Books Detail Aviation Pioneers,
World War II Aircraft and Aces
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
HARNESSING THE SKY:
Frederick “Trap” Trapnell, the
U.S. Navy’s Aviation Pioneer.
By Frederick M Trapnell Jr. and Dana
Trapnell Tibbits. Annapolis, Md.: Naval
Institute Press, 2015. 238 pp. $29.95
This is the biography of VADM
Frederick Trapnell, the most consequential Navy test pilot whose expertise helped to wring
out some of the aircraft that would win World War II.
Already an experienced patrol plane pilot before the war,
he was instrumental in the fielding of the F4U Corsair
and F6F Hellcat.
After commanding two fleet air wings and an escort
carrier and serving on a fleet staff, he commanded the
Naval Air Test Center, where he shepherded the Navy
through the challenges of introducing jets to the fleet.
He also was the Navy’s first jet pilot.
His approach emphasized engineering and comprehensive testing of aircraft in maneuvers likely to be faced
in war. He later commanded USS Coral Sea and culminated his remarkable career as a vice admiral.
The Pacific War Saga of
Carrier Air Group 15
By Thomas McKelvey Cleaver.
Havertown, Pa.: Casemate, 2014.
290 pp. $32.95
F4F WILDCAT AND F6F
HELLCAT ACES OF VF- 2
By Thomas McKelvey Cleaver.
Oxford, U.K. Osprey Publishing,
2015. 96 pp. $22.95
ISBNs: 978-1-61200-2576, 978-1-
The author specializes in detailed
histories of naval aviation units in
World War II and gives the reader a
close-up look at the men and
machines that drove the Japanese
from the skies over the Pacific.
The Fabled Fifteen chronicles the actions of USS
Essex’s Carrier Air Group 15, led by CDR David
McCampbell, who became the Navy’s top ace of all time.
In six months of action in 1944, the group’s three
squadrons flew in the battles of the Philippine Sea and
Leyte Gulf, shooting down 312 aircraft — nearly 70 in
one day — destroying 348 on the ground and sinking
more than 44 ships, including a battleship and two carriers. Every pilot in its torpedo squadron was awarded
the Navy Cross.
In the VF- 2 book, the author takes a similar
approach in describing the exploits of the “Flying
Chiefs of Fighting Squadron Two,” whose enlisted
pilots shot down 17 enemy aircraft in the Battle of the
Coral Sea, and those of the aces of a subsequent VF- 2,
the “Rippers,” a squadron that shot down 245 aircraft
and produced 28 aces. This monograph is generously
illustrated with aircraft profiles and photos of the aces.
The Carrier Aviators Who
Avenged Pearl Harbor at the
Battle of Midway
By Stephen L. Moore. New York:
NAL Caliber, 2014. 436 pp. $26.95
Like the Cleaver books above, this
is a history of naval aviation
squadrons, in this case, Bombing
Flying the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, these two
squadrons were the first to strike back against the
Japanese, sinking a Japanese submarine three days after
the Pearl Harbor raid and later striking the Marshall and
Gilbert islands, and Wake and Marcus islands.
They shone for their sinking of Japanese aircraft carriers near Midway in June 1942, an event that propelled them into history and now honored by the Navy
every year. The individual pilots and gunners in each
strike sortie are listed, a remarkable research feat. The
author interviewed many veterans and mined oral histories to present this tribute. ■
Seapower does not review works of fiction or self-published books.