By Major Bill March
The author of the Air Force’s best-loved poem was born on this date in 1922.
In the months before the United States’ entry into the Second World War on December 7, 1941, thousands of Americans came north to Canada to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Almost all of them would graduate from the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) before continuing on to RCAF and Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons throughout the world. Identified by a “U.S.A.” patch on the shoulders of their RCAF uniform, these transplanted Americans easily stood out.
In 2016, the RCAF is commemorating the BCATP, one of the largest air training programs the world has ever seen.
But none more than Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., author of the famous poem, “High Flight”, now considered to be the Air Forceʼs poem.
Magee was born on June 9, 1922, in Shanghai, China. He was the youngest of four sons born to an American missionary father and an English mother who hoped that the young Magee would grow up experiencing the best of both cultures. At the ripe age of nine, he left for England to commence a proper British education with the goal of attending university in the United States. And it was while he was at the Rugby School in Warwickshire that Magee developed an interest in poetry that would eventually lead to his winning the school’s Poetry Prize in 1939.
That summer he was sent to live with family in the United States and spent the following year working…