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by John Stanaway
Osprey Publishing  1997
Soft cover
96 pages
Ace List
Color Plates of
aircraft & aces
ISBN: 1-85532-633-7

Language: English

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Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 14
P-38 Lightning Aces of the Pacific and CBI

The P-38 Lightning is undoubtedly one of the most famous aircraft of WWII. In nearly every region of the Pacific, dozens of pilots became 'aces' in this twin engine fighter, including America's highest scoring aces of the war. Its service included nearly all theaters of the Pacific. Illustrated with beautiful color plates of aces aircraft, and dozens of WWII photographs, Stanaway's meticulously researched book tells their stories.

The accounts of P-38 combat in the Pacific are the centerpiece of the book. In addition to describing the mission, and combat outcome, Stanaway also notes the serial number and model number of each pilot's Lightning, especially useful for readers who want more than just the anecdotes about combat. The strengths of the P-38, its heavy armament, long range and two engines that got pilots home were some of its best attributes that allowed the fighter to score heavily against the Japanese.

Each page details the P-38 in each region of the Pacific, from the first victories with the 11th Air Force over the Aleutians, to the final victories before VJ Day. Chapters include early operations - including Alaska, and the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. A chapter is devoted to the famous "Yamamoto Mission" when P-38's used intelligence to locate and shoot down Admiral Yamamoto's G4M1 Betty over Bougainville and shoot it down, also the controversy as to which pilot Rex Barber or Tom Lanphier shot down the Admiral's aircraft. Stanaway also details operations in New Guinea, the Philippines and China, India and Burma.

The book is filled with interesting information, including details about little know facts, like the use of P-38's as Night fighters over Guadalcanal. Also, an entire chapter devoted to the Japanese impressions of the Lightning, tactics of P-38 pilots against various Japanese aircraft, and comparisons of the different model numbers, and the advent of later fighters, like the P-51. And, other interesting impressions, including why the P-38 was not popular with some, like Clair Chennault in China.

America's two highest scoring aces, Richard Bong (40) and Thomas McGuire (38) are the subject of the final chapter of the book, exploring their personalities, background and victories. Also, their competition to become the highest scoring aces, and the sad circumstances that took both their lives before the war ended - one in combat and one in flight testing.

This book is essential for anyone interested in one of the most famous aircraft of WWII, and certainly the Pacific air war. And, the stories of the pilots who flew it in combat, and the more than a hundred pilots who became aces in its cockpit.

Read interview with author John Stanaway
Review by  Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
November 25, 2022

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