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Pacific Air: How Fearless Flyboys, Peerless Aircraft, and Fast Flattops Conquered the Skies in the War with Japan [Kindle Edition]

David Sears
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In a grand sweeping narrative, Pacific Air tells the inspiring story of how, despite initial disastrous defeats, a generation of young naval aviators challenged and ultimately vanquished a superior Japanese air force and fleet in the Pacific. The instruments of the United States aviators' triumphs were the elegantly designed F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, as well as the lethal TBF Avenger torpedo bomber. With superbly trained U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators at their controls, these planes became the most successful aerial weapons in naval history.

A majestic portrait of a proud era from dual perspectives--the inventive minds of young aeronautical engineers and the deadly artistry of even younger combat pilots--Pacific Air brings this important yet underappreciated chapter of World War II vividly to life.

Editorial Reviews


Kirkus Reviews, 5/1/11
“As a former naval officer who served during Vietnam, Sears brings an insider's knowledge of combat to this comprehensive history of the air war in the Pacific during World War II…A lively depiction of America's development of superior air power.”

Booklist, June 2011
“[An] excellent volume on the navy’s air war in the Pacific during WWII…The author has almost certainly created the best one-volume study of the subject; libraries, take note.”
Roanoke Times, 5/29/11
“Sears illustrates the brilliant designs and incredible productiveness of the airplane builders and the heroic fortitude of U.S. sailors and airmen, whose gallantry helped lift the nation from the blood and smoke of Pearl Harbor to triumph in Tokyo Bay.”
Tucson Citizen, 5/26/11
“[A] wonderfully executed new book…Combining gripping personal stories with detailed military history, this page-turning book tells reveals sobering details of how a group of superbly trained Navy and Marine pilots…destroyed more than 5,000 Japanese aircraft.”
Bookviews, June 2011
“Provides a panorama of the battle against Japan…Anyone who loves military history will thoroughly enjoy the stories of the many young men who helped write it against daunting odds.”, 6/9/11
“A well-researched, well-written work…The different engineering of such planes as the TBF Avenger, F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat is well explained and will surely be of interest to the subset of readers fascinated by aeronautical design and how it affects combat success.”

Corduroy Books blog, 6/13/11
“Compulsively readable.”
Relaxed Fit E-Zine, 6/6/11
“A nuts-and-bolts, briefing room viewpoint…An accurate, detailed narrative, covering the War in the Pacific at squadron level…Worth reading.”
WWII History, September 2011
“An excellent book…Sears’s account is a tribute to the men who pioneered the aerial tactics that enabled the Navy and Marine aviators to beat the Japanese at their own game—and achieve victory.”
Veterans Reporter, June 2011
“The stories in this book should be taught in every American history class, and in every military basic training course.”
Reference and Research Book News, August 2011
“[An] engaging historical narrative of air efforts against the Japanese.”
Book Bargains and Previews
“If you are a WWII history buff, you will want to get a copy of this book.  It is a well-written history of brave pilots, smart tactics, and timely engineering ll in a very readable format.”
Naval History, October 2011
“A most useful, readable, and far-reaching account…Sears brings a vitality and dedication to fully understanding the events about which he writes…Sears has covered a huge amount of useful and interesting information in a concise and extremely readable narrative.”
Collected Miscellany, 9/19/11
“Popular history at its best.  Sears does an excellent job of writing about the American effort to defeat Japan during World War II in an easy-to-read format…Very entertaining.”
Michigan War Studies Review
“Sears writes in an engaging and fluent manner, deftly selecting the telling fact or compelling incident to bring his subject to life…Will entertain military buffs interested in rousing tales of fighter pilots ‘yankin' and bankin'’ in aerial combat.”
Curled Up with a Good Book, 12/23/11
“A great read...Bring[s] the war to life…A great look at the Pacific War from the air, capturing all the cockiness, drama, and heartbreak as friends are lost, some never to be seen again. Anybody with an interest in World War II will find this a valuable addition to their collection.”
Military Review, February 2012
“A compelling, readable account of aerial combat.”


War, Literature and the Arts
“The book reads like a movie script: fast-paced, interlaced story-lines, weaving an array of historical personages into a vivid tapestry. Mr. Sears writes well and the book is difficult to put down…Sears’ history is composed of people, and the people he chooses to write about do great things. Nothing could be better.”


