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Jet Age Man: SAC B-47 and B-52 Operations in the Early Cold War

by Lt. Col. Earl J. McGill, USAF (ret.), Helion & Company Ltd, UK, 2012, $49.95.

This is a wonderful book for a wide variety of reasons, the first being the most important: Colonel Earl McGill, a veteran of three wars, portrays a time when the United States had an enormous superiority in air power, and was proud of it. He demonstrates how the air power manifest in the employment of the Boeing B-47 and B-52 helped win the Cold War and prevent an atomic holocaust.

Jet Age Man is divided into two parts: “The Sweetest Killer I Ever Flew: A Personal History of My Affair With the RB-47E” and “Armageddon Averted: The B-52.” McGill’s grasp of the subject and his regard for both aircraft shines throughout. He clearly loves the B-47 best, despite its idiosyncrasies and the dangers implicit in flying it, and he documents those dangers in an appendix summarizing its crashes. There is also a similar treatment of B-52 crashes. One of the most moving elements is his haunting description of a search for a missing B-52 and the subsequent accident investigation.

This is an unusual book by an experienced pilot who also happens to be an excellent writer. Readers—especially any “old SAC hands”—will find it vastly rewarding.


Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.