The Brotherhood of War: The Aviators

The Aviators is the 8th novel in the "Brotherhood of War" series by W.E.B. Griffin. In order the books in the series are:
-The Lieutenants
-The Captains
-The Majors
-The Colonels
-The Berets
-The Generals
-The New Breed
-The Aviators
-Special Ops

The Brotherhood of War series was written throughout the 1980's (although the last book came out years later as a tag on). The novels are closely knit, and don't stand alone, and should be read in order.

The novels follow the careers of a handful of US Army officers through roughly two decades. It starts in the closing days of World War II, and progresses to the middle of the Vietnam Conflict. I got a real sense of day to day army living, as well as the importance of politics in advancing a military career. It is masterfully plotted as the characters paths cross multiple times. There is also plenty of nostalgia and "Americana" thrown in to keep the whole enterprise interesting from the cars, the old airlines, and the product references sprinkled throughout. It is also well done as the characters, as more senior officers, recall their more youthful endeavors, which we, the audience, know from the earlier novels. By the end of the whole thing, many of the characters have the feeling of an old friend of the family.

What is even more fascinating, is that the novels also impart a fair amount of military history. The novels show us the closing days of the European theater of WW II, the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and the lesser known Congo Rebellion. Even more intriguing, the novels chronicle the transformation of the US Army into a much more mobile fighting force able to respond and adapt more quickly. The two intertwined, and sometimes competing themes behind the transformation are Special Forces (focused on in The Berets and The New Breed), and the rise of Army Aviation (focused on in The Aviators).

The Aviators focuses on a Captain John Oliver who becomes General Bellmon's assistant. We know the General, and his entire family well from previous novels. While Captain Oliver is officially the "aide-de-camp," they more affectionately refer to the position as the "dog robber." The Aviators gives us an account of the Captain's role in greasing the gears for the General as they attempt to create an Army air mobile division, against the Air Force's opposition.

Like a retired uncle of senior military rank, Griffin masterfully spins a tale of these officer's lives against the backdrop of the army's evolution. What results is a classic American tale with enough historical accuracy that leaves me wondering if perhaps most of it really is true. Short of signing up for a tour of duty, this may be the most inside of the Army that most of us will get. This is the grittiest inside story of the army that I have read to date. Clear your bookshelf and enjoy!

Overall Grade: A

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