From Student to Accomplished Author: Military History Alumni Publish Recent Books

Share this

David W. Carter ’12 writes non-fiction and Chris Berman ’11 writes science fiction, but both credit Norwich University’s Master of Arts in Military History program for guidance and inspiration for their most recent works.

Carter’s first book, Mayday Over Wichita: The Worst Military Aviation Disaster in Kansas History is slated for release in the fall, and examines the January 1965 crash of a fully loaded Air Force KC-135 tanker into a congested, impoverished African-American neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas that killed 23 people on the ground and seven on the plane.

Berman’s third novel, Ace of Aces, which was published in January, concerns a 23rd century conflict with an alien civilization in which five famous World War II fighter pilots are transported to the future to help save humanity from annihilation.

Carter, a former Air Force combat engineer who served in Iraq in 2005, first learned of the Wichita air disaster when stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in 2003.

“As you can imagine, with pending deployments and everything that was going on there wasn’t much time to look into it further,” says Carter. “I can also say I didn’t have the skills to put something like that together.”

The story of the disaster, to the extent there was one, stuck with Carter for many years, he says, but if he went to a library to find out more, he came up “empty- handed.”

Carter concluded that there are several reasons why the plane crash was ignored.

“Being that it was 1965 there were tons of issues going on in the country that just swallowed up this plane crash. You have a recent assassination of President Kennedy roughly a year and a half before the crash,” Carter says. “You have everything that was going on with civil rights; you have the Vietnam War escalating.”

“There was also the issue of race. This happened in the worst area of Wichita in terms of socioeconomic development ... about 97 percent of the people who lived there were African American,” he says. “The people from the neighborhood I interviewed always highlighted the fact that it [the plane crash] never attracted major headlines or anything like that because of the area where it happened.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, Carter decided to apply to the Master of Arts in Military History program at Norwich.

“For me, Norwich was the perfect option. The rigorous training that you go through at Norwich was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” says Carter.

Carter feels learning how to research a topic was the “most helpful” part of the military history program.

“To take a primary source document and use it in your argument is just an essential skill, and also, understanding what to look for and how to sort things out,” says Carter. “I’ve interviewed several people for this project and knowing the right questions to ask is something that Norwich was able to teach me and make the book not just a viable project, but also something that someone will want to read and has historical significance.”

Berman, who worked in the business world before becoming an author, says he became interested in the military history program after his wife researched the program. Like Carter, he found the program to be the right fit. The final course he took in the program, “Race and Gender in the Military,” taught by Robert Wintermute, was particularly inspirational for him.

“I took the class and it was absolutely fascinating. It led to my thesis, which was ‘Women Combat Pilots in Soviet Air Force during World War II,’ and it also was the germ of the book, Aces of Aces,” says Berman.

As part of his thesis research, Berman read Wings, Women and War: Soviet Airwomen in World War II Combat by Reina Pennington, associate professor of history at Norwich. Pennington’s book introduced him to the Soviet Air Force’s Lydia Litvyak, one of only two women fighter aces in history. (Pennington also wrote a dust jacket blurb for Ace of Aces.)

The premise of Berman’s novel is that by the 23rd century, humanity has banished war through genetics but this hasn’t tempered humankind’s desire to explore other worlds. However, an aggressive alien civilization reacts violently and humanity soon faces destruction. Through time travel, the Earth of 2287 plucks five World War fighter aces from the past to train pilots for aerial combat. In addition to Litvyak, there is Gregory “Pappy” Boyington of the United States Marine Corps, Douglas Bader of the Royal Air Force, Adolph Galland of the German Luftwaffe, and Saburo Sakai of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Berman also based the novel in part on an incident from the First World War, when France “enticed” soldiers from colonies in Africa and Asia to come fight for them, with promise of giving them full citizenship.

“After the war, after France won, they basically reneged on the agreement, claiming the colonial troops weren’t ‘evolved enough’ to handle the responsibilities of being a French citizen,” says Berman. “I was driving to a science fiction convention, talking with my wife and I thought, ‘What if in some future, in which we had become so civilized and passive, people regarded as less civilized were the only ones we could turn to for our salvation? What would happen then?’”

The story continues in Ace of Aces, available on Amazon and at major retailers.