China’s Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight

Written by Gregory Crouch
Review by Patricia O’Sullivan

In 1929, inspired by Charles Lindbergh, William Bond decided to get into aviation. Bond began on a construction job outside of Baltimore with the Curtiss-Wright Company. Though the banking crisis left the factory sitting idle, Bond took flying lessons and negotiated with Baltimore’s mayor to exempt the factory from tens of thousands of dollars in utility payments. When the Curtiss-Wright Company cabled to ask Bond to oversee a failing partnership with a Chinese airline, Bond was ready. So in 1931, he relocated to China determined to make a success of the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). This is the story of how he overcame China’s internal divisions, international politicking, and WWII to transform CNAC into a modernizing force.

China’s Wings is a very dense read, but Crouch does a fine job presenting the human face of CNAC by centering the story on Bond. A veteran of WWI and a construction worker with no formal education beyond an officer training course, he rose from construction foreman to Vice President of the Orient for Pan American Airways in 1945. Fans of WWII history will enjoy reading about China’s involvement in the war and how Pan Am (which by WWII co-owned CNAC with the Chinese government) provided critical services in the war’s Asian theater.