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Pacific Air: How Fearless Flyboys, Peerless Aircraft, and Fast Flattops Conquered the Skies in the War with Japan Hardcover – May 31, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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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.”

InfoDad.com, 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

David Sears is a former U.S. Navy officer and author of four previous books, including Such Men As These and At War with the Wind. He lives in New Jersey.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1St Edition edition (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306819481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306819483
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,164,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alan D. Zimm on July 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An entertaining story of naval aviation in the Pacific in WW2. Follows the development of Grumman, and also shows Japanese ace Saburo Sakai and a set of U.S. ace pilots as the war evolves from Pearl Harbor to the end.

Look at the end of the book first - there you have all the acronyms used, and there are a lot of them (did you know the difference between a TBS and TBM?). Many good personal accounts and detail, it makes you feel inside the carriers and planes. Best of all is the Grumman story: this is an important book for fans of the F4F and Hellcat (a lot less attention is given to the torpedo and dive bombers of other manufacturers).

To be critical: maybe this book was written for fighter pilots, but I found it a bit too technical, as if the reader should know quite a lot about aviation and dogfighting. I still do not know what a "high side deflection shot" is supposed to be. The story of dogfights gets a bit repetitive - those fighter pilots always shoot at the wing root of Japanese planes.
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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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