By Barry S. Martin
Reviewed by Angie Mangino
Rating: 4 stars
In this biography of Royal Leonard, the author introduces readers to a pilot whose flights involved him in the Golden Age of Aviation (1925-1941) as well as in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945.) Before World War II, Leonard worked as a pilot in China for a Chinese warlord, and eventually serving as Chaing Kai-shek’s personal pilot. During the war, he commanded the Flying Tigers Bomber group.
What this reviewer found most interesting, however, was the way Martin informs readers not only of Leonard’s flying missions, but also about the man he was. Not just a chronological listing of exploits, this book reveals Leonard’s personal feelings about his flights. It gives an added insight into aviation history. Throughout the telling of his aviation experiences, his personal life is part of the story.
Readers learn Leonard’s background, from his birth on April 3,1905 in Madison, Wisconsin; the family moving to just outside Waco, Texas when he was four; Leonard as a teenager; at the University of Wisconsin, where the flying bug bit him in his sophomore year, deciding to become a pilot. Western Air Express hired him in 1928 as a mail pilot, he served in the Colorado National Guard, took part in air races such as the Bendix Trophy Air Race in 1935, and later that year received a cable from a former classmate asking, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO FLY FOR CHINA?”
A note on original sources, abbreviations, end notes, bibliography, and index at the end of the book provide the substantiation, making this biography an important reference in aviation history, as well as an interesting story of Royal Leonard’s life.