John Gillespie Magee Jr.
The poem High Flight was written by a young fighter pilot during World War II. Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr., was an American citizen who was born of missionary parents in Shanghai and educated in Britain's famed Rugby School. He went to the United Stated in 1939, and at the age of 18, won a scholarship to Yale. Like other Americans of the time who wished to aid in the cause of freedom, he decided to enlist in the services of a nation actively engaged in war. Magee enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in September 1940. He served overseas with an RCAF Spitfire Squadron until his death on active service in December, 1941.
His poem, composed in September 1941, was scribbled on the back of a letter which he mailed to his mother in Washington. Pilot Officer Magee was killed a few months later when his Spitfire plane collided with a bomber-pilot trainer on approach to the airport over Lincolnshire, England. He was 19 years old.