Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hearts of Courage by John Tippets - Book Review

Hearts of Courage by John M. Tippets is a story of tremendous courage and faith against seemingly insurmountable odds.

In January 1943, the Morrison-Knudsen Electra piloted by Harold Gillam crashed on a snow-covered mountain in southeast Alaska. On board was Joseph Tippets, a radio electrical engineer for the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the author's father; along with Robert Gebo, Morrison-Knudsen's Alaska general contractor; Susan Batzer, on her way to take a stenographer's job for the CAA; Percy Cutting, a Morrison-Knudsen mechanic; and Dewey Metzdorf, the owner of the Anchorage Hotel and apartments.

While the story of the Gillam crash has been described numerous times, this account, including new details and recollections, tells the story of Joseph Tippets and those aboard the fated Morrison-Knudsen Electra using personal research, historical photographs and the words of Joseph Tippets found in news accounts, interviews and published resources.

I approached Hearts of Courage with a tiny amount of trepidation. Often memoirs provide a one-sided version of events, and especially when an author is sharing memories of a family member the fear is that he is too close to be objective.

Such is not the case with Hearts of Courage. John Tippets provides a thoroughly researched, detailed account of the Gillam crash of 1943, a brief history of Joe and Alta's (Joe's wife and the author's mother) life, world events as pertaining to World War II and Alaska's strategic position in the Pacific Northwest, in addition to what the years following the crash held for Joe and Alta. Also included are excerpts from the official Civil Aeronautics Board Report on the crash, new equipment and supply guidelines that were put into effect after the crash and Joseph Tippets's letter to Susan Batzer's parents. Susan was the first victim to subcumb to her injuries.

The last few pages of the book include excerpts from the report completed after a 2004 site examination by the U.S. Forest Service and members of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, along with photos and diagrams of the Lockhead Electra and the crash site.

Woven through this amazing story of survival is the deep faith that Joe and Alta shared; each confident that they would be reunited, even when others had lost hope and Alta learned the official search for survivors had been called off.

If every memoir was this well written, my bookshelves would be lined with them.

With Hearts of Courage, John Tippets has turned the story of the Gillam crash into a page-turning, engaging and heroic story of courage and faith. Anyone interested in aviation history, aviation disasters or inspiring and uplifting stories will enjoy Hearts of Courage. It is worth every penny!

Title: Hearts of Courage
Author: John M. Tippets
Published with Publication Consultants
ISBN: 978-1-59433-077-3
SRP: $19.95 (U.S.)

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