Barrett Tillman (born 1948) is an American author who specializes in naval and aviation topics in addition to fiction and technical writing.
Tillman's most influential book to date is On Yankee Station (1987), written with the late John B. Nichols. A critical appraisal of naval aviation in the Vietnam War, it was added to the US Air Force and Marine Corps professional reading lists and became a "reality check" for various Navy and Marine squadrons.
Born a fourth-generation Oregonian, descended from American pioneers, Revolutionary War Patriots, Pilgrims (e.g. Priscilla Alden) and Pocahontas, Tillman was raised on the family wheat and cattle ranch. His younger brothers include a breeder of exotic animals and a Rhodes Scholar. In high school he was an Eagle Scout, won two state titles as a rudimental drummer, and was a champion speaker and debater. Tillman was first published in 1964 at age 15 and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Like his father, a Navy trained pilot in World War II, Tillman developed an early passion for aviation and learned to fly at age 16. Over the next several years he flew a variety of vintage and historic aircraft, including a pre-WW II Navy trainer and a restored dive-bomber. The latter became the subject of his first book, The Dauntless Dive Bomber of World War II, published in 1976. It established the format for many subsequent books, operational histories of U.S. Navy aircraft.
Marriage and children
Tillman lives in Arizona with his wife, Sally.
After college Tillman worked as a freelance writer until 1982 when he founded Champlin Fighter Museum Press in Mesa, Arizona, publishing out-of-print and new titles on military aviation.
In 1986 he moved to San Diego to become managing editor of The Hook, quarterly journal of the Tailhook Association. He remained in that position for three years before deciding to focus full time to writing fiction. His first novel was published in June 1990. Warriors depicted a Mideast air war and became an immediate best seller when Iraq invaded Kuwait two months later.
Tillman's next two novels appeared in 1992: The Sixth Battle, (written with his brother John) which captured a wide following among computer war gamers; and Dauntless, intended as the first in a trilogy. It was followed by Hellcats, nominated as military novel of the year in 1996. He has also published original fiction in the Stephen Coonts anthologies, Combat and Victory.
Tillman remains active as a magazine writer. He is a regular contributor to The Hook, Flight Journal, and several firearms publications. He has also reported from Africa for Soldier of Fortune magazine.
Tillman is a former executive secretary of the American Fighter Aces Association.
Tillman has received six writing awards including the second Admiral Radford Award for Naval History and Literature and is an honorary member of three Navy squadrons. He has been honored by the Air Force Historical Foundation, the American Aviation Historical Society, the U.S. Naval Institute, and remains the youngest recipient of the Tailhook Association’s lifetime achievement award.
Barrett Tillman is descended from Christopher Tilghman, Jr., (b. Kent, England 1592; arrived Virginia 1635; died 1673). The first of the line born in America was Christopher Junior's eldest son, Gideon (b. Virginia 1643; d. 1720). The family name was changed to Tillman by Barrett's great-4X grandfather Tobias (b. North Carolina 1751). Barrett Tillman further descends from Joshua Tillman (b. Ohio 1824) and John H. Sr. (b. Ohio 1881) who moved to Oregon c. 1907. Barrett Tillman's mother's lineage is incomplete but family records indicate that the Barrett family arrived in America in 1638.