Heinz Schaeffer, a Berliner by birth, had long nurtured a love for the sea. So much so that, at 13, he volunteered to serve as a deckhand on a schooneHeinz Schaeffer, a Berliner by birth, had long nurtured a love for the sea. So much so that, at 13, he volunteered to serve as a deckhand on a schooner, often doing the most dirtiest of jobs. The skipper of the schooner, a former naval officer, knowing of Schaeffer's zest and aptitude for boating, helped him to learn his way around a ship. Within a year, Schaeffer had earned a master's certificate, which qualified him to assume command of any sailing boat on the rivers and inland waterways of Germany. Subsequently, after Schaeffer had completed his formal education, he volunteered, age 17, for the Kriegsmarine in late 1938, passing an extensive series of exams that took 14 days to complete.
Schaeffer goes on to share with the reader the gruelling wartime training regimen of seamen trainees and his experiences of serving abroad U-boats in the Atlantic between 1941 and 1943. It wasn't an easy life. Of the 40,000 seamen who served aboard U-boats during the Second World War, 3/4 of them were killed while on active service.
Schaeffer's command of the U 977 proved to be his first and last command of a submarine. Ordered in April 1945 to proceed to Norway, the U 977 embarked on a remarkable voyage that was to take it to the Argentine 4 months later. All in all, this was a highly informative, colorful, and insightful book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Any reader who loves stories of adventures on the high seas will delight in reading "U-BOAT 977."...more
This concise book represents the story of a unique individual. Marion E. Carl was, perhaps, one of the finest aviators who ever lived - FULL STOP. A nThis concise book represents the story of a unique individual. Marion E. Carl was, perhaps, one of the finest aviators who ever lived - FULL STOP. A natural pilot, he soloed after 2 hours of dual instruction. He later went on to become the U.S. Marine Corps' first fighter ace, seeing action at the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal during the Second World War. (A little more than 20 years later, Carl commanded a Marine combat air wing in Vietnam, flying several missions himself.)
Carl became known for achieving a number of "firsts." He became the first Marine to fly a helicopter, the first Marine to land a jet on an aircraft carrier, and he also set a number of altitude and speed records. Carl also was an outstanding test pilot, and by the time, he retired from the USMC (United States Marine Corps), he had flown 14,000 flight hours. ...more
In my early teens, I first learned about the author Leonard Rochford from a book containing the stories of fighter aces from the First World War to ViIn my early teens, I first learned about the author Leonard Rochford from a book containing the stories of fighter aces from the First World War to Vietnam. So, when I learned earlier this year that his memoir "I CHOSE THE SKY" was being republished, I resolved to buy it as soon as it became available.
Rochford tells a straightforward, honest, and colorful story about his time as a fighter pilot on the Western Front with 3 Naval Squadron (later No. 203 Squadron RAF) during 1917 and 1918. He had been a few months short of 18 when the war broke out. Deemed too young for service, Rochford went on to attend engineering college in London, where he completed the first year course in June 1915. At this point in the memoir, Rochford adds: "The war had been in progress for nearly one year. I was now eighteen years old and I felt I ought to volunteer for service in the fighting forces. It seemed to me there were three choices, land, sea or sky, and as I was still keen on flying, I chose the sky. Having decided to apply for training as a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service, I went along to the Admiralty where I was told that they had received more applications than could be dealt with at present, many of them from young Canadians. I was asked to withhold my application until after my nineteenth birthday."
For Rochford, that was 5 months away. So, he went to one of the private flying schools in London and earned his private pilot's license or Royal Air Club Aviator's Certificate. His descriptions of the aircraft of the period, when aviation was regarded more as a foolhardy sport or hazardous undertaking, make vivid both the excitement and the perils of early flight. (After all, the Wright Brothers had successfully taken to the air only 12 years earlier.)
By the end of 1916, Rochford, having completed his flight training with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and earned his officer's commission, was assigned to 3 Naval Squadron, a newly formed fighter unit slated for service in France. The squadron arrived in France at a time (February 1917) when they would be up against an enemy with superior fighter aircraft (in the form of the sleek Albatros DIII scout which boasted 2 rapid firing Spandau machine guns to the one Vickers gun on the Sopwith Pup, synchronized to fire through the propeller arc) and better trained pilots. For example, Jasta 11, which was the squadron on the opposite side of the lines commanded by the Red Baron himself, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen.
The memoir chronicles Rochford's combat service in considerable detail, giving the reader a tangible feel of the frenetic, peripatetic life of the frontline pilot. There are also several photographs (situated in 2 "pockets" of the book), which show much of Rochford's time at the Front (he flew both the Sopwith Pup and the redoubtable Sopwith Camel in combat), as well as several aircraft and airfields of the era.
Rochford, shortly before leaving France for Britain at war's end, summed up his service with the following remarks in his logbook:
"Left No 203 Squadron on the 9th December 1918 after being with them since 24th January 1917. I shall always remember those two years as among the happiest of my life. At all times we were all a happy family and stuck together through thick and thin."
"I CHOSE THE SKY" is an easily readable and engaging book that anyone who loves a good story will enjoy. ...more