China’s Wings

China’s Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight

Buy China’s Wings at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.com, or through any other bookseller.

“exciting”; “inhabited by a host of interesting characters”; “displaying Mr. Crouch’s talents as a researcher, portraitist and chronicler” – China’s Wings reviewed in The Wall Street Journal by the late Michael Ybarra.

“In China’s Wings, Gregory Crouch recalls the remarkable encounter between an ancient civilization and the most modern technology in the world, as intrepid Americans and their Chinese partners struggled to establish a sophisticated air network over a vast land that barely knew electricity.  This gripping book will transport you to a fascinating lost time.” – #1 New York Times bestselling author James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys, and Imperial Cruise

In World War II magazine, historian Richard R. Muller reviews China’s Wings as “a first-rate saga of aviation, wartime politics, and business that manages to be gripping without sacrificing scholarly rigor,” a “compelling narrative,” and “an exceedingly appealing combination of adventure story, aviation and military history, and earthy travelogue.”

“Exceptionally well told… Clear and vivid… Will both inform specialists and captivate casual readers” –  The Michigan War Studies Review

“diligently researched, superbly told”; “a first-rate work of history”; “especially relevant”; should do a lot to transport the appreciation of aviation’s impact on modern history out onto center stage” – The Pan Am Historical Foundation

“an engaging tale”; “belongs on the same shelf as [Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken] and [Erik Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts]” – The New Jersey Star-Ledger

“West Point grad Crouch brings us a story that’s part adventure, part unearthed history [and] not just for history buffs.” – Library Journal

“excellent” – The Huffington Post

“dramatically rendered and obsessively researched” – Kirkus Reviews

“vividly written”; “rousing story” – James D. Hornfischer, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Neptune’s Inferno.

“Crouch tells the history of the China National Aviation Corporation exceptionally well, shedding much light on a very turbulent time in China. His writing is clear and vivid, particularly when he recounts the unbelievable exploits of CNAC pilots, bold, colorful personalities—among them the unforgettable Chinese-American Moon Fun Chin. China’s Wings will both inform specialists and captivate casual readers.” – The Michigan War Studies Review.

“a riveting book” – Rudy Maxa, “The Savvy Traveler”

“a wonderful story” – The Maui News

“tight”; “lively”; “vivid”; “entertaining”; “sparkling”; “can be placed alongside Barbara Tuchman’s Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945” – Noozhawk

“fascinating” & “highly recommended” – the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

Signing China’s Wings at Bookshop West Portal

A 30-page China’s Wings excerpt posted by Bantam

China’s Wings related posts on this site.

China’s Wings & my author page on Facebook.

China’s Wings on Pinterest.

What follows is the flap copy from the China’s Wings book jacket:

“From the acclaimed author of Enduring Patagonia comes a dazzling tale of aerial adventure set against the roiling backdrop of war in Asia. The incredible real-life saga of the flying band of brothers who opened the skies over China in the years leading up to World War II—and boldly safeguarded them during that conflict—China’s Wings is one of the most exhilarating untold chapters in the annals of flight.

On the left, William Langhorne Bond

At the center of the maelstrom is the book’s courtly, laconic protagonist, American aviation executive William Langhorne Bond. In search of adventure, he arrives in Nationalist China in 1931, charged with turning around the turbulent nation’s flagging airline business, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). The mission will take him to the wild and lawless frontiers of commercial aviation: into cockpits with daredevil pilots flying—sometimes literally—on a wing and a prayer; into the dangerous maze of Chinese politics, where scheming warlords and volatile military officers jockey for advantage; and into the boardrooms, backrooms, and corridors of power inhabited by such outsized figures as Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; foreign minister T. V. Soong; Generals Arnold, Stilwell, and Marshall; and legendary Pan American Airways founder Juan Trippe.

CNAC pilots wings on a map of the Hump (Both used by CNAC pilot Joe Michiels)

With the outbreak of full-scale war in 1941, Bond and CNAC are transformed from uneasy spectators to active participants in the struggle against Axis imperialism. Drawing on meticulous research, primary sources, and extensive personal interviews with participants, Gregory Crouch offers harrowing accounts of brutal bombing runs and heroic evacuations, as the fight to keep one airline flying becomes part of the larger struggle for China’s survival. He plunges us into a world of perilous night flights, emergency water landings, and the constant threat of predatory Japanese warplanes. When Japanese forces capture Burma and blockade China’s only overland supply route, Bond and his pilots must battle shortages of airplanes, personnel, and spare parts to airlift supplies over an untried five-hundred-mile-long aerial gauntlet high above the Himalayas—the infamous “Hump”—pioneering one of the most celebrated endeavors in aviation history.

