Pacific Air: How Fearless Flyboys, Peerless Aircraft, and Fast Flattops Conquered the Skies in the War with Japan by David Sears is popular history at its best. Sears does an excellent job of writing about the American effort to defeat Japan during World War II in an easy-to-read format.
In explaining why the Americans won the war, Sears writes about the American pilots who became aces and developed the air tactics that helped defeat the vaunted Zero. These pilots include John “Jimmie” Thach who invented the fighter and wingman tactics still used today and Edward “Butch” O’Hare, the Navy’s first combat ace. Although the stories about these pilots are somewhat disjointed, they are very engaging.
Not only does Sears write about American pilots, but he also includes the perspective of Japanese pilots via Imperial Japanese Navy pilot Saburo Sakai – a highly decorated pilot who survived the war with the loss of vision in one eye. Sears describes, through the words of Sakai, the Japanese pilots’ elation in dominating the Allies at the beginning of the war and, conversely, their total dismay when the tables were turned at the end of the war.
In addition to the pilots, Sears touches on the development of a few Navy fighters, especially the F4F Wildcat. The writing on the development of the F2F, F3F, and F4F is very interesting. Sears writes how Grumman (a small start-up company in the 1930s) was able to beat Boeing for the Navy’s first solely designed carrier-based aircraft.
As with many popular histories, accuracy is somewhat sacrificed. There is more than one inaccurate statement in the book. For example, Sears writes about the armored decking of U.S. aircraft carriers when in actuality the decks were made of wood planking (pine). Many of the misstatements are minor, but they add up to be an annoyance.
Overall, this book is very entertaining.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed herein are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with Federal Trade Commision regulations.