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Tragedy and Triumph, by James “Paladin” Fore and Larry Jacks, Skyward Press, Colorado Springs, Colo., 1996, $26.95

This narrative personifies the aerial soldier of fortune. Captain James “Paladin” Fore was born to the drudgery of an Arkansas farm during the Depression, worked his way from Air Corps private to pilot, flew Boeing B-17s in World War II, got shot down over occupied France, was sent to a Gestapo death camp, survived, and finally got back home. And promptly went back to hazardous flying.

Fore flew in China for Chennault’s Civil Air Transport during the Chinese Civil War. He also flew as a mercenary in the Laos war that involved the CIA and the U.S. Agency for International Development in the 1960s. After recuperating from a crash in the Laotian jungle in 1963, Fore spent another 12 years flying worn-out airplanes in Africa and experienced 16 engine failures in a year. By the time he retired, he had flown from primitive airfields in more than 100 countries and amassed 37,000 flying hours.

Tragedy and Triumph is a personal adventure tale that at times seems more the stuff of an imaginative novel than a factual account. It also gives a peek behind the curtain of secrecy that hid many clandestine flight operations in the Far East during the 1960s.