Moon Chin, one of China’s Wings main supporting characters, at Bookshop West Portal (with Renee Robertson and his neice, Lili)

A hero’s-eye view of history in the grand tradition of Lynne Olson’s Citizens of London, China’s Wings takes readers on a mesmerizing journey to a time and place that reshaped the modern world.

Buy China’s Wings at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.com, or through any other bookseller.

Shaking Moon Chin’s hand

 

Moon Chin in 1941

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are some really wonderful China’s Wings testimonials in the comments below…

100 Comments

  1. Hey Gregory!

    I am very enthusiastic about China’s Wings. When do you expect it to be available for general purchase? I will build a link to your website off of my Shanghai page. I enjoyed your website very much and wish you great success in your endeavors

    Cheers!
    Jamie Dodson,
    Author of the award winning Nick Grant Adventures series,
    Flying Boat & Spies, China Clipper, and coming soon – Mission: Shanghai

    1. Thanks for checking in, Jamie, and I’m glad you’re excited… I think the book will be available in late January of 2012, with its “official” release date scheduled for late February. I’d be delighted for you to build a link. Thanks! I’ll be checking your site out soon, too. Cheers, Greg

  2. Greg,

    I just came across this today, sounds very interesting! Will have to get a copy for my grandsons to help them remember their great grandfather by.

    Donny Griffin

    1. Thanks, Tom! I should get my advance copies before the end of the month. One of which I’m taking straight across the Bay to give to Moon.

  3. Congratulations, Gregory! I will be at Chaucer’s, March 14 for your book signing along with other Marymount friends of your mother’s and her indomitable spirit…. and will get a copy as soon as it’s available! Can’t wait to read it!

    1. Helena! That’s fabulous news. Can you email me your mailing address so I can send you my publication announcement? Looking forward to seeing you and the rest of the gang. Best, Greg

  4. Look forward to reading it. Sand, Wind, and Stars, by St Exupery, first clued me in to ideals of adventure in early aviation that are similar to those in alpine climbing. I wonder if this will inspire a similar feeling.

  5. Hi Greg,

    Thanks again for such a motivating presentation at the Rock, Ice and Mountain Club last month. In fact I was so moved, that I have all but bought my flight ticket to Bariloche to catch up with my daughter to head down south from there. Also, I got started last night reading Enduring Patagonia and am really taken by your writing style – I can’t wait to get back home tonight to resume. Any chance I can contact you with any questions I might have. Thanks again Alex (I’m the guy who helped set up the AV gear in Santa Rosa) alex.sebastian@sonoma-county.org

    Any ch

    1. Great news, Alex! I’m so glad to have helped provide a little bit of that inspiration. I really enjoyed doing the RIM show, and I totally appreciated the great job you did getting me set up. I’m also happy to hear that you’re enjoying Enduring Patagonia. Feel free to call anytime.

      Cheers, Greg

  6. Congratulations Greg!! Only a few more days to go. We convinced Moon to attend your book signing at Bookshop West Portal on March 13th.

    Craig

  7. Just got my copy in the mail from Amazon. Thrilled to start reading it. I spent three years in the Far East in the Marines flying all over. I then flew with The Flying Tiger Line with such greats as Duke Hedman and Dick Rossi. Looking forward to reading about all the adventures and seeing how my adventures measure up. Thanks for a great book. Any chance you will be on the East Coast for a signing?

    1. Great news, Lee! As an FTL person you’ll certainly bump into quite a few old friends… most notably Joe Rosbert, whose epic survival story features prominently in the last part.

      As of yet I don’t have East Coast plans, but I’m certainly hoping either that Bantam will send me or that someone will invite me.

      Cheers, Greg

  8. Greg, After seeing and hearing your RIM presentation about your Patagonia adventures I could not resist China’s Wings. I have a vested interest since my mother lived in Shanghai during the time of your book. I have read the first 3 chapters and cannot put it down. The characters your portray and the landscape pictures are vivid and real. Can’t wait to finish dinner and get back to China’s Wings!!

  9. Hi Gregory,

    I just ordered your new book on CNAC from Amazon and looking forward very much to reading it. I see on the Title Page (Amazon Look Closer at Book feature) that some of my CNAC baggage labels were incorporated into the page’s graphic design, very cool.

