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- Marine Aces of the South Pacific
- Narrated by: Geoff Sugiyama
- Length: 10 hrs and 50 mins
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Bloomsbury presents America's Few by Bill Yenne, read by Geoff Sugiyama.
America's Few delves into the history of US Marine Corps aviation in World War II, following the feats of the Corps’ top-scoring aces in the skies over Guadalcanal. Marine Corps aviation began in 1915, functioning as a self-contained expeditionary force. During the interwar period, the support of USMC amphibious operations became a key element of Marine aviation doctrine, and the small force gradually grew. But in December 1941 came the rude awakening. Within hours of Pearl Harbor, heroic Marine aviators were battling the Japanese over Wake Island.
In the South Pacific, the aviators of the US Marine Corps came out of the shadows to establish themselves as an air force second to none. In the summer of 1942, when Allied airpower was cobbled together into a single unified entity - nicknamed 'the Cactus Air Force’ - Marine Aviation dominated, and a Marine, Major General Roy Geiger, was its commander. Of the 12 Allied fighter squadrons that were part of the Cactus Air Force, eight were USMC squadrons. It was over Guadalcanal that Joe Foss emerged as a symbol of Marine aviation. As commander of VMF-121, he organized a group of fighter pilots that downed 72 enemy aircraft; Foss himself reached a score of 26. Pappy Boyington, meanwhile, had become a Marine aviator in 1935. Best known as the commander of VMF-214, he came into his own in late 1943 and eventually matched Foss’s aerial victory score.
Through the parallel stories of these two top-scoring fighter aces, as well as many other Marine aces, such as Ken Walsh (21 victories), Don Aldrich (20), John L. Smith (19), Wilbur Thomas (18.5), and Marion Carl (18.5), many of whom received the Medal of Honor, acclaimed aviation historian Bill Yenne examines the development of US Marine Corps aviation in the South Pacific.
"America's Few describes Marine Corps aviation's few: the two dozen ‘double digit’ aces who gained hard-won air superiority in the first year of the Pacific War, many of whom contributed en route to VJ Day. Bill Yenne not only describes their combat careers but the youthful backgrounds that shaped who they were beyond what they did." (Barrett Tillman, author of U.S. Marine Corps Fighter Squadrons of World War II)
"Readable and well researched, America’s Few chronicles the combat history of the ‘double-digit’ fighter aces, an elite cohort of Marine Corps aviators who shot down ten or more Japanese warplanes while flying the famed F4F Wildcat and F4U Corsair. An essential addition to the bookshelf of readers interested in the F4U Corsair and the remarkable pilots who flew them." (Steven K. Bailey, author of Bold Venture: The American Bombing of Japanese-Occupied Hong Kong, 1942-1945)
"Author Bill Yenne captures the true essence of this great generation of young pilots who sacrificed so much. In 1942 the War in the Pacific Theater was not going well for the Allies and, the USMC pilots had an uphill battle to wage. The reader is immediately drawn into each dogfight, as Yenne displays a unique talent for capturing precise details. For the pilots, the obstacles were significant and an enormous psychological weight to bear. Base operations were austere, shoot down the enemy or be shot down, AAA threats, will the aircraft hold up under the stress. Every second in the air were the vivid haunting threats - bailing out over the ocean or crashing in the jungle. Will I be quickly killed or, become a POW of the Japanese? Yenne preserves the legacy of a generation of USMC airmen that deserve lasting respect." (Erik Simonsen, author of A Complete History of US Combat Aircraft Fly-Off Competitions)
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- Carol Domme
a very enjoyable listen, overall
aside from narrator's incessant mispronunciations and the surprise of being informed that General Wavell's first name in the intro was Percival, actually Archibald, I believe the Percival part of the name was bastardized from Arthur Percival, the GOC in Malaya campaign, which Wavell had a hand in. Pretty minor gripes, really, but unexpected given the high standard of Mr. Yenne's earlier works. Overall, very enjoyable, light reading, but historically somewhat shallow. I'm just grateful Mr. Yenne avoided the more usual modern revisionism and unfair judgement more common these days. It really was a very different era, and I'm glad author reserved his personal feelings to report history only as it was recorded, not as many would like to change it to be. Then, as now, people are as flawed as humans tend to be, and then, were allowed to go on to great deeds without someone decrying their flaws, wanting false justice to be dealt postmortem.
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