Naval Institute Proceedings’ “Notable Naval Books of 2011,” May 2012
“Taking the unusual tack of including the aeronautical engineers who designed the naval aircraft that fought and won the Pacific war along with those who flew them, David Sears has told an important and often overlooked story of how the Americans won this sweeping conflict…A readable, convincing account…Sears’ skills as a researcher and writer and grasp of his subject gained from his own experience as a former naval officer always lend authenticity and credibility to his work. This latest book is no exception.”

Politics and Patriotism, 5/16/12
“The author employs a carefully selected batch of well known sources to present the reader with a blend that showcase the tools, tactics, and technicians that propelled aviators on both sides of that war to victory or death…Should give the 21st Century reader a sense of what it might’ve been like to live through the events.”

About the Author

A former US Navy officer and a Vietnam War veteran, David Sears is the author of four previous books, including Such Men as These. He lives in New Jersey.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3911 KB
  • Print Length: 408 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0306819481
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (May 31, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004THDT4Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #578,312 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
69 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Pacific Air is a collection of World War II aviation stories from the Pacific, along with some balancing material regarding the design and manufacture of some of the aircraft mentioned in the book. It is in the category of "Popular History," targeted to aviation war buffs who like to read about pilots "yankin' and bankin'" in combat.

In such a book, the author has the responsibility to

1) select representative stories and render them accuratly;
2) write in a fun and engaging manner;
3) provide a well organized presentation;
4) provide accurate background history to place the stories in context;
5) treat the reputations of our veterans with respect.

So, let's grade Sears' work in those categories:
1: some stories are inaccurate and sloppily retold
2: high marks, a well-written book
3: impossible to maintain a coherent thread
4: abysmal
5: he repeats a false story about one of our still-living veterans that is totally inaccurate and shows a shameful lack of research

1: Selecting representative stories and rendering them accurately: Sears introduces stories from a massive number of aviators, mostly culled from other secondary sources. He has original stories from two still-living aviators, but their combat tales are only a fraction of the last 15 pages of the book. As for the recast stories, Sears has done a sloppy job in at least one.

I decided to check on his re-telling of the story of Saburo Sakai's first aerial combat. Sears depicts it as a short battle. Sakai fires one burst, and "in that one prolonged burst, he had expended all his ammunition (57)," entirely different from what is in Sakai's book Samurai, where Sakai depicts an extended engagement with many bursts fired.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Navy's Air War in the Pacific! June 17, 2011
Best-selling author David Sears delivers a wide-ranging history of the Navy's carrier war in PACIFIC AIR, a 2011 Da Capo Press release. Sub-titled HOW FEARLESS FLYBOYS,PEERLESS AIRCRAFT AND FAST FLATTOPS CONQUERED A VAST OCEAN'S WARTIME SKIES, Sears details how Navy planners, inventive fleet pilots and corporate entities like Grumman combined to produce a war-winning combat force that decimated Japanese air and sea power.

Though PACIFIC AIR encompasses both fighter and bomber ops, its chief focus is on the USN fighter experience. When war broke out, a small but experienced group of Naval aviators went to war flying the stubby, rugged F4F Wildcat manufactured by Grumman Aircraft, a fairly new defense company. Navy fighter tactics were ill-suited to dueling with Japan's main fighter, the superlative Mitsubishi Zero-Sen. Yet not only did the Wildcat 'band of brothers' hold the line against the Japanese, they developed tactics that negated much of the Zero's strong points. Grumman, in turn, became an industrial giant, developing its war-winning successor to the Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat along with the TBF Avenger bomber, which became a fleet workhorse. Likewise, new classes of aircraft carriers were developed and mass-produced. The Navy's training system was refined and ramped up to produce thousands of aviators and so on.

PACIFIC AIR interweaves those complementary plotlines into one narrative. It follows the development and growth of Grumman. It details the experiences of a number of aviators, almost all fighter pilots, such as Thach, Flatley, O'Hare, Vraciu, McCampbell, etc. who were top aces and/or developed tactics that helped defeat the Japanese. As a balance to the American perspective, Sears relates the wartime service of IJN ace Saburo Sakai.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book About the Air War In The Pacific July 14, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Author David Sears has written a fine book about the air battle waged between the Americans and the Japanese. However, this book is different from others I've read on the subject. Sears starts out with a discussion about early test pilots and the formation of the Grumman Aircraft Company. Grumman produced the F4F, F6F, and TBF aircraft that were mainstays on the decks of American carriers. This part of the book was interesting and informative.

