Ghost Wings: Honoring the Sacrifices of American Veterans
Interview by Tim Holbert
For those with an interest in aviation and military history, there are few magazines in publication that are better than Ghost Wings. Slick graphics and rich stories included in Ghost Wings would allow it to blend in easily with the big name magazines found at Barnes and Noble and Borders. What makes Ghost Wings extraordinary is that it is entirely student-produced, making it the only student-produced aviation magazine in the world.
Since 1994, brothers Adam and Bryan Makos with their friend Joe Gohrs, have built Ghost Wings from the ground up. Only middle school students at the time, Adam, Bryan, and Joe (joined later by Erica Makos) had no writing, designing, or publishing experience, yet have succeeded in making Ghost Wings a full-sized quarterly with a loyal and growing fan base.
Recently, we had an opportunity to speak with Adam Makos, who serves as Editor and Publisher of Ghost Wingsâ€¦
Each of our staff members has a grandfather who served in WWII. Of my grandfathers, one served in the Army Air Forces and the other, in the Marines. Growing up, my brother and I took a special interest in their stories and wartime photos. In 1994, while middle school students, my brother Bryan, myself, and our friend Joe Gohrs, decided to create a newsletter using my familyâ€™s first computer. We called it the Ghost Wings Newsletter. Our mission was to tell the stories of American veterans, especially those connected to aviation. We were curious to learn about the lessons and memories of their service experiences. We wanted to share that history and knowledge with others, and our newsletter was circulated amongst family and friends, but in limited quantity: around 20 copies!
We chose the name â€œGhost Wings,â€ after a story my grandfather, Sgt. Michael Makos (ret), told us about his days from in the 5th Air Forceâ€™s 3rd Emergency Rescue Squadron. In 1946 during occupation duty in Japan, he was slated to fly as the radio operator in a B-17 bomber heading to an outpost in Northern Japan. My grandfatherâ€™s friend, Cpl. Frank Diliddo was to fly in an accompanying C-47 transport plane. Just before takeoff, Diliddo asked my grandfather to switch planes so as to log hours in different aircraft. They did so. During the flight the planes encountered heavy overcast. Before entering a cloudbank, my grandfather snapped an eerie photo of the B-17 carrying Diliddo (the photo now graces the pages of our web site). However, only my grandfatherâ€™s plane, the C-47, emerged from the cloudbank. The B-17 carrying his friend and five other young airmen was never seen, nor heard from, again. Following a massive search, it was ruled that the plane had vanished like a ghost. Fifty years later, our newsletter and later magazine, was created to honor military veterans like those aboard the â€œGhost B-17.â€
The transition from newsletter to magazine was eye opening. During my senior year in high school, in 1999, we compiled our first issue of Ghost Wings Magazine on our computer. Following the advice of Christine Heiny, a retired catalogue editor, we approached a local printer. The first issue was funded with savings that I had amassed with a car in mind. It was a small sacrifice for a much greater cause. With 7,500 copies of our first issue printed and our bank account drained, we attended summer air shows to sell the magazine and sold just enough to print issue 2. Subsequent issues have been funded by sales at airshows, retail outlets, on the internet, and through advertising. Weâ€™re now working on Issue 10 and will print at least 10,000 copies of that edition. Our staff remains an unpaid, all-volunteer team. During the school year we work on weekends and most weeknights. In the summer we put in 7 days a week. The World War II generation has taught us to put service before self, a code that we honor, around the clock.