Five Down, No Glory

Frank G. Tinker, Mercenary Ace in the Spanish Civil War
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Published:October 15, 2011
By Richard K. Smith (Author), Cargill R. Hall (Author)
  • 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. Frank G. Tinker, Jr., a U.S. Frank G. Tinker, Jr., a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Class of 1933, flew in combat with Soviet airmen during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Flying with the Spanish Republican Air Force, he was the top American ace during the Spanish Civil War.

This biography deals with his experience in combat, culminating with Tinker commanding a Soviet squadron and terminating his contract with the government of Spain. After returning to the United States, he wrote a memoir about fighting for Republican Spain and later died under mysterious circumstances in Little Rock in June 1939. While there have been other books about the air war during the Spanish Civil War, this book differs from the preceding ones on two counts. First, it is the complete biography of a most colorful and uncommon young man—based not only on his memoir, but on Tinker family papers and his own personal records. 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 become a superlative fighter pilot and a published author. More unusual still, he possessed extraordinary people skills—skills that allowed him to deal and move with relative ease among Navy compatriots, 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, Robert Hale Merriman, the leader of the American Volunteers of the Lincoln Brigade and his successor Milton Wolff, who led the 15th International Brigade during the Battle of the Ebro. All this he managed before his death at age twenty-nine. Second, the book focuses on the aerial tactics introduced in the Spanish Civil War that became standard military practice a few years later in World War II. Included are descriptions of the German introduction of the “Finger Four” fighter formation that replaced the “V of three or four” formation then in vogue; the first use of military airlift to move large numbers of troops and equipment into combat; the greater accuracy and destructiveness of dive bombers vice high altitude bombers; perfection of the “silent approach” used by high altitude bombers before the introduction of radar early warning; and air intelligence reports that asserted daylight high altitude bombers could not “get through” and return from enemy territory successfully without the protection of fighter cover. U.S. Army Air Corps leaders at that time had fashioned a doctrine that the high speed, high altitude, “self-defending” daylight bomber would always get through, and rejected these intelligence reports—at a subsequent cost in lives of hundreds of high altitude bomber aircrews in Europe in World War II.

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Product Details
  • Hardback : 384 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (October 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 161251054X
  • ISBN-13: 9781612510545
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 0 lb

Richard K. Smith received his undergraduate degrees from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Airships Akron and Macon: Flying Aircraft Carriers of the United States Navy, the award-winning First Across! The U.S. Navy’s Transatlantic Flight of 1919 and numerous articles on the history of aeronautics. He died before completing the manuscript of Five Down, No Glory.

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R. Cargill Hall is Emeritus Chief Historian of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), an intelligence arm of the Department of Defense. Previously he served in various history positions for the Air Force History and Museums Program. Still earlier he served as historian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He lives in Arlington, TX.

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Customer Reviews

1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
5.00 Stars
A Naval Academy mercenary pilot in the Spanish Civil War
Monday, October 17, 2011
By: Max Bennett

I highly recommend this very well written book that tells the fascinating story of a young man from Arkansas, a graduate of the Naval Academy, who fought as a mercenary pilot for the Spanish government during the tragic Spanish civil war of 1936 - 1939. The book is replete with photos of the men and their planes, charts, maps and illustrations. Frank Tinker's great ambition was to attend the Naval Academy and become a Navy officer and pilot and he accomplished both with great difficulty in the small peace-time depression-era U. S. Navy. And then, because of his love of flying, pulled some not so funny pranks in flight and on shore that gave him the option of a court martial or a resignation of his commission. He opted for the latter, took a job as a third officer on a civilian tanker ship and then learned of the Spanish Civil War and Spain's need for contract pilots. He jumped at the chance, signed a lucrative contract at the Spanish Embassy in Mexico City (the U. S. was officially neutral), received a Spanish name, cover story and passport, and reported for duty defending the war-torn Republic of Spain in January of 1937. He joined several American, Spanish, and a larger number of Soviet pilots in a unit that flew combat missions in planes built and supplied by the Soviets. He was under the command of a Soviet pilot and squad leader much of the time. He flew against planes and crews supplied by Germany and Italy who were both openly supporting Franco and his Nationalists. The authors describe in detail the air battles. Tinker became an acclaimed ace during those battles. (A half million Spaniards perished in the war. Franco's forces prevailed and he became the leader or de-facto leader of Spain until his death in 1975) Between the frequent and demanding missions, however, life was often grand for Tinker in Spain. Billeted in conscripted and staffed Spanish mansions the pilots enjoyed their off-cuty hours playing table games and listening to Verdi's Rigolleto on Frank' victrola. They enjoyed their frequent leaves in Madrid's nightclubs and hotels. Ernest Hemingway hosted and befriended Tinker and the other pilots when they were in town at his well-stocked-with-Scotch-whisky apartment in Madrid's Florida Hotel. When Madrid was under attack the basement of the nearby Prado served as a bomb shelter. Experiencing the wear and tear of many missions and several very close calls Tinker terminated his contract on good terms after severn months, eight kills and one probable, and returned to Arkansas, wrote a book, purchased and rebuilt an old plane, joined a fraternity, took a two month canoe trip down the Mississippi, made a number of public appearances and then died under suspicious circumstances in a Little Rock hotel room on June 13, 1939, at the age of 29. The author's epilogue on what happened to the pilots and the Madrid landmarks after the war completes the book. The Soviet pilots, for example, did not all fare well upon their return to Stalin's paranoia.



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