From the Foreword
The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15
Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
The record of Carrier Air Group 15 in World War II speaks for itself: Fighting Squadron 15 scored 312 enemy aircraft destroyed, 33 probably destroyed, and 65 damaged in aerial combat, plus 348 destroyed, 161 probably destroyed, and 129 damaged in ground attacks. Twenty-six Fighting 15 pilots became aces, including their leader, Commander David McCampbell, who became the U.S. Navy’s Ace of Aces. Twenty-one squadron pilots were killed in action and one in an operational accident aboard their carrier. Bombing Squadron 15 and Torpedo Squadron 15 scored 174,300 tons of enemy shipping, including 37 cargo vessels sunk, 10 probably sunk, and 39 damaged. As well, Musashi, the world’s largest battleship, was sunk, along with one light aircraft carrier; one destroyer; one destroyer escort; two minesweepers; five escort ships; two motor torpedo boats; and Zuikaku, the last surviving carrier that participated in the Pearl Harbor attack. Incredibly, every pilot of Torpedo 15 was awarded the Navy Cross, the highest award for bravery after the Medal of Honor, during this tour of combat for valor in the face of the enemy by torpedoing an enemy ship under fire.
All of this took place between May 19 and November 14, 1944. No other American combat unit in any service came close to a similar score in such a short time period.
Air Group 15 participated in the two greatest naval battles in history, the First and Second battles of the Philippine Sea—also known also as the Marianas Turkey Shoot and the Battles of Leyte Gulf, which saw the end of Japanese naval power, as well as Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s rampage across the Central Pacific that fall, which marked the high tide of the carrier war. On June 19, 1944, forever after known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot in the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, Fighting 15 shot down 68.5 attacking Japanese aircraft, a one-day record unmatched by any other American fighter squadron.
In documenting the saga of Air Group 15’s momentous six months at war, Thomas McKelvey Cleaver’s Fabled Fifteen provides an intimate and insightful view of the group’s fabled lone combat tour, including details of daily life and human interactions aboard the fleet carrier USS Essex during the busiest phase of the Pacific War.
ACES AGAINST JAPAN
The American Aces Speak
In this superb, originally conceived offering, noted military historian, Eric Hammel brings us first-person accounts from thirty-nine of the American fighter aces who blasted their way across the skies of the Pacific and East Asia from December 7, 1941, until the final air battles over Japan itself in August 1945.
Coupled with a clear view of America's far-flung air war against Japan, Hammel's detailed interviews bring out the most thrilling in-the-cockpit experiences of the air combat that the Pacific War’s best Army, Navy, and Marine pilots have chosen to tell.
Meet Frank Holmes, who defied death in an outmoded P-36 while still clad in a seersucker suit he had worn to mass earlier that morning. Fly with Scott McCuskey as, single-handed at Midway, he takes out two waves of Japanese dive-bombers that are attacking his precious aircraft carrier. Sweat out the last precious drops of fuel in a defective Marine Wildcat fighter as Medal of Honor recipient Jeff DeBlanc bores ahead to his target to keep the faith with the bomber crews he has been assigned to protect. Experience the ecstasy of total victory as Ralph Hanks becomes the Navy's first Hellcat ace-in-a-day when he destroys five Japanese fighters over the Gilbert Islands in a single mission.
A superb interviewer, Hammel has collected some of the very best air-combat tales from America's war with Japan. Combined with the four other volumes in The American Aces Speak series, this work will stand as an enduring testament to the brave men who fought the first and last air war in which high-performance, piston-engine fighters held sway. These are stories of bravery and survival, of men and machines pitted against one another in heart-stopping, unforgiving high-speed aerial combat. The American Aces Speak is a highly-charged emotional rendering of what men felt in the now-dim days of personal combat at the very edge of our living national history. There was never a war like it, and there never will be again. These are America's eagles, and the stories are their own, in their very own words.Critical Acclaim for The American Aces Speak Series
The Marine Corps Aviation Association Yellow Sheet says: “The recounting of each story is done in the pilot’s own words. This is a powerful technique that draws readers into the action and introduces them to the world of the fighter pilot”
The American Fighter Aces Bulletin says: “Some of [the] episodes are well-known; others have never been written before. But each account delivers something intensely personal about the Pacific Air War.”
The Library Journal says: “No PR hype or dry-as-dust prose here. Hammel allows his flyers to tell their stories in their own way . . . Exciting stuff aviation and World War II buffs will love.”
Book Page says: “For those who have an interest in World War II, or those who simply like to read of drama in the skies, Eric Hammel’s [Aces Against Japan] is recommended reading. It is a must for any historian’s bookshelf.”
WWII Aviation Booklist says: “Hammel provides a veritable feast of aviation combat narrative. As always in this series, the entries [in Aces at War] have been carefully selected to provide the most entertaining ride possible for his readers. Easily the best series available on air combat! Get them all!”