We’re pleased to announce that Unsung Eagles: True Stories of America’s Citizen Airmen in the Skies of World War II is now available from Casemate!
Through these stories, the reader will not only become captivated by the recollections and accounts of the unrecognized heroes of the war, but will also learn about the great air battles of World War II.
To learn more about the research and writing that was put into this great book, we asked Jay Stout a few questions:
What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book?
It’s a fun and interesting exercise to put myself in the place of the people I write about. And not just the terror of combat but also the boredom and homesickness and the day-to-day living aspect. What did they eat? How did they sleep? Who were their friends? What I’ve discovered along the way is that people haven’t changed over time. I recognize characters from long ago that are very much like people I served with.
Could you tell us about any history of military service in your family?
I know that my family served regularly at least back to the Civil War. One of my great-great grandfathers was a Union soldier who was wounded pretty badly at Pea Ridge in 1862. Another was a recent German immigrant who was also wounded while fighting for the Union.
My paternal grandfather was kicked out of the Navy and later served in the Army with Pershing in Mexico. An uncle was in the Navy and served on a picket destroyer off the coast of Korea. He pulled several downed American flyers out of the drink. My dad served in the Air Force as a radar technician during the 1950’s.
I was always interested in military service and military history. For some reason, real or imagined, I felt a strong connection.
How much research did you do for the book?
Quite a bit. Aside from interviewing each of the men featured in the book, I double-checked dates and locations and described equipment and events to put the stories in context. This was interesting and additionally gratifying because it helped me—and I hope the reader—to get an idea of how and why the men did what they did.
I would estimate that I performed at least a thousand hours of research, much of it on the internet. I can’t overstate the value of the internet as it allows the writer to access arcane data that he would otherwise never uncover. And it can be done quickly and without expensive travel. Too, it’s often valuable in giving anecdotal stories a degree of credibility. Used properly, the internet can be the nonfiction writer’s best friend.
Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?
I grew up reading these sorts of stories, but they were mostly accounts from famous fliers. I knew that there were literally hundreds of thousands of interesting narratives out there that would never be captured and I wanted to do my part to save some. I realize that the book tells only the very tiniest fraction, but it’s better than none.
What do you like most about your book? Why should we read it?
The theme that pervades the book is that the men were very ordinary. But thrust into very unordinary—and dangerous—situations, they performed with a steadfast devotion to duty. And quite often with bravery. But it’s easy to see their personalities and to recognize their character types in people that we all know today: The loudmouth, the nice guy, the charismatic charmer and so on.