Ethell, whose nickname in the air was "Fighter Writer," was the author of fifty-nine books and more than one thousand magazine articles, many dealing with World War II aviation. Born the son of a fighter pilot on March Air Force Base in Riverside, California, Ethell was prevented from joining the Air Force because he lacked 20/20 vision. He went on, however, to log more than 5000 hours of flight time in more than 215 types of military aircraft and became an honorary member of the American Fighter Aces Association, whose pilots have scored five or more combat victories. Ethell was also leader in the international "warbirds" movement, an effort to preserve aging military aircraft.