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The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,146 Ratings  ·  355 Reviews
In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands, where they imagined being hailed as heroes; ...more
Hardcover, 318 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by Crown (first published January 1st 2013)
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Brendan Koerner
Jan 16, 2013 Brendan Koerner rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
A man should take pride in his work.
Sep 30, 2013 Joseph rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner is a detailed history of a pair of hijackers as well as a history of hijacking in general. Koerner is a former columnist for The New York Times and Slate. His work has been printed in the New York Times Magazine, Harpers and many other publications. He is currently a contributing editor at Wire. This is his second book.

I am just barely old enough to remember all the “Take this bus to Cuba” and other hija
Aug 08, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing
Brendan Koerner has just written one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time. The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking (Crown, 2013) recounts some of the more memorable US hijackings between 1961 and 1972. Hijacking became a real problem starting in 1967, culminating in a tumultuous year in 1972 when almost 100 US airliners were highjacked, sometimes two in one day.

But the main story of Koerner's book is that of traumatized Vietnam vet, Roger Holder,
Alan Cohen
Jul 30, 2013 Alan Cohen rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Read it in ~ 3 days sort of like a non-stop versus a layover with connecting flights. If I didn't have to go to work, well, a lot of books would get read a lot quicker!
[As a passenger in ]one of the hijacked planes of that era, I had special interest in the subject . Yes, , 1968, Dec. Phila. to Miami for Christmas vacation detoured to Havana, bussed to the coastal town of Verdero(sp), and flown back to Miami on turbo prop planes , I can vouch for the accuracy of
Sep 04, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't know about the rest of my fellow Americans, but the only hijackings I'm familiar with are the really big ones, like D.B. Cooper. I was complete unaware that hijackings were a "thing" throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. I mean, seriously a thing, like people accepted it as a normal part of air travel, that your plane might get hijacked and flown to Cuba and you might miss a day or two out of your life. It's absolutely mind boggling to think about.

Koerner does an excellent job of interwe
Darcia Helle
This book fascinated me from beginning to end. While the focus is on Roger Holder's convoluted and oddly successful plan to skyjack a plane with his lover Cathy Kerkow, the story told is broad and full of wacky, real life characters. As the US stumbled out of Vietnam, the political and social climates were rife with damaged servicemen and angry citizens seeking ways to make a stand. Skyjacking became the perfect outlet for a staggering number of these people.

While the events in this book are on
Nov 18, 2015 Sue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
A riveting read about the skyjacking epidemic of the late 60's and early 70's focusing on the personal stories of Roger Holder and Kathy Kerkow - the Bonnie and Clyde of the skies. The outrageous personal stories of domestic hijackers is fascinating in itself, but what's more incredible is how a study of the subject of hijacking and how it was handled by the government and the airlines highlights the stark contrast between the respect of individual civil liberties in the 1970's and the shockingl ...more
Jul 13, 2013 Carol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The Skies Belong to Us by Brendan I. Koerner is time trip back to when hijacking was so common that people were not surprised when they heard about yet another one. This period was between 1961 and 1972. I wanted to read this book because I had friend whose plane from Beirut, Lebanon was hijacked. He wrote me of the nervous hours waiting to find out if he was going to live or die.

Brendan I. Koerner limited his review of hijacking to only the ones that started in the U.S. and centered on one tha
Chris Blocker
Aug 13, 2013 Chris Blocker rated it really liked it
I don't read much non-fiction. When I do, it's often for research. Every once in a while I pick up a non-fiction book that looks interesting to me and give it a read. And more often than not I find myself engrossed in the story. Probably I should see this as a sign that I need to read more of these stories. Enter The Skies Belong to Us.

The cover, the promise of love and hijacking, these are the things that first attracted me to The Skies Belong to Us. More than any other type of narrative non-fi
Jan 23, 2015 Jessica rated it really liked it
"The Skies Belong to Us" had all the qualities of an excellent True Crime book. It was an interesting topic, well researched and written. The "golden age of skyjacking" is a little remembered event in our nation's history and Koerner expertly weaves together the overall story of the trend and the effect it had on sky travel and security while also taking a close look at one of the most fascinating cases. In the last 10 pages the writing switches from 3rd person to 1st and you fully appreciate th ...more
Jun 25, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing
So fucking good.
Mar 11, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?
– Chico Marx, “Duck Soup” (1933)

This is a very enjoyable audiobook with a sprawling and complex story. I'm going to write about only one facet of it.

