High Flight

As the New Year of 2018 rolls in, I'm working late with the television on, reminding me of childhood days when it was a challenge to stay up late—to watch the sign off. Inevitably, if I could make it, and my parents gave permission, I would be watching one of the video versions of High Flight.

High Flight was a poem written by an American, John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Magee had earned a scholarship at Yale in 1941, but instead chose the opportunity to fly with the Royal Canadian Air Force—the United States not yet having entered World War II. Technically illegal, the United States was seemingly indifferent to those who wanted to cross into Canada to help in the Battle of Britain.

Sadly, during training in England, Gillespie suffered a mid-air collision and was killed, just months after having written what would become one of the most famous poems in history. High Flight was composed as he flew in a Spitfire, and today is the official poem of both the Canadian Royal Air Force and the British Royal Air Force. President Ronald Reagan quoted from the poem after the space shuttle Challenger disaster, United States Air Force cadets are required to memorize it, and it is inscribed on countless gravestones from Arlington National Cemetery, to Canada, to England and beyond.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

It is as fine a poem as has been written, and reflects the pure understanding of the 19-year-old pilot, John Magee. RIP


  1. Boy does that bring back the memories! I too remember staying up late and waiting to hear the sign off! I had to have more than parental permission though! I had to have sheer stamina as a kid to stay awake to make it to the end. My brother-in-law has a framed copy. He was an F4 navigator during Vietnam so I'm sure it really has special meaning for him. Your next assignment: tell us about the narrator reading it.

    1. Apparently there were several videos (different planes, music, narration) of High Flight created and sent to TV stations by the United States Air Force, and I was unable to find who narrated them. There was a version created by actor William Conrad and a very famous narration by John Denver, but the assignment you gave me is one I can't complete. Smarter guys than me have apparently tried before, and I wonder if anyone knows.