Skies of Thunder: The Deadly World War II Mission over the Roof of the World

The often overlooked and extremely chaotic China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of operations in World War II receives long-overdue treatment in Skies of Thunder by bestselling historian Caroline Alexander (The Endurance). When Japan's armies burst into Burma (now Myanmar) in 1942, they seized the only ground route from India to China. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, eager "to keep China in the war," ordered a ferry operation to fly thousands of tons of supplies and weapons over the Himalayas to China's nationalist leader (and demanding ally), Chiang Kai-shek. The aerial route from India to China confronted the most experienced pilots with two critical threats: the dangerous terrain known as "the Hump" and often violent weather.

Alexander relies on memoirs, pilot records, and crash logs to recount a bevy of blood-chilling horror stories, as well as the psychological deterioration of those who "flew in fear." This unique condition even had its own diagnosis among airmen: "Humpitis." Alexander also goes beyond the pilots' stories to set the Hump operation against the broader American political and military goals of the CBI theater, including an elegantly encapsulated account of the second Burma campaign of 1944. She cuts through the confusing command structure that overlapped between American, British, and Chinese forces and draws vivid portraits of its (often) prickly personalities, offering an especially insouciant analysis of American General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, whose "pathological loathing of the British" made military success nearly impossible. In Skies of Thunder, Alexander wrangles multiple strands into a seamless and illuminating piece of modern war history. --Peggy Kurkowski, book reviewer and copywriter in Denver

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