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by John B. Lundstrom
Naval Institute Press 1994
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|The First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign
Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942
Originally published in 1994, this book has been reprinted in a new 2005 edition. This book is a follow up to his acclaimed The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Written in the same style, the book covers the command decisions, technical points, pilot accounts and the Japanese side. The book details the battles of Santa Cruz, Eastern Solomons and defense of Henderson Field and Guadalcanal.
Lundstrom's research gives precise details on the make up of air combat, including revelations not apparent from official records alone. One example is the air combat on August 7, 1942 when the first dogfights unfolded in the skies above Guadalcanal and Tulagi. That day, US Navy pilots in the rush to take off did not fly their assigned aircraft. One such pilot was James "Pug" Southerland. This detail and many others were researched by Lundstrom for the first time.
The book brings out many new facts and dispels popular myths of the battle. For instance, Lundstrom reveals how in terms of fighter-to-fighter combat through the Guadalcanal campaign, the A6M Zero and the F4F Wildcat effectively fought to a draw. If you see a reference on the F4F claiming a 5/1 kill ratio based on inflated claims and claims against bombers and seaplanes. The biggest difference between the two types statistically is that a F4F pilot was much more likely to survive the downing of his plane. More of the United State's first team survived to fight again and to train other pilots to fight.
The narrative alone is superb, and Lundstrom includes many maps, photos, and drawings, which add a lot of flavor and understanding to the narrative. This is the definitive work about the air war around Guadalcanal.
Review by Justin Taylan
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