Box Seat Over Hell: The true story of America’s Liaison Pilots and their light planes in World War Two is the story of courageous men and their romance with the sky… of men who flew in combat armed only with a pistol and attacked the enemy in aircraft made of tubing, wires and fabric. Box Seat Over Hell was written by Alamo Liaison Group founder Hardy Cannon.

Box Seat Over Hell © 2007 by Alamo Liaison Squadron. Registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. All Rights Reserved.

Audience

Box Seat Over Hell appeals to the flying community at-large, those interested in WWII, commercial and general aviation pilots, military pilots and personnel, aviation historians, and of course aspiring young aviators with an appetite for glory. Well over one hundred thousand readers since its first printing.

Excerpts

The first liaison group formed was the 25th Liaison Squadron, comprised of thirty-two airplanes, enough sergeants to fly them, fifteen officers, one hundred enlisted men to maintain the planes, and assorted necessary pieces of equipment. The only thing the 25th lacked was a description of its mission. They were not artillery spotters and they were not supposed to be aerial ambulances… they were simply “liaison,” a catch-all word in the Army that can mean anything.

Grasshopper pilots not only handled some of the most difficult missions of the war, they also handled some of the most treacherous and hair raising. They flew in every theatre: from the desert when, in the super heated air, it was a real struggle to get airborne; in the arctic, where they fought to stay on course though williwaws and boreal storms, and where if they got lost they were almost guaranteed a frigid death. They flew over jungles with aircraft so overloaded they barely maintained altitude, with engines screaming, to clear the tree tops. These pilots were not the “glory boys” of the Air Corps. They were never given the recognition or the medals of the bomber pilots…. In the process, they succeeded in turning their flimsy crates into one of the most useful tools of the air war.

Recognition

Alamo Liaison Squadron extends its sincere appreciation to Mrs. Sarah Cannon (widow of Hardy Cannon who passed away in 1993) for graciously granting ALS the rights to this valuable literary work honoring the men who flew these storied aircraft. Box Seat Over Hell is now republished with ISBN 978-0615178974.

Review

This is the true story of America’s World War II Liaison aircraft and the brave men who flew and maintained them. From training bases in the States to combat areas in Europe, Asia and across the Pacific, these L-Bird missions were vital to the war effort. These light, unarmed aircraft were flown under extreme conditions from decks of ships, narrow roads, unprepared fields, wherever and whenever needed. Read about General Patton’s use of an L-Bird, how one of the “Grasshoppers” downed an Me 109, how a Liaison pilot downed a German Storch with his .45 Colt.

The reader is in for some surprises… most of us know the designations of the L-Birds but how many know that Monocoupe built some. The research by author Cannon and his friend Bill Stratton has resulted in a book you will not want to put down until you’ve read it all. This book is long overdue and is guaranteed to bring the respect so well-deserved by everyone involved in the wartime operations of L-Birds. – Gene Chase, Vintage Airplane magazine, January 1987.

The Box Seat Over Hell book is available for any donation of $18 or more (+$5 shipping, continental U.S. only) directly from Alamo Liaison Squadron. For international shipping, please email us.

The Box Seat Over Hell book and L-Bird DVD can be purchased as a set for just $39.95 (+$5 shipping, continental U.S. only) directly from Alamo Liaison Squadron.

Comments (3)

  1. Mike

    Reply

    Box Seat is first hand accounts of those who served and flew. Many have now passed on and the book is a sacred memory of their service. Any future tellings of the stories will be but speculation, and Hollywood style drama. The accounts in this book are the closest there will ever be of true action in the real theater of WWII.

  2. Reply

    It’s a decent read and worth adding to your library but the book contains factual errors. Six are contained in the short excerpts quoted above. (1) The 25th Liaison Squadron was not “the first liaison group formed”. It was in fact the NINTH. (2) The standard liaison squadron had 125 enlisted men, not 100. (3) The 25th did not really lack a description of its mission, and “liaison” was not a “catch-all word in the Army that can mean anything”. Both were quite clearly outlined in Army field manuals published in 1942, and clarified further in another published early in 1944. What was true is that their Commanding Officer didn’t have a clear understanding of how that could be applied to the unique situation in New Guinea, a geographical and tactical environment that their training had not adequately prepared them for. (4) No American liaison planes or pilots flew in the Arctic during WWII, a clearly-defined geographical region beginning 66 degrees north of the equator. Very few even operated in the sub-Arctic regions. (5) It is a false belief that liaison pilots did not earn the medals of the bomber pilots. On a per-capita basis, they actually earned more medals per pilot because they flew substantially more missions.

    To sum up, “Box Seat Over Hell” is an interesting read that gives a good idea of the type of flying done, and there are many good first-person accounts, but the reader must be wary of details that were not properly researched and documented.

    • Mike Taylor

      Reply

      Research in the 1980s was not what it is today. The first edition was published in small quantities. Hardy Cannon and his team of volunteers did commendable a job preserving this piece of history. The currently available second edition is essentially a reprint edition. Any reader input is greatly appreciated, and recorded, should there be a third printing in the future.

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