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The Skies Belong to Us: Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking    by Brendan I. Koerner Amazon.com order for
Skies Belong to Us
by Brendan I. Koerner
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

'Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking' is the sub title of The Skies Belong to Us by Brendan I. Koerner. It's a very interesting book. By the way, the word hijack came from 'the slangy directive issued by gangsters who commandeered freight trucks: Hold your hands high, Jack!' Cool!

Over a five year period starting in 1968, commercial jets were seized nearly once a week. It got so bad that many on the U.S. East Coast would drive to Florida instead of flying and possibly being held for hours while hijackers were pacified. The hijackers asked for many different things. Their agendas might be different, but the goal was to have the plane take them where they wanted to go. As an add-on, they demanded money and parachutes. Lots and lots of money. To give to the poor in whatever country they landed in!

One such hijacker, a disillusioned Army vet and his party girlfriend wanted to protest the war in Vietnam; demanded the release of war protester Angela Davis who was on trial; to be flown to Hanoi; and, oh yes, a half million dollars to distribute to the poor in North Korea.

Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow commandeered Western Airlines Flight 701 and put their plan in action. Theirs turned out to be the longest-distance hijacking in American history. Author Brendan I. Koerner spent four years researching this hijacking couple from AWOL Holder's return from the Army to the long-awaited ending of this saga. They hoped to interact with the Black Panthers, met with African despots, and French movie stars.

They managed to avoid being extradited from France and eventually split up and went their own ways. Apart from trying to understand what would move someone to try to hijack an airliner, this book highlights the disillusion some disturbed people have with their country. Their method of trying to correct what they considered their bum deal whilst putting a plane full of innocent passengers in danger seems like the actions of desperate men. Did we fail them?

The Skies Belong to Us is truly fascinating and the hours and hours of research required to write it proved worthwhile. Intriguing.

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