Opposing political viewpoints champion different narratives about how the world works. This book and Foolproof by Greg Ip, which I listened to consecutively, are two recently-issued examples of conflicting narrative. The topic getting the ideological narrative makeover is, in this case, aviation safety, al
Leana M
Sep 19, 2014 Leana M rated it really liked it
I give 4.5 stars for well presented, well researched, unbiased & entertaining way of executing nonfiction. Pleasantly surprised, this book was very enlightening as it presented an era that I had little knowledge about. Having been a very young child during the early 70's, just when this politically charged mood was coming to its final sizzle, I was not aware of the circumstances that played such a big part of American history. I gained a good deal of understanding for the realities of those ...more
Jaclyn Day
Sep 15, 2014 Jaclyn Day rated it it was amazing
This is masterful, fascinating nonfiction. My favorite nonfiction has the ability to pique my extreme interest in topics that could, in theory, be covered in a few Wikipedia paragraphs. Here, though, is book-length coverage of a topic—with all the dates, historical facts, cultural background and other necessities that nonfiction requires—all expertly woven into a plot that feels almost like fiction. Koerner covers the Golden Age of Hijacking (a 5-year period starting in 1968) in which an America ...more
John Nelson
Jan 21, 2015 John Nelson rated it it was amazing
In the end, Brendan Koerner’s The Skies Belong to Us, is about character.

I’m not old enough to remember the plague of airline hijackings that took place in and around American airspace during the hippie era, but I do remember laughing with my mom through a television rerun of The Out of Towners, a 1970 Jack Lemmon comedy. In it, everything that can go wrong for two hapless New York tourists does, and despite the appearance of a happy ending, the two find themselves on a hijacked plane just befor
It's only February and yet I think I found my first favorite book of the year. I'm just glad I didn't have to wait so long this time around! This book was an eye-opening look at air travel in what was purported to be coined "the Golden Age of Hijacking." Keep in mind I had thought (before reading this) that the rash of commandeering aircraft started in the 1980's with such terrorists as the Libyans (I'm old enough to actually remember that). Needless to say, I couldn't have been more wrong!

John Pappas
Jun 29, 2013 John Pappas rated it really liked it
Thrilling and compelling, Koerner's tale of Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow's skyjacking of Western Airlines' Flight 701 is an extremely well-researched and documented examination of the 5-10 year period in American history when skyjackings became an almost weekly event. Between the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, Vietnam vets suffering from PTSD, members of radical groups, disgruntled or estranged husbands and the mentally ill managed to hijack over 150 planes from US airspace to various locations ...more
Jul 05, 2013 Scott rated it it was amazing
So great, this book, for so many reasons. In The Skies Belong to Us journalist Brendan I Koerner takes us back to the "golden age of hijacking", a period of about five years in the late '60s, early '70s when, astonishingly, on average a commercial airplane was skyjacked (in the preferred tabloid parlance) in American air space once every WEEK. And the airlines refused to institute any sort of security measures at the airport during most of this time! Because 1. it'd be enormously expensive and t ...more
Hank Stuever
Jul 01, 2013 Hank Stuever rated it it was amazing
I was hooked by Dwight Garner's NYT review of this book and by gosh, he was right. I do think there's something slightly off about the way "The Skies Belong to Us" is structured and organized, but the material is just so jaw-dropping, starting and ending with the seemingly boundless tolerance American society once had for skyjacking, 30 years before 9/11. Two or three skyjackings during some weeks in the early '70s! No carry-on screenings! No ID checks! No boarding passes! (If the final season o ...more
Sep 11, 2013 Annie rated it it was amazing
From 1968-1973, hijacking, once a largely anomalous and relatively peaceful act, grew into an epidemic of such proportions that weekly hijackings became the norm. In The Skies Belong to Us, Brendan I. Koerner traces the history of skyjacking from an act of rebellion rooted in the mystique of Cuba into a wildly successful and life-threatening act of piracy that was seemingly unstoppable due to the airlines collective intractability over the necessity of airport security screening procedures.

