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by Edwards Park
Smithsonian Press 1977, 1989
Her Pilot's Love Story
Edward Parks flew in the South Pacific with the 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron, known as the "Flying Buzzsaws". Parks begins this book with an introduction and explanation. "Practically everything in this book actually happened, so it not really a novel. This book a wonderfully written with lavish visual descriptions and expression of the intangible feelings associated with being a young, impressionable inexperience, and far from home.
Nanette was the nickname of the author's P-39 Airacobra, a plane that he describe the type as "She is beautiful and graceful at her best, while quirky and difficult to handle when not lovingly handled." The metaphor of women and machine drives the author's descriptions of his love affair with this quirky mate. "Even the planes unique vibrations, like when the P-39's massive 37mm nose cannon is fired has a mild sexual stimulating feeling for the pilot who is nearly straddling the gun."
Parks openly admits he was not the best pilot, especially because of the quirks of P-39, like its tendency to ground loop if the take off or landing are fouled. According to him, under peacetime conditions, his poor flying would have washed him out of the Air Corps, but now they need everyone in the air. He honestly describes the smell of the cockpit of a warbird: the odor of aviation fuel and a trace of vomit. When all guns are fired, the cockpit fills with smoke. Upon landing, ones flight suit is drenched with sweat. Hardly as romantic an endeavor as the outside world would imaging.
Every page of the book is full of lavish descriptions. Unlike other narratives that deal mostly with the military details of their service, Parks devotes most of his narrative to the less tangible and more emotional side of what it was like to be a disposable pilot in a war being waged in an unfamiliar land. Descriptions like Parks first impressions of New Guinea, when he stepped out of his plane at Jackson Airfield (7-Mile Drome) near Port Moresby wrote: "The heat solid and palpable, smells rich enough to grow crops, the colors so sharp and pure they make your eyes wince. The sun has an undiffused brilliance and when it touches something green, like a leaf, it isn't your everyday humdrum leaf-green. It's nature's finest Goddamn green and it socks you right in the eyeball. The same with blue sky and black forest-tree trucks and red soil and white cumulus clouds and cobalt blue water and the red sun rising. The colors are so intense they make you visually drunk."
This book is a wonderful read for anyone who wants to learn what a young pilot in New Guinea was thinking and feeling. This book reads itself, and each page turn reveals more descriptions and revelations about what it was really like fly and fight in the Air Corps in New Guinea.
Also by Edwards Park: Angels Twenty: A Young American Flier A Long Way From Home
Profile of author Edwards Park
Review by Justin Taylan
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