I had one of my life’s best 24-hour pushes in New York: at Bantam, I lunched with John Flicker, my acquiring editor (thanks, John!), and Nita Taublib , who might be the most well-read person I’ve ever met, gave one of my best-ever Enduring Patagonia slide shows at the Explorer’s Club, dined and swilled fabulous Italian wine with my agent, Ronald, Farley Chase, and three other friends, guzzled beers at McSorley’s in the East Village, danced until dawn on the tables of a club in Alphabet City, walked and subwayed back to mid-town, and signed my name on the China’s Wings contract, still wearing my suit from the night before. It was glorious.
I thought I’d sold a book that would very much focus on CNAC’s crucial and pioneering role in World War II’s Hump Airlift – the massive airlift the Allies prosecuted from India to China, 1942-1945. For the proposal, I’d focused nearly all of my research on the Hump, and I anticipated dealing with the airline’s pre-Pearl Harbor adventures with one or two flashback chapters. The first hint that those early years might prove much more substantial came the following day, when I borrowed a friend’s car and drove out to suburban New Jersey to spend an afternoon perusing black and white photo albums with Shirley Wilke Mosley, daughter of O.C. Wilke, who’d been CNAC’s chief mechanic from 1929-1940, when the airline was based in Shanghai, Hankow, Chungking, and Hong Kong.
At cnac.org: O.C. Wilke