cover image Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan-Am

Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan-Am

Julia Cooke. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-358-25140-8

Journalist Cooke (The Other Side of Paradise) recounts in this dramatic history the surprising role Pan Am stewardesses played in the Vietnam War. In the 1960s, Cooke writes, the “cabin of an international airplane was a sought-after workplace for young, unmarried, mostly white women,” with uniforms created by fashion designers including Oleg Cassini and Don Loper helping to burnish the stewardess image. As America’s only exclusively international airline, Pan Am sent its recruits (who had to be single and no older than 26) to a six-week training course where they were given lessons “in everything from deftly carving a rack of lamb to asserting authority during emergency procedures.” In 1966, Pan Am began flying thousands of military personnel every month on “R&R shuttles” back and forth between Vietnam, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Tokyo, and other destinations. Cooke follows the careers of a handful of Pan Am stewardesses during the war years, culminating in their recruitment for Operation Babylift, a 1975 mission to evacuate thousands of orphans, many of them the biracial children of U.S. servicemen, from South Vietnam before it fell to the communists. Skillfully intertwining jet-age excitement with the tumultuous politics of the era, this is a unique and compassionate portrait of barrier-breaking women in the 1960s and ’70s. (Mar.)