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Book Review: Fly Navy: Discovering the Extraordinary People and Enduring Spirit of Naval Aviation by Alvin Townley

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Fly Navy: Discovering the Extraordinary People and Enduring Spirit of Naval Aviation by Alvin Townley is a non-fiction book about the real world adventures of people in the U.S. Navy. The book focuses on real people and real stories.

The book is divided into five parts; Home Port, The Atlantic, The Arabian Sea, The Eastern Seas, and The Pacific. Each of these parts is divided into more descriptive sections.

For example, Home Port actually talks about the beginning of the Navy’s aviation program while The Pacific talks about POWs, survivors, etc.

Fly Navy is a spirited book, almost an advertisement for the Navy much like the ones often featured in the movie Top Gun.

I could certainly sense Mr. Townley’s enthusiasm towards the men and women in uniform who perform a tough, often thankless, vigilant and very responsible duty on a daily basis, to their best of their ability. That is the strength of the book. These people should be celebrated and, to the author’s credit, he lets them do much of the talking.

Mr. Townley’s writing is inspirational. Tales about the Navy culture, camaraderie, and career are all very rousing and moving. Any kid who thinks about joining the Navy should read this book. However, not all of the book is glowing anecdotes of patriotic sons and daughters, some of the stories are about crashes, lost shipmates and POWs.

Part of the book also recounts the history of naval aviation, how the first sea plane came about, and the history changing effort to launch off ships. The stories of a World War II fighter pilot through those of pilots supporting ground troops in the Afghan theater are also retold.

Chronicles about the training were especially fascinating to me. Not just what a pilot goes through today, but, for example, what it took Navy aviator Alan Shepard to become an astronaut. In an especially poignant section, Mr. Townley writes about the sacrifices of the families who are left behind as well.

The subtitle of the book, however — Discovering the Extraordinary People and Enduring Spirit of Naval Aviation — is a bit misleading; this book is about the Navy aircraft carrier personnel. While the author certainly acknowledge other naval aviators (Marines, Coast Guard, helicopters, etc.) it starts and ends with that acknowledgement.

Overall, this is a very interesting book, well made with wonderful photography. The personal stories of those in the proverbial trenches are fascinating and draw a vivid image of the life on an aircraft carrier.

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