Thy Flying Greek: An Immigrant Fighter Ace’s WWII Odyssey With the RAF, USAAF, and French Resistance
by Colonel Steve N. Pisanos, U.S. Air Force (ret.) Potomac Books, Herndon, Va., $34.95
Born in the Athenian suburb of Kolonos on November 10, 1919, Spiros Nicholas Pisanos was a merchant seaman in April 1938 when he jumped ship at Baltimore, Md., and headed for New York. By August 1940, he had learned English, settled in Plainfield, N.J., and started flight training at nearby Westfield Airport. In November 1941, he joined the Royal Air Force, serving alongside the American volunteers of No. 71 “Eagle” Squadron, later the 334th Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group, U.S. Army Air Forces. Amid that transition, in London on May 3, 1943, Flying Officer Steve N. Pisanos, as he was then called, became the first American citizen to become naturalized while on foreign soil. He went on to become an ace during World War II and retired as a U.S. Air Force colonel in 1973.
In The Flying Greek, Colonel Pisanos looks back on his remarkable 30-year career in military aviation—and his equally adventurous time with the Resistance after engine trouble forced his North American P-51B Mustang down in German-occupied France on March 5, 1944. It’s a fascinating tale of flying, and the opportunities offered in the United States to anyone enterprising enough to make the most of them. It also constitutes proof that Homer was not the last Greek who knew how to recount an odyssey.
Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.