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Pacific Skies

Pacific Skies: American Flyers in World War II

Copyright Date: 2004
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    Pacific Skies
    Book Description:

    From 1941 to 1945 the skies over the Pacific Ocean afforded the broadest arena for battle and the fiercest action of air combat during World War II. It was in the air above the Pacific that America's involvement in the war began. It was in these skies that air power launched from carriers became a new form of engagement and where the war ultimately ended with kamikaze attacks and with atomic bombs dropped over Japan.

    Throughout the conflict American flyers felt a compelling call to supplement the official news and military reports. In vivid accounts written soon after combat and in reflective memoirs recorded in the years after peace came, both pilots and crew members detailed their stories of the action that occurred in the embattled skies. Their first-person testimonies describe a style of warfare invented at the moment of need and at a time when the outcome was anything but certain.

    Gathering more than a hundred personal narratives from Americans and from Japanese,Pacific Skiesrecounts a history of air combat in the Pacific theater. Included are the words of such famous aces and bomber pilots as Joe Foss, Pappy Boyington, Dick Bong, and Curtis Lemay, as well as the words of many rank-and-file airmen. Together their stories express fierce individualism and resourcefulness and convey the vast panorama of war that included the skies over Pearl Harbor, Wake, and Guadalcanal and missions from Saipan and Tinian.

    AsPacific Skiesrecounts the perilous lives of pilots in their own words, Jerome Klinkowitz weaves the individual stories into a gripping historical narrative that exposes the shades of truth and fiction that can become blurred over time. A book about experiencing and remembering,Pacific Skiesalso is a story of unique perspectives on the war.

    Jerome Klinkowitz, a professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, is the author of forty books, including such World War II titles asTheir Finest Hours,Yanks over Europe, andWith Tigers over China.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-054-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-2)
    (pp. 3-32)

    What American air power would accomplish in the Pacific during World War II was, in the late 1930s, almost completely unimaginable. That the German Luftwaffe and British Royal Air Force would soon be fighting it out in the skies over Europe was no useful measure: that conflict, begun with dogfights and sustained with high-level bombing, used tactics and strategies that would prove worse than useless for conducting an air war in the Pacific. Nor were the achievements of Japanese airmen in China and Southeast Asia a good picture of what was to come. What worked for Japanese flyers in these...

    (pp. 33-77)

    It seems incomprehensible that World War II could have started any other way. Certainly from America’s standpoint, the war already under way in Europe had all the hallmarks of a distinctly European affair. Take the belligerents: England, France, Germany, and Italy had been at each other’s throats for over six hundred years. This present conflict had grown from troubles left unsolved in World War I and exacerbated by certain terms of the peace. Various diplomatic crises of the 1930s had forecast the eventual confrontation, crises in which the United States played no part. German aims were continental, but that continent...

    (pp. 78-121)

    The Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, flown on April 18, 1942, stands as America’s first offensive action of World War II. The Battle of Midway, fought between June 4 and June 6 of the same year, is considered the first major victory by U.S. forces in the war, the Coral Sea Battle of a month before coming out a draw. Although the attack on Tokyo would prove most of all a morale lifter, the insignificant damage it inflicted on the Japanese was enough to revise enemy thinking and direct it toward Midway, where matters of immense substance were to be decided....

    (pp. 122-166)

    “I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific,” James Michener begins his book of fact-based stories drawn from his experiences as an aviation maintenance troubleshooter and senior historical officer. “The way it actually was. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons, lovely beyond description.” These first images from hisTales of the South Pacific(1947) become those of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that would beguile American audiences with this region. But there is more. “I wish I could tell...

    (pp. 167-226)

    By the summer of 1944, the endgame strategy of America’s war in the Pacific could commence, involving both sides in a different kind of war, the nature of which argued against any attempts at individualism. The issues were America’s ability to mount mass bombing raids and Japan’s unique response to this threat. Once the Imperial Navy’s carrier strength was removed in the first Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19–20), a key objective of the long campaign of island-hopping assaults, beginning at Guadalcanal, could be reached; when Saipan fell in July 1944, American bombers could begin preparations for flying...

    (pp. 227-270)

    Air war in the Pacific skies of World War II ends with the introduction of atomic weaponry, and hence it initiates more concerns than it solves. There were moral dimensions to the act that would not only continue but grow in importance, so that two generations later the problem seemed less resolvable than ever. Political dimensions were even more wide ranging, encompassing one era’s struggle with superpower coexistence and another’s anguish with terror. Yet it is no accident that these matters were introduced in the Pacific theater. Other dimensions from this air war show up in narratives as equally unique,...

    (pp. 271-276)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 277-285)