyone, who thought, “I’d like to write a book someday.” After service in the Gulf War in 1991, I noted that no one was writing the sorts of combat stories that I grew up reading about World War II. Although it was a much less dangerous conflict, I thought I could do something about the Gulf War that might be mildly interesting and the result was Hornets over Kuwait which was published in 1997.
I like the notion of telling a story that someone will want to read, and I like being able to say that I’m a writer, although there’s little romance to it. Mostly it’s just hard work.
What I most like is to communicate that these extraordinary people were essentially just like the rest of us. They became extraordinary because they were put into extraordinary circumstances and excelled. Or if they didn’t necessarily excel, they simply survived. This was often extraordinary in itself. I guess I like making the point that people often make history because they are put in—or put themselves in—situations that offer historic opportunities.But, again, I like to make the point that every generation has the potential to be the “Greatest.” The human dynamic doesn’t change much from one generation to the next.
We asked Stout to tells us why he thinks readers will be interested in his book:
I like how it follows a normal young man through his life and to eventual command of a wartime fighter group. For example, Righetti was driving a dairy truck before the war. By 1945 he was leading formations of fifty aircraft or more against Nazi Germany. Yet, he and his family had typical origins and were normal in every way.
Just like you and me.
I also like the excitement of the late-war flying and the dynamics associated with high-stakes strafing. Using Righetti’s story as a vehicle to discuss the greater air war was also enjoyable.
Further, although tragic, the mystery surrounding his disappearance is something that tugs at my sensibilities.
Jay A. Stout’s charismatic and intelligent responses to our interview questions make us excited and anxious to get our hands on a copy to read!
Copies of the new paperback edition as well as the hardback edition can be found on our website here.