An almost terrifyingly good piece of cultural history, built around the figure of Dr. Hugo Eckener, captain of the Graf Zeppelin and a champion of lig...moreAn almost terrifyingly good piece of cultural history, built around the figure of Dr. Hugo Eckener, captain of the Graf Zeppelin and a champion of lighter-than-air travel. It's too easy to forget how vibrant, exciting and optimistic Europe was during the teens, '20s and early '30s, and how strong the sentiment was for international cooperation. In the early '20s it was not yet at all clear that heavier-than-air travel was going to be the dominant mode of air travel in the future, and this book has some wonderfully evocative accounts of lighter-than-air journeys during the period when traveling in a Zeppelin was a magical experience that carried with it all the promise of a rich future of peace.
Some of the most interesting material in this book comes from late in Eckener's life, after Hitler took power; Eckener was very much a humanist and an internationalist, and was not beloved of the Nazis. His opposition to Hitler put him at extreme risk and probably would have cost him his career even had there not been a Hindenburg disaster.
Wonderful details about the operation of a rigid lighter-than-air ship and air navigation in general. A truly inspiring work of popular history and a hell of a read.(less)
This is an amazing book. A great cast of characters: Korolev, Kruschev, Werner Von Braun, Eisenhower, Nixon, and many more. Not as much rocket science...moreThis is an amazing book. A great cast of characters: Korolev, Kruschev, Werner Von Braun, Eisenhower, Nixon, and many more. Not as much rocket science as I would have liked, but so much great Russian and American cold war history that it more than makes up for it. I also found that the author tended to rely on a small number of sources, particularly Sergei Kruschev's memoirs...but ultimately the end result was so fascinating, and so far from what I already know anything about, that I never stopped being totally fascinated...I TORE through this book. A great story of twisting and turning Russian-American political intrigue, and a depressing view of just how much "human progress" in the '50s was actually driven by the arms race.(less)
Disappointing in that it is long on salty details but short on insight. Though I enjoyed many of the stories, they didn't feel connected. Mr. Tillman...moreDisappointing in that it is long on salty details but short on insight. Though I enjoyed many of the stories, they didn't feel connected. Mr. Tillman has done an admirable job of logging events and does return to a certain number of themes important in understanding the air war. But I don't feel like his tactical or strategic analysis ever rises above a pretty superficial level. I appreciated the individual experiences of airmen a lot, however, and for that reason the book is important reading for anyone interested in World War II oral history.(less)