    If you are interested I have some other CNAC labels that did not make it onto the airline’s website, as well as a very rare spectacular poster.

    Also, it was my great pleasure to know the late Bill Leary, who wrote the scholarly history on CNAC in 1976. I used to visit him at his home in Athens, GA, where I received an autographed copy of this volume (one of the prized items in my aviation library). He was really working on a trilogy of CNAC, CAT of Taiwan, and Air America. He got the first two done, but never completed Volume III. There is a possibility for your next book. All his archive is now at the University of Texas at Dallas, which has a lot of Air America material besides his stuff.

    Are you going to do any author lectures and signings in NYC?

    Best Regards.

    1. Dear Daniel,

      Thanks for checking in. I’m so pleased that you’ll read China’s Wings. I didn’t know you were the source for those labels. I fished them from Tom Moore at cnac.org and forwarded them to Bantam. I’ll make a webpage linking to your site — it’s wonderful. I would be VERY interested in any CNAC-related material I haven’t seen… can I make a big Daniel Kusrow post? That poster sounds fabulous. I’m especially dying to see that one. gregorycrouch@sbcglobal.net

      I met Bill in Hong Kong in 2005. We had a fascinating lunch together. Very engaging and interesting man. I would have loved for him to read China’s Wings.

      As of now, I don’t have NYC plans, although I’m certainly hoping some develop. One of the NYC booksellers would have to request me, I think… and they could perhaps be encouraged, too. :-)

      You (and others) might enjoy the “China’s Wings” page I’ve been building on Facebook.

      I’ve posted 60+ photos into an album there, and I’m trying to add a pic to it every day or so. I think it you “like” it you’ll have access.

      Best, Greg

  10. Thank you for such a detailed and well researched book; all your footnotes are very impressive. You have done an excellent job in writing about an important part of history with great accuracy!..it was indeed the “Golden Age of Flight.” from an author of military aviation history…

  11. As a retired Navy pilot, I enjoyed CHINA WINGS. I spent a good deal of time in Asia. But Perhaps the besttribute is:
    Remember June

    Dragon wings
    Across the bay,
    Hints of burning creosote
    New east to northeast Territories,
    Where sea eagles nest;
    A spring breeze soothes roiling seas.
    There too, explicable lavender voices
    Drone round engine songs
    Of old Kai Tak’s treachery—
    Before and after a colony reign.

    ©Richard Hargis, 2012

    1. That’s fabulous, Richard! I’ve never had a poem for a comment before. Very glad to hear you enjoyed China’s Wings. Thanks for making contact. Best, GC

      1. Hi Greg,
        Thought you’d like to know that I’m ordering a copy of China Wings for my bro’in-law who flew the HUMP in C-46’s. He owns a crop-dusting business in San Joaquin, CA and still flies and runs the business along with his two sons and grandson. He finds time to get out 1x wk & fly a Stearman. Cheers! Rich

  12. My daughter (who knows you) gave me your book to read, knowing I am interested in military history. As I started reading, I was thinking that the detail you were delivering was going to make it a slow read, but then I found myself at the end of the book! I loved the way you would give a short backtrack to explain the significance of a person or event. I have been exposed to much WW II history from the European and Pacific Theatres but never heard much about the Asian war. Now I know why, for the allies it turned out to be a sort of holding action, which you so ably explained. It is disconcerting to think of so much human suffering as a “holding action”,… war is just so inexplicable. Congratulations on a great book.

      1. Yes, I think you two first met in Patagonia? Didn’t you also write a book about Patagonia? I’ll have to give it a read also.

          1. Thanks, I’ll try it. But then if I show too much interest in climbing, Krista might try to force me up a mountain! Well, at least a cruise to Patagonia. You can save me some money and/or trouble if we just kept it between us. Good luck with both books, although it doesn’t seem you need any luck.

  13. Loved the book!! My dad, Joe Hardin, flew the hump with Bill Maher, Christy Hanks, Dick Rossi et al and I heard many stories of his time with CNAC. It was really great to learn the history of the airline and the context into which it fit. Sent copies to my sons and will inevitably continue to provide other family members with their own copy. Thank you for letting everyone know about this great venture and the people involved.

