Book Review: Seized by the Sun

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Seized by the Sun
The Life and Disappearance of World War II Pilot Gertrude Tompkins
by James W. Ure
Chicago Review Press

Teens & YA
Pub Date 01 Jul 2017

I am voluntarily reviewing Seized by the Sun through Chicago Review Press and Netgalley:

Today’s U.S Air-Force was originally called the Air-Service.

Gertrude “Tommy Tompkins” was a women’s airforce pilot. Gertrude came from a wealthy family with roots deep in New Jersey, nothing that would hint that one day this well bred girl would come to fly fighter planes.

Gertrude was born on October, 16,1911. The last born child in the family. Gertrude was educated at the Bergen School for girls. School was difficult for Gertrude not due to the academics but the fact that she stuttered.

Gertrude was inspired by Roosevelt to not let her stutter stop her, and she decided to go for her own adventures.

After graduating from College, Gertrude was encouraged to travel. She was encourage to her travel to Europe.

In 1936 Elizabeth Tompkins Whitall was struck with Polio and Gertrude became her companion throughout the next year, offering her moral support and friendship, as she had a nurse to care for her physically.

In 1939 and 1940, Gertrude read in the New York Times how the nation was changing. A singer named Frank Sinatra made his debut, Animated motion pictures became popular, McDonald’s opened it’s first restaurant in San Bernandino.

In late 1940 or early 1941 Gertrude met Stanley Michael Kolendorski, the man she would love the rest of her short life.

On September 10, 1942 a New York Herald Tribune headline read: Women pilot to fly for army.

Gertrude arrived at the Wasp’s 318th Army Air Forces flying Training Detachment, was a busy base three miles from downtown Sweetwater, a town of about 10,000 in Central Texas.

The Woman had to pay their own way through flight school but the government paid for the men to travel and for flight school. Women also had to pay 1.65 a day for their room and board whereas men got there’s free.

Most of the instructors were male. Some of the men on the base were openly hostile to the women.

As 1943 progressed and more women were flying, the death’s amongst wasps were mounting.

After a month in Peco’s, Gertrude was assigned to pursuit school where she would learn to fly pursuit or fighter planes.

It was on Silver Wings that Gertrude Thompson discovered who she was, what she was meant to do.

Gertrude graduated fighter school in Brownsville, she would be one of 126 to be flying one of the fastest and most powerful single engine fighter planes.

On October.06 1944 Gertrude sat in the Cockpit of the new P-51 D, it had only been a month since her wedding.

The last words she was heard to speak was “Tower, this is Mustang 669. Request clearance for take off.” After that she was never heard from again, and for four days no one realized she was missing.

On October 30, 1944, Gertrude was declared missing. It remains unclear if the crash were a deliberate one, or an accidental one.

I give Seized by the Sun five out of five stars.

Happy Reading!

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