Flight of Eagles
is a novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....
by Jack Higgins
Jack Higgins is the principal pseudonym of UK novelist Harry Patterson. Patterson is the author of more than 60 novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers of various types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers...
, set in World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
Jack Kelso, an American ace pilot
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...
in World War 1, is shot down and nursed back to health by a German nurse, Baroness Elsa von Halder. They marry and return to America after the war. After Jack is killed in a car accident, Elsa returns to Germany with their eldest son Max, who assumes the title of Baron von Halder. Harry, his identical younger (by twenty minutes) brother, remains with his grandfather, millionaire Abe Kelso.
Inspired by their father's example, both brothers become ace and much decorated pilots in opposing forces. Max joins the Luftwaffe and Harry, after fighting in Finland, returns to England, joining the Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...
as a 'Finn'.
The brothers rise in rank and number of 'kills', occasionally hearing of the others exploits. They actually meet again in the skies and also when Harry is shot down. Max summons an English rescue boat using his airborne radio.
Elsa continues her social climbing amongst the nazi elite, although Max warns her of the potential danger. Harry bcecomes a special duties pilot and crashes in France whilst landing a French Resistance leader. He is imprisoned at a local chateau
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...
where he and Max finally meet face to face.
Himmler, learning of the capture of one ace, arranges for the brothers to be blackmailed. Max is to assume Harry's character, 'escape' in England and assassinate General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...
. Fearing for his Mother's life, Max is forced to agree and flies back home. Elsa tries to commit suicide, but is shot dead in the attempt. The brothers' plot fails, mainly because the brothers see themselves as flyers and honourable men, not assassins.
Max returns to France, rescues Harry and flies back to England, but Max is killed when they are intercepted by an Me109. Harry returns to flying and is killed in a later mission, late in the war.
The narrative is surrounded by a 'frame story', with a prologue and epilogue. In 1998, the author and his wife, an experienced pilot, are forced to ditch their airplane in the English channel and are rescued by the Cold Harbour lifeboat
A rescue lifeboat is a boat rescue craft which is used to attend a vessel in distress, or its survivors, to rescue crewmen and passengers. It can be hand pulled, sail powered or powered by an engine...
. They learn something of what happened in Cold Harbour during the War and later meet other surviving characters.
A central character of the story is 'Tarquin', a bear wearing flying kit with both RAF and RFC insignia. He was Jack's lucky mascot, later Harry's and was lost when Harry crashed. Tarquin passed to a French family and was later bought in an English antiques shop by the author's wife, also as a flying mascot.
There are a few twist reveals in the final chapter of the story, having to do with the fate of some of the earlier characters. Also when the twins are split after their father dies, they argue over who will take possession of Tarquin, they agree the bear stays in America, Max the oldest wins the toss and stays with his grandfather as "Harry" sending Harry to Germany as "Max"...so when Himmler forces Max to become Harry, they are actually switching back to their original selves.
The book is supposedly based on a true story.