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The Millionaire's Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power
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The Millionaire's Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  16 reviews
The Millionaires' Unit is the story of a gilded generation of young men from the zenith of privilege: a Rockefeller, the son of the head of the Union Pacific Railroad, several who counted friends and relatives among presidents and statesmen of the day. They had it all and, remarkably by modern standards, they were prepared to risk it all to fight a distant war in France. D ...more
Hardcover, 281 pages
Published April 24th 2006 by PublicAffairs (first published 2006)
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Rick
“The Millionaires’ Unit” (Pan Books, 2006) by Marc Wortman is a fascinating account of a flying club started by students at Yale University in 1916/17 that went on to become the progenitor of U.S. naval aviation. This Yale Aero Club was composed of 30-some Elis – all with families who had the means to support their very expensive passion – who when they offered their amateur services to the U.S. Navy in 1917 with America on the cusp of war were rebuffed by the admirals and Secretary of the Navy. ...more
Tom
This is a real hidden gem and great read for anyone interested in U.S. history of WW I and the origins of our "Establishment" and more so our military aviation, especially the Navy's fly boys.

The author is an elite-educated and previously employed writer who has been well-situated in life, enabling his writing of this fascinating book. In his introduction, Wortman writes, "Today, relatively few young Americans from comparable [elitist] backgrounds would consider military service -- or self-sacri
...more
Liz
I read this book over vacation; a good read. The first half of the book discusses the Victorian-era culture and social situation that the first Yale unit flyers came from. At times it felt like that there was too much emphasis on Yale student life, but by the end of the book, I understood why the author felt it was necessary. The second half of the book covers the experience of aviators during First World War.
Jeff
I thought this book was an interesting work of historical literature. The topic it touched on was one I had not heard much about before and it did a good job setting the scene for the time period and the group of people it was talking about. Once the book actually got to the war (WWI) it was very exciting, the only problem was that did not happen till more than half way thought. Most of the beginning of the book was dedicated to describing the lives of the characters and what it was like to go t ...more
Kevin
Overall, a very good book. However, it was often difficult to completely relate to the stories of the men in the book. Unless you come from an elite American family, it's difficult to entirely relate to many of their complaints or desires. And that they thought nothing of stealing Geronimo's bones seems unbelievable today. After wading through all of that though, the bravery and sacrifices that the "Millionaire's Unit" displayed is remarkable. It's difficult to imagine a similar group of such pr ...more
Ann Voss
I have an interest in the Layfayette Escadrille of World War I. They were volunteers who fought with France. The Millionaires' Unit follows Yale men believed the US would enter WWI, and that Naval Air Power would lead the way. Their parents were the Barons of Wall Street, publisher, land Barons, etc. The parents bought them planes, paid for instruction, put them up in their homes on Long Island, and Florida. All the while they tried to convince the government the importance of air power. Fascina ...more
Miles
I read this as part of my Air Force heritage reading kick (acstually, the kick is still on-going). This book is fun in seeing the character portraits of those men intrumental in forming the first air squadron in the Army. A lot of their views in life have survived the 80 or so years into the operational Air Force that is the inheritor of their passions, wit, character, and cavalier sense of adventure.
Matthew
This book about a group of Yale students who through their affluence are able to set up a air unit that eventually sees service in the First World War. Personally, I had hoped the book would be much more about the air war aspect. The book did provide of information of how the post-Industrial Revolution aristocracy arose and wielded so much power through their Skull and Bones connections.
Katie Christian
A little name/date/time heavy to be entirely engaging, but really interesting. I've often wondered how the Navy got planes, plus - at the end of the book - we won! Yay USA! Only kidding, of course we won :) Yay for the Yale and Harvard boys for doing such a service to their country!
A Smith
Very interesting early aviation story different from my 40s-era reading.

A time when Yale & Ivy League students were born and bred to be superior Americans up to and including the ultimate sacrifice rather than a path to power to send OTHERS to fight and die.
Brian Eshleman
Shows the ways in which the culture of the elites has changed from a notion of obligation and sacrifice, but it does so while showing the kids involved as real, maturing humans.
M
I learned a lot about the origins of Naval Airpower, and really American Air Power in general from this book. Plus a lot about WWI that I had forgotten since high school.
Nannie Bittinger
Apr 03, 2010 Nannie Bittinger rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs, aviation enthusiasts
So much information on WWI avaition..I was over-whelmed but my husband who is a pilot and aviation mechanic loved it.
Alex Fernandez
One of those books that I feel probably deserves more than 2 stars but for me, it was just an okay read.
Tom
I gave up after the first few pages. The author did not spare any cliches.
Martine Quinn
once upon a time, when scions had honor...
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Marc Wortman is an award-winning freelance journalist and independent scholar. His articles and essays on history, science and architecture have appeared in many national magazines. He is the author of The Millionaires’ Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented American Air Power, which is in development as a feature motion picture.
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