Flying Tigers
revised and updated

New & improved for December

The first Flying Tiger to die -- John Armstrong -- was dueling Gil Bright in a mock dogfight on September 8, 1941. Their wings collided as one pilot rolled to pass the other belly-to-belly. Bright parachuted to safety, but Armstrong plunged to his death, still strapped in his seat. He was buried in the graveyard of St. Luke's Anglican church that served the British colony of Toungoo, Burma, and some of the AVGs sat down to write letters of condolence. My favorite came from Jack Newkirk, commander of the squadron to which Armstrong was assigned. Newkirk's image in the press and the history books would be that of a tough guy, something of a war lover, but his typewritten letter shows a very different man.
Newkirk letter of condolence

For Newkirk's letter in full, go to the Annals of the Flying Tigers.

One hundred years ago, a bald man with a pointy beard made his way from Switzerland to the Finland Station in St. Petersburg, with the help of German strategists who hoped he might knock Russia out of the war. And he did! Not only that, but he launched a revolution that eventually claimed the lives of 100 million people, including an awful lot of Germans, and that spread the Russian empire across eastern Europe, including a huge swath of Germany itself. Lenin's life is wonderfully well told by Victor Sebestyen in Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror. Even the dust jacket is impressive, suggesting as it does the garish colors and the idolatry of Soviet-era propaganda posters. (For good or evil, Lenin didn't last very long. He was replaced by another master of terror: Stalin, of whom I'll have more to say next month.) One of the best books of 2017.

Another bit of vanity! The French studio Rimini Editions has produced an upscale, hi-def edition of Le Merdier, with a remarkably youthful Burt Lancaster clutching his grease gun in the defense of Muc Wa, my 1967 novel that I like to think predicted how that misadventure was going to turn out. (Lancaster was 64 when the movie came out in 1978.) I don't know why the French adopted "shitter" as a pet name for grunts, but presumably they had their reasons. The Blu-Ray/DVD comes with a 32-page booklet based in part on this website and an email exchange between me and the author, Christophe Chavdia. Of course the discs are Region 2 / Zone B/2, so even if your French is up to the challenge, you might not be able to play it. In that case, try Go Tell the Spartans.

Also reviewed this month, the magnificent Death at La Fenice, a police procedural like no other. For more, go to the Warbird's Book Club. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

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