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Charles Bracelen Flood (1929–2014)

Autor(a) de Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War

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About the Author

Charles Bracelen Flood is the author of twelve previous books, including the bestselling Lee: The Last Years and Grant and Sherman, which Salon com named one of the "Top 12 Civil War Books Ever Written." He is a past president of PEN American Center and has served on the governing bodies of the mostrar mais Authors League and the Authors Guild. Rood and his wife, Katherine, live in Richmond, Kentucky. mostrar menos
Image credit: Laura Wolfrom

Obras por Charles Bracelen Flood

Associated Works


Conhecimento Comum

Data de nascimento
Data de falecimento
Local de nascimento
Manhattan, New York, USA
Locais de residência
Richmond, Kentucky, USA
Harvard University (BA)



First to fly : the story of the Lafayette Escadrille, the American heroes who flew for France in World War I by Charles Bracelen Flood tells the stories of Americans who flew for France in World War I before the United States entered the war. When the war began, there were many Americans who wanted to fight to support France, but they could not legally join the French army since the US was officially neutral. However, a number of them did sign up for the French Foreign Legion and saw combat on the front lines. Eventually, some of them were trained as pilots in the new French flying corps. There was a push by several individuals to create one French aviation unit consisting entirely of American pilots, and the Lafayette Escadrille was the result. This book tells the stories of a number of the American pilots who served in the Lafayette Escadrille.

Many of the Americans whose stories are told led colorful lives. We learn about their lives at the front and what it was like in the air. We see how fragile the airplanes were at that time, only a decade after the first flight. The Americans had to face German pilots who were much better trained and more experienced. The book also gives us a look at life behind the lines, including the story of Alice Weeks, whose son signed up to fight. She moved to Paris to be closer to him, and her place there became a home away from home for many of the Americans in France.

I learned many things in this book, such as how the pilots often flew at high altitude in open cockpits, leading to frozen faces, arms and hands, etc. There was also the toll on the French civilians. One Escadrille pilot told the story about attending a party with young French women, and the Countess hosting the party told him about one of the girls (similar to the other young women there): "She's one of fifty in her family, and there's only four men left. Their husbands, their fathers, their brothers are all dead."

The book is really just a collection of the stories of some of the Americans who served in the Escadrille. I had hoped to learn more about how the Escadrille was actually formed, but it is more alluded to rather than the author providing a clear explanation of how it came about. The book also tells us that the first seven men to join the Escadrille were known as the founders. While we hear the stories of quite a few of them, Flood never explicitly lists the founders' names. I also wish the book had an index.

First to Fly provides a valuable service in collecting the stories of the Americans who served in the Lafayette Escadrille and bringing the realities of air warfare in World War I back to life. However, I would have preferred if it had a stronger framework explaining just how the Escadrille was brought into being to hang the stories on. Overall, it is a worthwhile book, but I would have given it a higher rating if there was a little more of the historical background included.
… (mais)
atozgrl | 2 outras críticas | Mar 14, 2023 |
The most fascinating chapters are at the start, the successive professional failures of Grant and Sherman prior to the war and their more or less stumbling into positions of command. The mid-bits are a gloss of Civili War history, rehash for anyone who's already soaking in this stuff anyway. Picks up again at the end with a vivid picture of the last weeks of the war, the atmosphere in Washington following Lincoln's assassination and the Grand Review of the victorious Union armies. Rapid fire epilogue blasts through Grant/Sherman's post-war careers as an obligation. Makes me want to read their memoirs for more detail.… (mais)
tmdblya | 8 outras críticas | Dec 29, 2020 |
First to Fly: The Story of the Lafayette Escadrille, the American Heroes Who Flew For France in World War I by Charles Bracelen Flood is a collection of short informative true stories of Americans at war, before America was at war. Flood was born in Manhattan and graduated from Harvard, where he was a member of Archibald MacLeish’s noted creative writing seminar, English S, and was on the literary board of the Harvard Lampoon. He is a past president of the American Center of PEN, the international writers’ organization, and has served on the governing bodies of the Authors League and Authors Guild.

Growing up I was fascinated with World War I, especially with the development of combat aircraft. While other kids were talking about F-111s and F-14s I was much more interested in SPADs and Sopwith Camels. I read about the war and still regularly re-read Ernest K Gann's In the Company of Eagles. As a middle-aged adult, I am still fascinated by the war and how it shaped the twentieth century.

Flood bases his book on the members of the Lafayette Escadrille, Americans who volunteered to fight for France in the first world war. America was still neutral and its citizens could not legally fight in the war, but joining the French Foreign Legion was a viable loophole. Some Americans joined the Legion and eventually found their way to pilot training. Other Americans volunteered to fly, and entrance into the into the program was rather lax as Flood tells of a one-eyed American passing the eye exam. France needed help and Americans were willing to step up with visions of glory. Thirty-nine Americans flew for the Lafayette Escadrille and ten would die in service including Kiffin Rockwell who scored the squadron’s first victory.

There were colorful pilots. Bert Hall was a con man and a liar, but also produced some of the most interesting stories including of how he got caught up in the Russian Revolution while training new Russian pilots. He tried to escape back into Europe, but was turned back and crossed Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, jumped a freighter to the US and ended up back in France. Edward Genet, tired of waiting for the US to enter the war, deserted the US Navy to fight for France. Genet said, “If I die wrap me in the French flag, but place the two colors upon my grave to show I died for two countries.” On April 17, 1917 he was killed by anti-aircraft fire and buried according to his wishes. Ironically, dying for two countries is what happened. Although Genet was still in the Lafayette Escadrille, America had entered the war on April 2nd making Genet the first official American casualty. Bigger than life people also had bigger than life pets like Whiskey and Soda, two lion cubs, the mascots of the squadron.

War is hell and life in planes though romanticized was also hell. Freezing at altitude facing a fiery death was a more probable outcome than glory. Even worst of time pilots were able to make the best of it. Stories of pilots flying behind enemy lines to ferry back wine or capturing a downed German pilot before he could burn his plane by punching him in the face. The German was outraged not by being shot down, but that another pilot resorted to using his hands in a fight. Flood brings the story of the horrors and the lighter side of the war to light. I wish I had this book while I was growing up. It would have made a great addition to my collection. First to Fly is a great read for all ages interested in World War I.

… (mais)
evil_cyclist | 2 outras críticas | Mar 16, 2020 |
Very interesting description of the friendship between Grant and Sherman during the Civil War, and their key roles in winning the war. Charles Bracelen Flood has attempted to explore this unique relationship in "Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War." Beginning with their backgrounds, he shows their similarities. He then goes on to demonstrate the growing trust between the two generals during the early years of the war.
buffalogr | 8 outras críticas | Nov 4, 2018 |


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