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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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.


(Subject to confirmation)
Double-Digit US Marine Corps Aces of World War II
Squadron Names


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


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


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


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


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

Folded Wings


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