The Ottumwa Courier

September 4, 2013

Behind the scenes of war

By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OSKALOOSA — Plenty of war movies include adventures of fighter pilots, bomber crews and other airmen. But what about the professionals who trained these heroes?

In his first book, "They Gave You Wings," Arden Wilson tells the story he witnessed firsthand while he was an Army Air Force pilot in 1944: the beginnings of the U.S. Air Force.

"Through the years, I compiled notes for the manuscript, and after retiring I spent time writing the story," said Wilson, a former Air Force pilot and flight instructor who now lives in Oskaloosa.

He was visiting Ottumwa to talk about his World War II book, which is available through Amazon.com.

"I thought people might be interested," he said. "I wanted them to know about it."

Though based on history Wilson was a part of, he says the characters in the book are fictional and are there to help him tell the story.

Wilson himself started as a military pilot. After he left the Air Force, he eventually returned to flying as a civilian instructor, training young Air Force pilots until 1960. Years later, he retired in Iowa, where he was an accountant. Yet it may be obvious to plane enthusiasts that a pilot wrote the book. It starts out with a series of diagrams showing rolls, turns and "Maximum Performance Maneuvers."

But the fictionalized biography "They Gave You Wings" is about people, too, not just flying.

"To those who by choice or assignment served in the training of pilots at the time of that great national crisis, this story is humbly dedicated," he wrote in the forward.

The book follows two cadets from flight training through to their World War II combat experiences. Some parts of the book are actual events from Wilson's military life, he said.

"The intent is to bring forth a history ... of a period ... that built the current U.S. Air Force ... during the time of war, as well honoring the efforts of the instructors in all the services," Wilson added.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark