The Wingmen: The Unlikely, Unusual, Unbreakable Friendship Between John Glenn and Ted Williams (Hardcover)

The Wingmen: The Unlikely, Unusual, Unbreakable Friendship Between John Glenn and Ted Williams By Adam Lazarus Cover Image
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CASEY Award Finalist for Best Baseball Book of the Year

The untold story of the unique fifty-year friendship between two American icons: John Glenn, the unassailable pioneer of space exploration and Ted Williams, indisputably the greatest hitter in baseball history.

It was 1953, the Korean War in full throttle, when two men—already experts in their fields—crossed the fabled 38th Parallel into Communist airspace aboard matching Panther jets. John Glenn was an ambitious operations officer with fifty-nine World War II combat missions under his belt. His wingman was Ted Williams, the two-time American League Triple Crown winner who, at the pinnacle of his career, had been inexplicably recalled to active service in the United States Marine Corps. Together, the affable flier and the notoriously tempestuous left fielder soared into North Korea, creating a death-defying bond. Although, over the next half century, their contrasting lives were challenged by exhilarating highs and devastating lows, that bond would endure.

Through unpublished letters, unit diaries, declassified military records, manuscripts, and new and illuminating interviews, The Wingmen reveals an epic and intimate portrait of two heroes—larger-than-life and yet ineffably human, ordinary men who accomplished the extraordinary. At its heart, this was a conflicted friendship that found commonality in mutual respect—throughout the perils of war, sports dominance, scientific innovation, cutthroat national politics, the burden of celebrity, and the meaning of bravery. Now, author Adam Lazarus sheds light on a largely forgotten chapter in these legends’ lives—as singular individuals, inspiring patriots, and eventually, however improbable, profoundly close friends.

About the Author

Adam Lazarus is an author specializing in nonfiction books featuring iconic and compelling figures in American history, including Chasing Greatness, Super Bowl Monday, Best of Rivals, and Hail to the Redskins: Gibbs, the Diesel, the Hogs, and the Glory Days of D.C.’s Football Dynasty. His writing has appeared in USA Today, ESPN the Magazine, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, among other publications. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Kenyon College and a master’s degree in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife and twin boys, and can be found online at

Praise For…

Praise for Adam Lazarus

“In many ways, John Glenn and Ted Williams were dissimilar. But they shared the essential traits of bravery, loyalty, devotion to excellence, and despite political differences, authentic patriotism. Carefully researched and skillfully rendered, this is the compelling story of the enduring bond between two genuine American heroes.” —Bob Costas, award-winning sportscaster on The Wingmen
“The detail in this book gave me a whole new perspective on the bond between John Glenn and Ted Williams, one forged through combat missions in Korea and which lasted the rest of their lives. Adam Lazarus captures not just a great American friendship, but also a great American ideal: that for all that makes two people like John Glenn and Ted Williams different, there are special bonds that unite us through service and patriotism.” —Mark Kelly, U.S. Senator, astronaut, U.S. Navy combat pilot on The Wingmen
“Adam Lazarus has given us a prize: This is an account of two American heroes who must not be forgotten--John Glenn and Ted Williams. They shared combat duty during the Korean War in exceptionally dangerous duty and then returned home to write their place as space legends and baseball legends. I cannot imagine two more gifted and heroic Americans and I will always treasure my personal relationship with both. Generations to come must honor them forever.” —Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation on The Wingmen

“Of all that has been written about ‘The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,’ Adam Lazarus’ portrayal of Captain Ted Williams, USMC, and a friendship forged in war with John Glenn is a remarkable story told in great detail that makes The Wingmen an automatic member in the starting lineup of any and all tales of Number 9’s incredible life.” —Mike Barnicle, senior contributor, Morning Joe on The Wingmen

“I thought I knew the story of the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams, on the baseball diamond and battlefields. Just like I thought I knew all there was about Old Magnet Tail, John Glenn. Wrong on both counts. But thankfully Adam Lazarus saved my tail with his splendid narrative on these two American icons and their extraordinary friendship.” —Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend and Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Lion on The Wingmen

