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While Mr. Stearman’s autobiography is overall an engaging work, he compromises it with long diversions, dissertations and polemics. The editors should have been more forcefully involved.

Nevertheless, the strength of “American Adventure” is the authenticity of the author’s experiences in hot wars, the Cold War and bureaucratic wars over the course of more than half of the 20th century. A reader who skips the digressions will come away with an enjoyable reading experience.

Vice Adm. Robert F. Dunn is president of the Naval Historical Foundation and the Association of Naval Aviation.