The Cactus Air Force

The Cactus Air Force

Air War over Guadalcanal

General Aviation
  • Author: Eric Hammel, Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
  • Short code: GNA
  • Publication Date: 1 Sep 2022
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Using diary entries, interviews and first-hand accounts, this vivid narrative brings to life the struggle in the air over the island of Guadalcanal between August 20 and November 15, 1942.

For 40 years from 1961, the late Eric Hammel interviewed more than 150 American participants in the air campaign at Guadalcanal, none of whom are still alive. These interviews are the most comprehensive first-person accounts of the battle assembled by any historian. More importantly, they involved the junior officers and enlisted men whose stories and memories were not part of the official history, thus providing a unique insight.

The battle of Guadalcanal was the first offensive operation undertaken by the US and its allies in the Pacific War. "Cactus," the code name for the island, became a sinkhole for Japanese air and naval power, experienced forces whose losses could never be made good. The three months of air battles between August 20, 1942, when the first Marine air unit arrived on the island, and November 15, when the last enemy attempt to retake the island was defeated, were perhaps the most important of the Pacific War. After November 15, 1942, the US never looked back as its forces moved across the Pacific to the war's inevitable conclusion.

The Cactus Air Force is a joint project between the late Eric Hammel and Pacific War expert Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, and is unlike any other of the many histories of this event that have been published over the years.

Biographical Note

The late Eric Hammel is recognized as one of the leading American military historians, with more than 40 well-received books that are considered authoritative on their subjects published over a 50-year career.Co-author Thomas McKelvey Cleaver is one of Osprey's most successful authors and is also a recognized authority on the Pacific War with his best-selling books Pacific Thunder and Tidal Wave and he brings a lifetime of study to the project.


CHAPTER 1: BEFORE - January 4-July 31, 1942
CHAPTER 2: RXI - May 25-August 6, 1942
CHAPTER 3: HEAVY BOMBERS - June 10-August 6, 1942
CHAPTER 4: HELPLESS - August 7-August 20, 1942
CHAPTER 6: FIRST CONTACTS - August 21-August 25, 1942
CHAPTER 7: EARLY DAYS - August 26-September 4
CHAPTER 8: EDSON'S RIDGE - September 1-September 13, 1942
CHAPTER 9: GROWING INTO THE JOB - August 30-September 15, 1942
CHAPTER 10: DECISIONS - September 1942
CHAPTER 11: TIT FOR TAT - September 15-30, 1942
CHAPTER 12: NIMITZ - September 1942
CHAPTER 13: STORMY WEATHER - October 1-11, 1942
CHAPTER 15: CRISIS - October 13-15, 1942
CHAPTER 16: RELIEF - October 16-18, 1942
CHAPTER 17: DOG DAYS - October 19-23, 1942
CHAPTER 18: THE MOST DIFFICULT TIME - October 23-30, 1942
CHAPTER 19: BACKS TO THE WALL - November 1-14, 1942

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