The astonishing untold story of the WWII airmen who risked it all in the deadly race to become the greatest American fighter pilot.
In 1942, America's deadliest fighter pilot, or "ace of aces" -- the legendary Eddie Rickenbacker -- offered a bottle of bourbon to the first U.S. fighter pilot to break his record of twenty-six enemy planes shot down. Seizing on the challenge to motivate his men, General George Kenney promoted what they would come to call the "race of aces" as a way of boosting the spirits of his war-weary command.
What developed was a wild three-year sprint for fame and glory, and the chance to be called America's greatest fighter pilot. The story has never been told until now.
Based on new research and full of revelations, John Bruning's brilliant, original book tells the story of how five American pilots contended for personal glory in the Pacific while leading Kenney's resurgent air force against the most formidable enemy America ever faced.
The pilots -- Richard Bong, Tommy McGuire, Neel Kearby, Charles MacDonald and Gerald Johnson -- riveted the nation as they contended for Rickenbacker's crown. As their scores mounted, they transformed themselves from farm boys and aspiring dentists into artists of the modern dogfight.
But as the race reached its climax, some of the pilots began to see how the spotlight warped their sense of duty. They emerged as leaders, beloved by their men as they chose selfless devotion over national accolades.
Teeming with action all across the vast Pacific theater, Race of Aces is a fascinating exploration of the boundary between honorable duty, personal glory, and the complex landscape of the human heart.
"Brings you into the cockpit of the lethal, fast-paced world of fighter pilots . . . Fascinating." -- Sara Vladic"Extraordinary . . . a must-read." -- US Navy Captain Dan Pedersen"A heart-pounding narrative of the courage, sacrifice, and tragedy of America's elite fighter pilots." -- James M. Scott"Vivid and gripping . . . Confirms Bruning's status as the premier war historian of the air." -- Saul David
Military historian Bruning (Indestructible) delivers a wide-angled view of the careers of America's top WWII fighter pilots in this encyclopedic work. Stemming from Gen. George Kenney's challenge to his Fifth Air Force fliers to break WWI ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's record of 26 kills, the race to become "America's ace of aces" included, among others, Lt. Col. Gerald Johnson, recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross; Col. Neel Kearby, the first fighter pilot to win the Medal of Honor; and Maj. Richard Bong, who eventually claimed the title by downing 40 Japanese aircraft. Bruning recounts the drama from the front lines as well as the home front, noting that America's top fighter pilots were major celebrities of their day; newspapers printed box scores keeping track of their tallies. Their families, however, paid a steep price of the five fliers profiled, only one lived past 1945. General readers may find Bruning's descriptions of dogfights too repetitive, and the minutia of wartime record keeping threatens to bury the action under facts and figures. Military aviation buffs, however, will relish the level of detail.
Race of Aces
This is a very compelling book about the air war in the SW Pacific Theatre, the men who fought it and the terrible personal tragedies they and their families endured. The curse of the race of aces and the self induced mistakes such pressure played upon them consumed their souls and ultimately their lives