I am quite humbled to say that I was awarded the Harriett Quimby Award from the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame during the enshrinement ceremonies this weekend at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. Authors don’t get a lot of awards and to be in the same ceremony as men like Vice Adm. Richard K. Gallagher and Maj. Gen. Paul B. Wurtsmith – it was a distinct honor. The committee doesn’t present the Quimby Award each year, so it made it even more special.
Here’s the group enshrined this year: http://www.airzoo.org/page.php?page_id=127
I’ve written three aviation books – each one leading me into the next. My first was Terror of the Autumn Skies, which was about Frank Luke Jr., the Balloon Buster of Arizona. In researching that book I learned about Frederick Zinn, from my hometown Battle Creek Michigan. Zinn was America’s first aerial reconnaissance photographer and, more importantly, pioneered the military’s system for locating and returning missing airmen. Zinn’s accomplishments also included a stint at the age of 50 as a spy for the OSS during WWII. My fascination with Mr. Zinn led me to write Lost Eagles which chronicled his life. One of his WWI acquaintances was Bert Hall of the Lafayette Escadrille. My research into his life led to my book The Bad Boy. Every book led me to the next in some way. They have a tendency to do that and I don’t fight the currents of history when they tug at me.
There are many authors out there that have contributed more than I have to WWI aviation. To be honored by the state where I was raised was something that was both exciting and daunting. I am not a figure of Michigan’s aviation history after all. My role as a historian is to tell stories about great men and women like those honored in the Hall of Fame. My job is to ensure their stories are not lost to history but are remembered. They made history, all I do is tell it. Having said that there is a burden associated with my role as an author…that seemingly never-ending quest to learn all that I can about a subject and make it translatable to a broad audience and for future generations.
I want to thank the incredible folks at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo. Museums and their archival holdings are where historians like myself spend their spare time, on that long journey to find the truth from data. The ceremony at the Air Zoo was great and I’m glad some of my family was able to make it. While you don’t lobby for these kind of lifetime honors, you are obligated to accept them with as much dignity as possible. I hope I didn’t let anyone down.