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Frank G. Tinker, Mercenary Ace in the Spanish Civil War
  • ISBN/SKU: 9781612510545
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Era: 20th Century
  • Number of Pages: 384
  • Subject: Biography
  • Date Available: October 2011
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Full Description:
  • Cargill R. Hall, author of Five Down, No Glory is the recipient of the 2012 Air Force Historical Foundation's "Best Book Reviewed in Air Power History Award
  • Cargill R. Hall, author of Five Down, No Glory is the recipient of the 2012 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics History Manuscript Award

Frank G. Tinker, Jr. was the top American ace flying under contract with the Spanish Republican Air Force in the Spanish Civil War. A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Class of 1933, he went into combat with Soviet airmen during the war. Through sheer perseverance, he rose from a teenage enlisted seaman, through the U.S. Naval Academy, to the officer's wardroom—then pressed on to claim the wings of a naval aviator and to become a top-flight fighter pilot and a published author.  Tinker possessed extraordinary people skills—skills that allowed him to move with relative ease among common seamen, naval officers, foreign combat pilots, left-wing literati in Madrid and Paris, and the rural folk of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, who embraced him as "one of their own." While in Spain, Tinker socialized with Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Robert Hale Merriman, the leader of the American Volunteers of the Lincoln Brigade, and Milton Wolff, Merriman's successor, who led the 15th International Brigade during the Battle of the Ebro. 

This first in-depth biography of Tinker covers his experience in combat, culminating with his commanding a Soviet squadron and terminating his contract with the government of Spain. Tinker would become the top American ace during the Spanish Civil War after downing eight enemy airplanes in combat. On returning to the United States, he wrote a memoir about fighting for Republican Spain and in June 1939 died under mysterious circumstances in Little Rock, Arkansas. The authors, well-known aviation historians, also offer a rare discussion of the aerial tactics introduced in the Spanish Civil War that became standard procedures in World War II and firmly establish Tinker’s aviation feats for the historical record.

Richard K. Smith served as an engineer in the U.S. Merchant Marine before completing his degrees in history at the University of Illinois and University of Chicago. He is the author of The Airships Akron & Macon: Aircraft Carriers of the U.S. Navy and the award-winning?First Across! The U.S. Navy's Transatlantic Flight of 1919.

R. Cargill Hall is Emeritus Chief Historian of the National Reconnaissance Office of the Department of Defense. Previously he served in various history positions for the Air Force History and Museums Program and as historian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Hall is the recipient of the 2012 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics History Manuscript Award for Five Down, No Glory. He lives in Arlington, TX.

 Praise for Five Down, No Glory

“…This is a good read that puts a face on aerial combat in what arguably marked the beginning of World War II.”

Air Power History

“A well-written, comprehensive biography of a major aviator in the Spanish Civil War. “

The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, October 2012

“…A highly illuminating account of a near-legendary Navy alumnus during a colorful period of military aviation.”

Naval Aviation News, Winter 2012


Military Heritage, February 2012

“A splendid biography.”

Air and Space, February/March 2012

Five Down, No Glory is an intriguing discussion of a mercenary and what brings a man to that status.”

The Midwest Book Review, November 2011

“A true soldier of fortune, Tinker lived wildly and fought hard for the Loyalist cause, and the authors rivet you to each swiftly turning page with incredible detail. The introduction by Richard Hallion and the notes alone are worth the price of this fascinating book.”

—COL. WALTER J. BOYNE, USAF (RET.), National Aviation Hall of Fame member, author of Hypersonic Thunder

“This fascinating and well-paced account of Tinker's experiences in Spain outlines the evolution of military aviation on the eve of World War II, illuminates the complicated and sometimes conflicted role of American expatriate pilots like Tinker, and explores the character of a free-spirited and still somewhat enigmatic figure.”

—CRAIG L. SYMONDS, author of The Battle of Midway

“Smith and Hall deliver a fascinating account of a little-known aviator who combined a deft touch in the cockpit with affable social skills that brought him into contact with some of the most influential people of his day. Written in clear prose, the authors illuminate the life and contributions of a Renaissance man and ace and show his influence on aerial tactics.”

—JOHN F. WUKOVITS, author of Black Sheep: The Life of Pappy Boyington

“Frank Tinker’s improbable career reads like an adventure novel about a sailor, Annapolis graduate, naval pilot, and fighter ace in Spain; he rubbed elbows with a veritable Who’s Who of the 1930s. Every page of this fast-paced tale of a daredevil who lived on the edge brings fascinating revelations, ranging from trivia like Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drink to deadly calculations of the best tactics to shoot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109.”

—EDWARD J. DREA, author of Japan's Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1853–1945

“Frank Tinker was a complex, energetic young man who felt most at home in the cockpit of a fighter plane. Drawing upon his private diary, family records, and other primary sources, this first full account of Tinker's life reads like an adventure story. Better yet . . . it has the added advantage of being an accurate account of an air war that presaged the great aerial battles over Europe during World War II.”

—CAPT. GEORGE W. CULLY, USAF (RET.), former director of the Office of History, Air University

“A 1933 Naval Academy graduate, Frank Tinker went on to become an ace for the Spanish Republic. Richard Smith and R. Cargill Hall relate Tinker’s colorful—some would say bizarre—story with panache, illuminating the Spanish Civil War and war in the air during a period of portentous change. This is aviation history at its best, packed with informed technical commentary.”

—John F. Guilmartin Jr., author of A Very Short War: The Mayaguez and the Battle of Koh Tang

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