    1. Dear Leslie, that’s great news! Always a pleasure to hear from another CNAC scion. Thank you so much for passing the China’s Wings love on to other members of your family. Best, Greg

    2. Leslie,
      You should come to our C.N.A.C. Reunion in SFO in September. Also you should sign up for the Cannonball newsletter. We have lots of news you don’t want to miss, opening of C.N.A.C Musuem Display in Beijing, trip to Beijing. Capt Ken Healy ( C.N.A. C and World Airways ) will be at reunion talking about operation baby life out of Vietnam and much more.

      Peggy Maher C.N.A.C Association Pres.

  14. Hi Gregory,

    My brother-in-law, Al Grouleff, who flew the HUMP finished the book and said he liked it and it gave him closure. After the war, he tried to get on with PanAm, but they were all full-up, thus the cropdusting business. (He doesn’t do ‘puter.)

    1. Very glad to have the endorsement of an old Hump pilot, Richard. Thanks for passing the word. He must be a hot stick to survive the Hump AND a cropdusting career!

      Cheers, GC

  15. Finally a refreshing view of some historical insight that removes many ‘politically correct’ myths that have for too long touted the West’s misunderstandings of the orient’s culture and scale of social interactions. The lessons revealed are a preview of the intelligent challenges necessary for a future successful integration with China by the West.
    The following website enhances the nature of it all:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18784990

  16. Greg:

    Thank you for a such an excellent read. Really enjoyed the pace and writing in the book. The story between Moon and Doolittle is priceless. Going to Oshkosh next week, maybe I’ll see you around (or is the next book not about airplanes?)

    Luis Figarella

    1. Thanks for getting in touch, Luis. So glad to hear how much you enjoyed China’s Wings. I love that anecdote, too. Moon’s a national treasure as far as I’m concerned. Oshkosh will be great! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go. I’m still a little foggy about the next book, which is something I need to clear up.

      Cheers, GC

  17. I very much enjoy’d reading about the history of China ,the accuracy of these important events in history with a great story attached . I was wondering if perhaps we are related my great great great grandfather is James Monroe Crouch born July 03,1820 Washington ,TN

    1. Thanks, Dennis… glad you enjoyed China’s Wings. I’m not aware of any family connection to the James Monroe Crouch you mention. I’m a first generation immigrant myself — born in England of two English parents, both of whose family ties are deep into British soil. Cheers, GC

  18. re: Al Grouleff. He’s one all right. Does everything in Stearman like it’s an S1A Pitts. I tried doing some mild stuff (loops, etc), kinda like flying a John Deere tractor by its crank handle. I recommend aerobatics in the PT-17 as isometrics for all old pilots.
    Cheers,
    Rich

  19. Dear Mr. Couch:

    It is the rare book that saddens me when I reach its end. It is rarer still that I feel compelled to reach out its author.

    The narrative flow of China’s Wings was polished to the point of grace. The research notes at the end were almost as enjoyable a read as the story itself. I am writing a book concerning national school policy and I can only hope that my words will prove as compelling a read as yours.

    Thank you for the substantial effort you put into crafting a story that few in the West have heard. I eagerly await your next book, on whatever topic.

    John

    1. Dear John,

      I’m so delighted to hear how much you’ve enjoyed China’s Wings, and also that you made the effort to reach out and introduce yourself.

      Thanks,

      Greg

      I don’t know if you’re a facebook or a pinterest person, but I have good collections of China’s Wings related photos on the CW FB page, and in the CW pinterest album

      Hope you enjoy them, and again, thanks. Cheers, GC

  20. Hello Greg,
    Just finished “China’s Wings” over the Labor Day Weekend. I was fascinated with the entire saga and finally feel that I have a more complete understanding of the CNAC and Flying Tigers. Having heard much anecdotal information from my parents (who met at Dum Dum and were married in Calcutta) – mother doing volunteer work and dad with the Army Air Corps – now I can flesh out the details of the era. And my head almost exploded when I read about the Maharajah of Cooch Behar… because mother used to tell us about the time he proposed to her!
    You did a magnificent job in the rendering of a story so many Americans have little knowledge of.
    All the best to you and continued success,
    Robbie Leslie

    1. Dear Robbie, Thanks for your note. Fabulous detail about your mother and the Maharajah! I was just hanging out with Pete Goutiere over the CNAC reunion this weekend — he’s the source for most of my personal details of the Maharajah — they were great friends during the war. My most recent post is a picture of him and Moon Chin this past Friday night. Thanks for checking in. Cheers, Greg

  21. Hi Greg,

    My son, David Baum suggested that I read your book. Thank you for writing China’s Wings.

