Skip O’Neill’s first assignment as a young lieutenant places him among hard drinking World War II and Korean War fighter pilots who quickly teach him their ways. He almost washes out of pilot training but is persistent and manages to graduate. In Vietnam, he proves to be a skillful and courageous pilot who faces dangers of all kinds with equanimity. But the greatest—and most deadly danger—materializes years after O’Neill volunteers to be an observer at an atomic test site, and the disastrous results unfold in The Eagle’s Last Flight by Ron Standerfer.
Years later, O’Neill learns the awful truth: he is dying of leukemia, most likely due to radiation exposure. While Skip is fictional, his story is not; Standerfer participated in an atomic test at Yucca Flat, Nevada in August 1957. His experience watching the detonation of an atomic bomb code named Smoky weighed heavily on his mind when he wrote The Eagle’s Last Flight.
The Eagle's Last Flight (theeagleslastflight.com) is a journey through a nearly forgotten era when the Cold War veterans were placed in harm's way and routinely lost their lives due to the carelessness and mismanagement of their leaders. More than 400,000 troops were exposed to radiation during atomic tests or as POW’s in Japan. Fewer than 20,000 of those troops are still alive now and many have cancer.
Ron Standerfer was an Air Force fighter pilot for 27 years and flew over 230 combat missions in Vietnam, just like his protagonist, Skip O’Neill. Standerfer was born and raised in Belleville, Illinois, a town across the Mississippi river from St. Louis, Missouri. While attending the University of Illinois, he took his first airplane ride in a World War II-Vintage B-25 bomber assigned to the local ROTC detachment. It was a defining moment in his life. Weeks later, he left college to enlist in the Air Force’s aviation cadet program. He graduated from flight training at the age of 20 and was commissioned as a Second Lt.
“This is one of the best books about flying fighters, life in the military, war and the humans who do it … Go get The Eagle's Last Flight NOW - and put it on the top of your stack - you won't be disappointed..”
~Don Shepperd, Major General USAF (Retired)
CNN Military Analyst, and Author of Bury Us Upside Down
Title: The Eagle’s Last Flight
Author: Ron Standerfer
Publication Date: November 2005