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Samuel Hynes: Death in the Air

Updated: May 1, 2022

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The Rumboogiecrew were lucky. They flew 25 missions over enemy territory, including some of the most dangerous during the early part of the war, yet they survived, came home, and rejoined their families. Admittedly, flying with a crew on a B-17 bomber was a different experience than flying solo in a fighter: the crew had each other to depend on while it was up to just one man in his fighter to engage and destroy the enemy.

One of those solo flyers was Samuel Hynes. Born on August 29, 1924 in Chicago, he served as a fighter pilot with the Marines during World War 2. After the war, he returned home, sobered by his combat experiences, and worked as a scholar, teacher, literary critic, author and university professor at Northwestern and Princeton. He once described flying as “a life, like a sex life, that no normal guy would give up if he didn’t absolutely have to.” His diaries and other writings about war included body-strewn battlefields and rat-infested trenches as he attempted to explain to people who weren’t there what war was like. “I was a true believer in the religion of flight,” Hynes wrote in his book, Flights of Passage. Professor Hynes died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey on October 9, 2019, at the age of 95 from congestive heart failure. In the clip below, he discusses how an aviator’s death during combat is different from that of other military personnel.

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