    Before writing this, I scanned the Book Critic’s comments which appear at the front of best sellers.
    I was unable to find adequate words to describe how much your book meant to me.
    Perhaps it is the fact that I was born in 1937 and aviation has always been an interest of mine that makes your book so special to me.
    Of course, I knew about the Great Depression in the thirties and of Adolph Hitler’s atrocities in Europe. Until I read your book, I knew very little about
    China during that period.

    Each day the Chicago Tribune prints an “on this day in history” article.
    They recently reported that in 1935 the “China Clipper” made the first commercial transpacific flight.
    Most readers would assume the plane landed in China but thanks to you, I know better.

    I will remember the China’s Wings story and ‘Bondy” for a long time.

    Bill Baum

    1. Bill, that’s marvelous! Thanks so much for checking in, and I’m delighted to hear how much you’ve enjoyed China’s Wings. David was two years ahead of me at West Point, a fellow Polar Bear. I’m glad you’re able to appreciate a bit of China’s WWII history — that history influences our modern world a lot.

      (That news in the Trib must have hit on 22 November for the flight of the China Clipper, which is particularly unforgettable to me because it also happens to be my son’s birthday.)

      So glad that Bondy has made an impression on you. It was my honor and pleasure to discover that story and help shed some light on it.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write. (And please recommend it to your friends!)

      Best, Greg

  22. Greg……I gave you a check at the 2009 CNAC convention for an autographed copy of your book when it was published.
    When do you think it will be ready? I am in the Philippines today but will be back in Honolulu at (808) 990-3070 after the 11th……..Tom

  23. Greg……I gave you a $25. check at the CNAC convention for an autographed copy of your first run…..that was four years ago and I didn’t see that you cashed the check……so……how do I buy an autographed copy of the book from you?

    Tom Schmidt 808 990-3070…..

    P.O. Box 1098
    Honolulu, Hawaii 96808

    1. Tom, I need to get a book across to you, but I keep forgetting to call later in the day — the time difference goes in the wrong direction to you!

      Is it okay for me to send it to the PO Box you’ve listed?

      Cheers, GC

  24. Dear Mr. Crouch,

    I bought my copy of “China’s Wings” at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. As an aerospace engineer, and devotee of the history of that period, I savored every page. Many years ago, I read Tuchman’s “Stilwell…”, and your book does for Mr. Wm. L. Bond what she did for “Vinegar Joe.”

    I’m wondering if there is still a chance to meet you on book tour, and get your autograph on a copy. I would also relish the chance to meet Mr. Moon F. Chin, whose story you lovingly resurrect. His personal triumph, over both the grim circumstances of his native China of that period, and over the racism of his American homeland, makes an inspiring story for all of us.

    Again, thank you very much for the book.

    Most Sincerely,

    Patrick

  25. Greg…..I just finished your book while I was hanging out with Diego Kusak, Steve Kusak’s son, while on a road trip around Kunming and Dali…..your book is really one of the best compilations of the events of that era that I have ever read….

    Diego has a wealth of collectables from his dad’s very complete preservation of his licenses, passports, log books, and endless memorabilia……

    You started this project just in time…..It is sad to see all the pictures in your book of our CNAC friends who were just a few years ago were all alive…..Thank you so much for writing this great book……Tom

    1. Thanks Tom… So glad you enjoyed it. Sounds like you had a great trip with Diego, too. Cheers, Greg

  26. Hello, My name is Timothy Joseph Iahn. My uncle was the Jr. Pilot on board the China Clipper on that fateful night of Jan. 8, 1945. I have a lot of his memorabilia, most of which survived the terrible crash. Those interested, please e-mail me at Tj.Iahn@yahoo.com

  27. Greg – Just received China’s Wings as birthday gift from son. Looking forward to what you say about Lauchlin Currie’s role. Our neighbor was with Currie on the trip to China in spring 1941.

    1. Thanks for reaching out, David. Hope you enjoy China’s Wings. Who was your neighbor with Currie? Fascinating stuff. Cheers, Greg

  28. Greg –

    YAHE… yet another Harvard (pre-Keynesian) economist.

    I’d prefer not to mention his name in the clear.

    Old habits die hard.

      1. Greg –

        Haven’t spent time in Washington, have we?

        Ever read anything by M. Stanton Evans or Diana West? Their “work” is under 10 years old. People still believe in Joe McCarthy & a communist conspiracy.

        Folks like Evans & West revel in pointing at Currie as a Soviet spy.

        All the more dangerous with Trump on the loose.

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