America's Few

America's Few

Marine Aces of the South Pacific

General Aviation
  • Author: Bill Yenne
  • Short code: GNA
  • Publication Date: 6 Jan 2022
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About this Product

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 twelve 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.

Biographical Note

Bill Yenne is the author of more than three dozen non-fiction books, as well as ten novels. His work has been selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Reading List. He is the recipient of the Air Force Association's Gill Robb Wilson Award for the ‘most outstanding contribution in the field of arts and letters [as an] author whose works have shaped how thousands of Americans understand and appreciate airpower.' He lives in California, USA.


List of Illustrations
Double-Digit US Marine Corps Aces of World War II
Squadron Names

1: Marine Corps Aviation from Flanders to Wake Island
2: Who They Were
3: Taking to the Air
4: First Combat

5: That Place Called Guadalcanal
6: First Blood
7: New Blood
8: Changing of the Guard
9: The Coach Takes the Field
10: Joe Foss Takes the Lead
11: Tipping Points
12: Matching the Ace of Aces
13: The Long Season of the Dancing Bears

14: The Corsair and the Changing Game
15: Corsair Aces Over the Solomons
16: Slow Rolls and Victories Over the Slot
17: The Ace and the Albatross
18: Finding Their Momentum
19: A Wanderer in the Wings
20: The Black Sheep Go to War
21: Three Aces Reach Double-digits
22: The Major Leagues
23: Two Squadrons Over Kahili
24: Cherry Blossom Over Bougainville
25: Two Aces Over Rabaul
26: Everything They Had Left
27: At the Top of Their Game
28: The Ending of Eras

29: Second Acts
30: Unfinished Business
31: Victory Achieved

32: In War and Peace
33: The Black Sheep and the Governor
34: Final Flights

Abbreviations and Acronyms

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