The Skies Belong to Us
Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking
Brendan I. Koerner
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In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands, where they imagined being hailed as heroes; others aimed to swap hostages for sacks of cash. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of Brendan I. Koerner’s The Skies Belong to Us pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history.
A shattered Army veteran and a mischievous party girl, Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow commandeered Western Airlines Flight 701 as a vague protest against the war. Through a combination of savvy and dumb luck, the couple managed to flee across an ocean with a half-million dollars in ransom, a feat that made them notorious around the globe. Koerner spent four years chronicling this madcap tale, which involves a cast of characters ranging from exiled Black Panthers to African despots to French movie stars. He combed through over 4,000 declassified documents and interviewed scores of key figures in the drama—including one of the hijackers, whom Koerner discovered living in total obscurity. Yet The Skies Belong to Us is more than just an enthralling yarn about a spectacular heist and its bittersweet, decades-long aftermath. It is also a psychological portrait of America at its most turbulent, and a testament to the madness that can grip a nation when politics fail.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
A wonderful retelling of recent yet forgotten history
As a young boy in the early 70's, after reading this book I can add "flying Eastern Airlines to see grandma in Florida" to my list of survived childhood risks, right up there with leaded gasoline, lap-only seat belts, and second-hand smoke. The remarkable violence (Vietnam, assassinations) yet innocence (pre- Internet, pre-9/11) of the late 60's and 1970's is refreshingly portrayed through the hijackers (mis)adventures. The way in which the author intersperses his primary subject with historical context is captivating. Highly recommended!
The Skies Belong to us
As a young stewardess for Western Airlines in the late 60's and 70's living and flying out of San Francisco, I can remember the era written about in this book. Many of the crew members portrayed in the book are people I was familiar with. It was definitely a walk down memory lane to read the descriptions of the time, the climate and the feel of that era. I got a big chuckle reading about the stewardesses of the hijacked plane placating the terrorized passengers by breaking out the champaign. We served the bubble beverage on every flight and used it often as a way of calming unhappy passengers, of course we would serve it to sooth an anxious load of hijacked people. Serving champaign was instinctive to us.
What is more interesting to me is that I lived through all that time and was really only vaguely aware of the hijacking or the intrigue involved in the incident.
An eye opening novel!
The book uncovered a whole era that has gone under the radar to myself, a 90s generation child who never knew the days when hijacking was such common practice and there was no x-ray machines. It's an excellent read and I could hardy put it down! Well worth the purchase!