Caleb Haynes famously "looked like a gorilla and flew like an angel," though that description never appears in Gary Yerkey's biography of an aviator who served in France during the First World War and went on to become a valued bomber commander for General Chennault in the Second. Indeed, he says very little about Haynes's combat career, or much else about the man, who apparently was so modest that he passed through life without writing about it. What a contrast to his vainglorious colleague, Robert Lee Scott! (You may recall that Scottie credited God with being his co-pilot. In real life, Col Scott reached China as co-pilot to Col Haynes.) As a result, our "hulking montaineer" passes through the pages of A Pilot's Pilot almost as a ghost, with the author speculating what he might have done and what he thought about it all. Thus Mr Yerkey quotes a British historian on the mystery of what caused war to break out in 1914. "Haynes was no doubt aware of that," he writes, "as well of the fact that many of those who fell in battle are never put to rest." And so it goes for most of the rest of Haynes's busy life.
Oanh Ngo Usadi wrote a glorious tribute to America in the Wall Street Journal last month, about tasting a few precious M&Ms when she was a child in the Mekong Delta, and how that delicious combination of chocolate and a colored topping made her and her brother long to emigrate. I immediately ordered up the ebook, Of Monkey Bridges and Banh Mi Sandwiches, the title referring to the tricky stream crossings of her homeland and to the sandwich shop that was her family's ticket to survival in Port Arthur, Texas. Such transitions are never easy. No matter how awful the world you fled -- and life under Hanoi's rule was brutal for those who had prospered under the Saigon government -- home will always be home. Ms Usadi was four when Saigon fell to the Communists, and still a girl when the family escaped on a fishing boat. While her parents never really mastered the American idiom, she grew into it as a teenager. Now English is her natural language, as she demonstrates in this lovely book. Blue skies! — Dan Ford
Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! — Dan Ford
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Posted June 2018. Websites © 1997-2018 Daniel Ford. All rights reserved.