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John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
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    (June 9, 1922-December 11, 1941)
    Born in Shanghai, China
    Aviator and poet
    Joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (October, 1940)
    Best known poem is ‘High Flight’
    It has been suggested that ‘High Flight’ was inspired by the euphoria experienced during oxygen starvation in high-altitude flight.
    He died when he collided with an RAF plane during a training flight.
    He did not live long enough to see his poem become famous.
    He was the son of American missionaries in China.
    He joined the RCAF before the US entered WWII.
    Poet Lemn Sissay wrote of ‘High Flight,’ ‘Magee wrote this poem at an age when most of us were chasing girls or squeezing spots.’
    ’High Flight’ is the official poem of the RCAF and RAF and must be recited from memory by freshmen cadets at the US Air Force Academy.
    The first (‘I have slipped the surly bonds of earth’) and last (‘Put out my hand, and touched the face of God’) lines from ‘High Flight’ were quoted by Ronald Reagan in his tribute to the Challenger astronauts.

Credit: C. Fishel

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