“In the air with Captain Teddy Ballgame, tight on Major John Glenn’s wing, dropping bombs and dodging flak, is about as thrilling as reading gets for this baseball fan. A terrific, surprising book about two American heroes who trusted each other with their lives and became the unlikeliest of friends.” —Robert Lipsyte, author of An Accidental Sportswriter on The Wingmen

“Lazarus does a wonderful job of explaining the particulars of this relationship and the reciprocal esteem in which these two authentic American heroes held each other. A gripping, well-told “Only-in-America” tale.” Spitball, the Literary Baseball Magazine on The Wingmen

“This book uncovers the intricate friendship between two remarkable individuals. It captures the essence of Glenn and Williams, highlighting their shared experiences and the human aspects of their bond. The Wingmen is an enjoyable read for those interested in the lives of these iconic figures. Aviation and baseball enthusiasts alike will enjoy turning these pages.” —DOD Reads on The Wingmen

“A tour de force that covers their time together as fighter pilots in the Korean conflict as well as other high and low lights of their respective lives and careers and their decades-long friendship. At their peak, Williams and Glenn were arguably the two most famous men in America . . . American icons with completely different personalities. Williams was a loud, profane, thrice-married atheist and very sensitive to real or perceived slights. Glenn was quiet, thoughtful, deeply religious, and married to his childhood sweetheart Annie for 73 years. You could easily write an entire book just about one of these guys, but Lazarus has managed to deftly combine their two lives into one nifty, entertaining package.” Royals Review

“A nostalgic trip down East Capitol Street to RFK Stadium, a memory lane peppered with familiar nicknames… and important victories and milestones.” The Washington Post on Hail to the Redskins

"Through extensive research and interviews, they can easily loop the tales together, and the momentum they build en rote is palpable, an achievement, certainly, since the outcome is no secret. In the end it's the cast of characters themselves- their dramas, comedies, and motives inside the ropes and beyond- that heighten this chase and keep it moving through a series of biographical codas that extend decades past the trophy presentation.” Sports Illustrated on Chasing Greatness

"Adam Lazarus has captured in vivid detail Super Bowl XXV, played in the shadow of the first Iraq War, which made for an uneasy and anxious mood at that time in America. Super Bowl Monday is also a book for the true football fan. It really is well done.” —Frank Gifford on Super Bowl Monday

"Scott Norwood's field-goal kick went wide, but Adam Lazarus' detailed recount of Super Bowl XXV sails right between the uprights.” —John Clayton, ESPN the Magazine on Super Bowl Monday

“Lazarus’ solid, unflashy reporting is celebratory without being worshipful, and his study of what made a winning Washington team click will inspire both nostalgia and yearning among fans.” Kirkus Reviews on Hail to the Redskins

“I called every play in the years described here. Now I walk away from reading Adam Lazarus’s wonderful Hail to the Redskins with a better perspective on how that magic actually happened. Hail to Adam Lazarus for a job well done!” —Frank Herzog, Washington Redskins' play-by-play announcer, 1979-2004 on Hail to the Redskins
“Offers a guided oral history of the Washington football dynasty that lasted from 1981 to 1992; the narrative is punctuated by scores of quotes from leading participants.,,Lazarus’s rich subject will be of interest to football fans.” —Library Journal on Hail to the Redskins

“Lazarus provides solid backstory…Readers might be surprised to see how imperfect these great players (and their hallowed wide receiver Jerry Rice) could be in the heat of competition, but also to see the class with which these preternaturally competitive men handled their situation. Instructive as well as informative.” —Booklist on Best of Rivals

“As exciting to read as watching your two favorite teams playing in a close back-and-forth game that leaves you wondering who to root for…[Lazarus] brings the story to life by taking the reader behind the scenes of professional football…For anyone who follows football, Best of Rivals is a great read. It has all the drama of a weekend afternoon game plus inspiring inside stories of athletes dedicated to reaching perfection.” —Deseret News on Best of Rivals

“This richly detailed history of two vastly different quarterbacks…relies on detailed game accounts from the period, as well as interviews with both quarterbacks, and former teammates and coaches to capture this one-of-a-kind quarterback controversy.” —Publishers Weekly on Best of Rivals

Product Details
ISBN: 9780806542508
ISBN-10: 0806542500
Publisher: Citadel
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2023
Pages: 304
Language: English