The Millionaire's Unit

The Aristocratic Flyboys Who Fought the Great War and Invented America's Air Might

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In 1916, just thirteen years after the Wright brothers’ first flight, a group of twenty-eight college students, nearly all of them from Yale, decided to try the new sport of motorized flight and formed a campus flying club. The boys had more than fun in mind. Believing that America would soon enter the war raging in Europe, they wanted to help their woefully unprepared nation (which at the time had an air force smaller than Bulgaria’s) ready itself for what was sure to be a hard fight. Most were just teenagers, but they were also the sons of America’s early 20th century aristocracy - one a Rockefeller, one whose father headed the Union Pacific railroad empire, others who traced their roots to the Mayflower, several who counted friends and relatives among Presidents and statesmen - and all fabulously wealthy. These sons of the elite were schooled in heroism even before their nation called upon them. America was going to go to war: they would lead the way; they knew that it could cost many lives; and that just made it all the more right that they be the first to fly into battle. This is their story. 'Vivid descriptions of aerial combat ...but the true pleasure of this book is in his portraits of the six principal players and his elucidation of their deep-rooted sense of patriotic duty and camaraderie' Daily Telegraph

About Marc Wortman

Marc Wortman is an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in numerous magazines. His interest in World War I aviation began with a childhood fascination with the heroes, romance and lore of a long-ago military era, through histories and biographies as well as popular culture, including early films and the beloved Snoopy and the Red Baron battles in the Peanuts cartoons. He has read widely in the history of war, especially World War I, and 20th century American history and culture. As a writer and editor affiliated with Yale, he came to know the historic world of the American WASP Establishment with close ties to the University and began to research their involvements in American wars, which led led him to the untold story of the Yale Unit. Wortman attended Brown University and received a doctorate in comparative literature from Princeton University where he taught literature and writing. He also taught in a college programme for inmates at the maximum security Rahway State Prison in New Jersey. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife and two children.

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