Elliott White Springs was born in Lancaster, South Carolina in 1896. His grandfather Samuel White had been a local Civil War hero and helped to start a cotton mill after the war to help the town recover from the South's defeat. Samuel's White's daughter had married Leroy Springs, a driven man whose business dealings in the textile industry had made him a wealthy man. Elliott was their only child.


Elliott harbored a rebellious streak that would put him at permanent odds with his father.  When America edged closer to entering the World War in 1917, Elliott, studying at Princeton, quickly volunteered for training as a pilot.  From Princeton he was moved on to the airfield at Mineola, New York, there meeting Larry Callahan and John McGavock Grider. The three Southerners became inseparable and were soon given the nickname "the Three Musketeers."


As it did most of the men who experienced it, the war changed Springs forever. Entering it a raw, rebellious youth thrilled by the experience of flight and the excitement of aerial combat, he left the war both shaken by the experience of killing his enemies and losing so many of his compatriots, at the same time utterly convinced that nothing would ever compare with what he had just gone through. The fifth ranking 'ace' among American pilots with twelve victories over enemy aircraft, Springs went home trying to find jobs in aviation bur reluctantly returned  to the family business.


When his father berated him for never earning a dime on his own, Springs accelerated the literary efforts he had begun in the mid 1920s. After selling several short stories based on his wartime experiences, Springs in 1926 went to work on the Diary of an Unknown Aviator. He had succeeded as an aviator during the war, passing the test of endurance. Now he succeeded in his first major literary effort. His father's prediction that the book would be nothing but an embarrassment for all concerned proved unfounded. 'He wanted more than anything else for his father to be proud of him,' says Anne Springs Close, Spring's daughter, ' and his father was but he wasn't going to admit it.'