Next, Sears moves the reader into the actual Pacific campaign, including the disastrous loss of American planes shot down by nervous gunners hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As the book goes on, Sears takes the reader through the early American strikes against the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, the pivotal battle of the Coral Sea, the turning of the tide at Midway, the first offensive at Guadalcanal, the taking of the Marshalls, Carolines, and Gilberts, and culminating with the Marianas Turkey Shoot. Throughout, Sears keeps the reader abreast of the changes in the conflict, including the introduction of the Essex and Independence-class carriers. Once these ships started flowing into the Pacific, along with the F6F Hellcat fighter, the Japanese began to see ever-increasing losses of their own planes and ships.

Perhaps the most intersting parts of the book for me dealt with the individual personalities Sears discusses. Men such as Butch O'Hare, Jimmie Thatch, Alex Vraciu, and Saburo Sakai take prominent places in this book. I had heard about Sakai's near-fatal clash over Guadalcanal, but Sears continues with Sakai's story and takes it through the end of the war. He also covers the early Grumman test pilots and the tremendous risks they took flying early prototype aircraft. Many lost their lives.

I give this great book my highest recommendation. This book does a fine job of describing the air war in the Pacific and adds some other interesting tidbits, too.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good read. I recommend it.
Published 12 days ago by Hale Feaster
4.0 out of 5 stars Sears does a great job weaving the human stories of legendary US Naval...
Sears does a great job weaving the human stories of legendary US Naval aviators like Thach, O'Hare, and Vraciu into the narrative of the Pacific war. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas P. Hughes
1.0 out of 5 stars Purple prose. This book is unreadable.
Purple prose.

This book is unreadable.
Published 3 months ago by Tucson Tom
5.0 out of 5 stars air war
Very good personal accounts.
Published 3 months ago by phil6079
5.0 out of 5 stars Former Navy Pilot
I loved this book because it told the life of Naval Aviation as it was, short comings and all. If you are interested in WW11 history this book is great. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Bob A. Holland
5.0 out of 5 stars Pacific Air
This book was exactly what I was looking for. It provides historical information and character studies of the historical figures of the time that I have not found in other books... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Robert Tedell
4.0 out of 5 stars Should have been 2 parts
The book starts with carrier aviation growing up focusing on the 20's to pre-WW2. The largest block of the book, then concentrates on the 1942 and 1943 span,(Coral Sea-Solomons... Read more
Published 9 months ago by jim
5.0 out of 5 stars Pacific Air
The book was well written and brought to life the various individuals involved in the battles.Other authors describe the battles but not the people involved.
Published 9 months ago by Don Nagle
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating for both pilots and those with a general interest in WWII...
I own and fly a WWII "warbird," (a small one actually, an L3 recon bird) so all things WWII aviation fascinate me. Read more
Published 12 months ago by William R. Forstchen
4.0 out of 5 stars Air War in the Pacific
Excellent! As I read this it brought back thoughts of.other historical books on the subject I have read. Very well written.
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

David Sears is a New Jersey-based author and historian. David's early career included service as a United States Navy officer with extensive sea duty aboard a destroyer and a tour of duty as an in-country advisor during the Vietnam War. (Visit his web site:

David's latest book (May 2011)is: Pacific Air: How Fearless Flyboys, Peerless Aircraft and Fast Flattops Conquered the Skies in The War With Japan

Such Men As These, his previous book, tells the remarkable, true-life exploits of Korean War U.S. Navy combat pilots--events and heroes that inspired The Bridges at Toko-Ri, James A. Michener's classic book about aerial combat ever.

At War with the Wind, his first military history book, recounts the U.S. Navy's fierce defense against the Japanese air- and seaborne suicide attackers: the kamikazes.

His book The Last Epic Naval Battle: Voices of Leyte Gulf chronicles the exploits of 60 sailors and aviators in the last and most decisive sea battle of World War II.

In addition to his books, David publishes Tin Can Calendar and Carrier Air Calendar, annual historical calendars that celebrate the exploits, lives and legacies of U.S. Navy ship, sailors and air crews in historical fact and full-color illustrations (see samples on this page). Visit and click on Courageous Calendars for more information and free enrollment in the Courageous Calendars Roll Calls.

David's corporate business experience includes management roles at the New York Times Company and Dow Jones And Company. David has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MS in Industrial Relations from Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

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