Navy Wings Of Gold, by Lt. F. William Robinson, USNR

This book is two books in one. The first half of the book recounts Lt. Robinson’s involvement as a Navy aviator in the Pacific during WWII. The second half of the book contains nine chapters in which his wife, brother, brother-in-law, and six friends relate their WWII experiences.

The author flew the Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber during his active duty in the Pacific. His tale is not of heroic deeds or air-to-air combat, but of the mundane day-to-day events he experienced and observed around him. The story covers the earning of his wings as a civilian in Alaska, the first to do so, his joining of the U.S. Navy, training to become a pilot, preparation for battle, being severely injured in a plane crash, and eventual discharge from the Navy. We follow the author through his experiences of learning how to fly the Navy way, to his participation in the testing of the first rockets fired from naval aircraft, service in the war zone with Composite Squadron VC-7, loss of his aircraft while trying to land back aboard Manila Bay CVE 61, and his long recovery from the injuries suffered in this crash. Within this story we experience the heartbreak the author feels in having to inform the bride of one of his best friends that her husbands is dead, the anguish he feels of surviving his aircraft crash while his two crew members do not, and his regret in not reporting to the proper authorities the poor flying judgment constantly exercised by a fellow pilot who later caused the death of eight other men in a multi-plane crash. The author closes his story with his stateside duty after being released from medical care and his short postwar career in the Navy Reserves.

The other nine stories are not so much of movie screen heroism but of carrying out one’s duties to oneself and to others during wartime. Each of these stories, his wife’s included, tells of life during WWII on the civilian front and in the war zone. They all add to the literature about “The Greatest Generation.” All in all, the book is an excellent account of how the day-to-day events of 1941-45 were viewed through the eyes of ten American citizens.

(Trafford Publishing, 2004; 343 pp.; $26.99 — ISBN 9780971079519)