The Early Air War in the Pacific

Ten Months That Changed the Course of World War II


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About the Book

During the first 10 months of the war in the Pacific, Japan achieved air supremacy with its carrier and land-based forces. But after major setbacks at Midway and Guadalcanal, the empire’s expansion stalled, in part due to flaws in aircraft design, strategy and command.
This book offers a fresh analysis of the air war in the Pacific during the early phases of World War II. Details are included from two expeditions conducted by the author that reveal the location of an American pilot missing in the Philippines since 1942 and clear up a controversial account involving famed Japanese ace Saburo Sakai and U.S. Navy pilot James “Pug” Southerland.

About the Author(s)

Ralph F. Wetterhahn is a former Air Force and Navy fighter pilot who served three tours during the Vietnam War. He now travels the globe as as an aviation archaeologist in search of missing aircraft/crews and the stories they reveal. He lives in Long Beach, California and writes for Air & Space/Smithsonian.

Bibliographic Details

Ralph F. Wetterhahn
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 319
Bibliographic Info: 42 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6997-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3108-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
1. Warhawk and Nate Down, Mariveles Volcano, Bataan Peninsula, Philippines 5
2. Admiral Yamamoto’s Grand Scheme 15
3. Tora! Tora! Tora! 26
4. The Rising Sun Boils Up Out of the Pacific 31
5. Little Pearl Harbors: Wake and the Philippines 35
6. Air Power Versus Sea Power 49
7. Wake Hangs On 53
8. American Caesar 61
9. Chester W. Nimitz 70
10. Propaganda 76
11. Victory Disease Spreads to Wake and Asia 80
12. Malaya and Singapore Fall as the Dutch and British East Indies Begin to Disintegrate 88
13. The Siege of the Philippines Begins 106
14. The Fall of Sumatra 125
15. Java Falls 133
16. Sortie into the Indian Ocean 152
17. The Philippines Falls 157
18. “Eight Seconds Belong to Uncle Sam” 172
19. Fall from Grace 196
20. The Rising Sun Slides into Penumbra 222
21. Guadalcanal Trek 231
22. Bataan, Déjà Vu and Then Some 242
Appendix: Aircraft Depictions and Specifications 261
Chapter Notes 273
Bibliography 295
Index 299

Book Reviews & Awards

“A strength of The Early Air War in the Pacific is Wetterhahn’s experience as a combat fighter pilot, from which he draws to give the reader the feel of aerial combat. Wetterhahn’s research is extensive… highly recommended”—Military Review