Richard Reeves
Daring Young Men

Daring Young Men

The Heroism and Triumph of The Berlin Airlift-June 1948-May 1949

Pub. Date: January, 2010 (336 pages)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1416541195
ISBN-13: 978-1416541196

"Daring Young Men" has reached #29 on The New York Times Bestseller List. The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General Norton Schwartz, announced this month that it is one of the ten books on his personal reading list for the year and recommends it to all officers interested in augmenting leadership skills. The Christian Science Monitor has named Daring Young Men as the best nonfiction book of the year.

From the bestselling presidential biographer, a stirring tale of young men in old planes who achieved the "impossible.": with planes landing and taking off 90 seconds apart supplying the food and fuel and medicines to supply a city of more than two million people by air for almost a year.

In the early hours of June 26, 1948, phones began ringing across America, waking up the airmen of World War II — pilots, navigators and mechanics — who were finally beginning normal lives with new houses, new jobs, new wives and new babies. Some were given just 48 hours to report to local military bases. The President, Harry S. Truman, was recalling them to active duty to try to save the desperate people of the western sectors of Berlin, the enemy capital many of them had bombed to rubble only three years before.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had ordered a blockade of the city, isolating the people of West Berlin, using hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers to close off all land and water access to the city. He was gambling that he could drive out the small detachments of American, British and French occupation troops because their only option was to stay and watch Berliners starve — or retaliate by starting World War III. The situation was impossible, Truman was told by his national security advisers including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His answer: "We stay in Berlin. Period." That was when the phones started ringing and local police began banging on doors to deliver telegrams to the vets.

Drawing on service records and hundreds of interviews in the United States, Germany, and Great Britain, Reeves tells the stories of these civilian airmen, the successors to Stephen Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers," ordinary Americans called to extraordinary tasks — again.

They did the impossible, living in barns and muddy tents, flying over Soviet-occupied territory day and night, trying to stay awake, making it up as they went along and ignoring Russian fighters and occasional anti-aircraft fire trying to drive them to hostile ground.The Berrlin Airlift changed the world. It ended when Stalin backed down and lifted the blockade, but only after the bravery and sense of duty of those young heroes had bought the Allies enough time to create a new West Germany and sign the mutual defense agreement called NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And then they went home again. Some of them forgot where they had parked their cars after they got the call.

Reviews

"Re-evaluating what has been called the first battle of the cold war, noted presidential biographer and syndicated columnist Reeves (President Kennedy) takes a closer look at the courageous young American and British pilots who, in order to bring food, fuel, and medicine to a Berlin blockaded by Russia, flew aging cargo planes into Soviet airspace in the fragile post-WWII years. Vying with the West for control of Berlin and Germany , Stalin choked off the defeated German capital with 400,000 Red Army soldiers, and the Washington hawks called for war with Moscow. But Truman, whom Reeves calls a hero for persevering against skeptics, pursued the airlift instead. Using diaries, letters, and government documents, Reeves shows the suffering of the vanquished German people, the calculated coldness of Soviet officials, and the individual pilots who risked their lives to save their former enemies. This probing book reveals the intricate talks that led to the unraveling of Stalin's demands, the partitioning of Germany, and the creation of NATO. Reeves gives us a mesmerizing portrait of America at its best when challenged by Russia's tyranny." 16 pages of b&w photos. Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

"As the book's title suggests, Richard Reeves's main emphasis is on the human side. At centre-stage are General Lucius Clay, the iron-willed military governor of the American sector of Berlin, and the workaholic logistics chief William Tunner, who during the war had supervised a trans-Himalayan military airlift. Behind them stands the figure of Harry Truman, the American president who overruled his entire military, diplomatic and security staff to insist that Berlin be saved." The Economist

"...wonderfully told by Richard Reeves in "Daring Young Men," his account of the Berlin Blockade and the heroic efforts to defeat it. Could Berlin be supplied by air? "Absolutely impossible," said the American military governor, Gen. Lucius Clay. The British were optimistic, though; they would not only feed their own garrison but have a go at supplying the Berliners as well." The Wall Street Journal

"Richard Reeves, a bestselling author of three presidential biographies and several other books, has delved into declassified archives and provided fresh insights into the power clashes between Truman, Stalin and other leading figures... But the real value of Reeves's book lies in the remarkable human sagas he collected through hundreds of interviews with uncelebrated pilots, mechanics, weathermen and ground controllers who sustained the airlift for almost a year." The Washington Post

"...Reeves has helped to ensure that this enormous accomplishment will not fade from view. ... The individual stories Reeves tells are illuminating and often very moving. " The Christian Science Monitor


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