Jun 21, 2014 dianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book i probably never would have picked up, and absolutely loved. Although i was old enough to remember, and often flew, i don't have any clear memory of the spate, epidemic really, of skyjackings that happened in the 60s and 70s before we had to submit to body searches to fly anywhere. This is an almost unbelievable tale of two very young people who almost accidentally fall into one of the most amazing stories of those decades. Included are elements of the Vietnam travesty, institutional and ...more
Fascinating and completely bonkers. This is the story of the longest-distance hijacking in American history, accomplished by a disillusioned veteran and a teenage girl. The author weaves in accounts of other hijackings during that time period. I had no idea that hijackings (particularly to Cuba) were happening an average of once per week in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and sometimes there were two U.S.-based hijackings in a day. A lot of people back then thought that it was just the cost of d ...more
Jan 09, 2014 Ammon rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
This book is a sleeper hit. FANTASTIC book. As a child of the 80s I had NO idea that so much aviation hijacking happened through the 60s and 70s!

The author is brilliant in his unfolding of this crazy time period and his focusing on Roger Holder and his girlfriends successful hijacking in 1973. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to understand these decades better, the political landscape of the time and this immensely entertaining retelling of so much CRAZY drama:)
Jun 08, 2014 Florence rated it really liked it
"The Golden Age of Hijacking" is a curious subtitle for a book. During a 5 year period from the late sixties to early seventies hundreds of airliners were hijacked with passengers and crew held hostage. Fortunately, back in those days the most common motive was to escape the United States , often to land in Cuba or Algeria. And to obtain cash. Oodles of it. Eldridge Cleaver and the International Department of the Black Panthers were domiciled in Algiers after an earlier successful hijacking, run ...more
Kevin Wong
Aug 10, 2014 Kevin Wong rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible – Koerner tells this story in a way that is breathtakingly engrossing, and while the narrative parallels a mass-market best seller in its page-turning pace, the literary quality is anything but. The prose is beautifully crafted, and every fact is thoroughly researched, as belied by the extensive set of footnotes. If you have even a passing interest in aviation, you must read this book. ...more
Jay Hinman
Apr 25, 2015 Jay Hinman rated it really liked it
Any consciousness I had of the daily world of grown-up news starting flickering on around 1974 or so, right when “the golden age of hijacking” was winding down. I do remember the term skyjacking, which is something that I associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and something I also assumed before reading this book occurred perhaps 10, 15 times in total during the 1960s and 1970s. Uh, no. Airplane hijackings were so common during the years 1968-1973 that the rate was actually nearl ...more
Jul 24, 2014 Laurel rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. This non-fiction work gives the reader a detailed history of the rise and fall of skyjacking, mostly in the US during the late '60s forward. Woven into the history is the story of two hijackers, a very disturbed veteran, Roger Holder, and his young girl friend, Cathy Kerkow.

Koerner is a master of writing captivating prose that draws one in to a period in US history that seems forgotten. I was a young girl at the time that the epidemic of hijackings began, but couldn't remember
May 26, 2014 Gramarye rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-america
Would've preferred a little less overtly sexualised focus on the women mentioned in the book (especially for throwaway descriptions like 'statueseque'), but otherwise a chillingly interesting history of the hijacking craze of the '60s and '70s.
Jul 14, 2014 Ryan rated it it was amazing
I knew I was going to love this book when I opened it up and the first page had two quotes on it: one from Virgil, and one from Ghostface Killah. As the quotes suggest, this account of the glory days of airplane hijacking is a good balance of the intellectual and the entertaining. I wasn't born until the mid-80s, but this book made the 60s and 70s come alive for me in its description of disgruntled Vietnam Vets, fed up Black Panthers, and bored teenage girls who aspired to more than being house ...more
Nov 05, 2014 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Fascinating as a historical account, evocative as a character study, and really exciting as a thriller. One of the best books I've read in the last couple years.
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Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and the author of The Skies Belong to Us and Now the Hell Will Start, the latter of which he is currently adapting for filmmaker Spike Lee. A former columnist for both The New York Times and Slate who was named one of Columbia Journalism Review’s “Ten Young Writers on the Rise,” he has also written for Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN ...more
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“PRIOR TO THE spring of 1961, there had never been a hijacking in American airspace.” 1 likes
“How far can the airlines go?” replied a clearly irritated TWA spokesman when asked whether his employer planned to make any changes to its boarding procedures. “Restrict everyone from the terminal except those who have a ticket? Stop everyone from entering the airport area except those who” 0 likes
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