Aces High: The Heroic Saga of the Two Top-Scoring American Aces of World War II

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Aces High: The Heroic Saga of the Two Top-Scoring American Aces of World War II by Bill Yenne. Berkley Caliber (http://www .penguin.com), 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 1001 4-3657, 2009, 368 pages, $25.95 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-425-21954-6.

Bill Yenne, a prolific writer, was born in 1949 and graduated from the University of Montana. The title of his book Aces High: The Heroic Saga of the Two Top-Scoring American Aces of World War II might suggest that he writes for the popular market, and the widely diverse books he has produced support that idea. This is not to suggest that Yenne's writing is weak and his grasp of air history imperfect. On the contrary, he writes quite well, only rarely making a historical error in the book under consideration. He has published works on Alexander the Great, the history of beer, and Sitting Bull, not to mention airpower subjects. The catalog of the academic library at Air University lists 17 of his books. Clearly, he must read at blazing speed and write briskly with good style. Nevertheless, I do not recommend that Aces High occupy a high place on the reading lists of Air and Space Power Journal's (ASPJ) audience.

Yenne tells an adventure story about P-38 pilots Richard Bong and Thomas McGuire- two leading American aces, both of them recipients of the Medal of Honor- who flew in the Southwest Pacific and died at age 25. The author injects some human interest into the story by discussing their personal lives in training as well as their wartime loves. Gen George Kenney, Douglas MacArthur's air commander, took a personal interest in both heroes; in fact, he wrote a biography of Bong after the war.

ASPJ readers will find that the book concentrates almost wholly on operational history at the tactical level, tending toward a sortie-bysortie description of the work of both pilots, set in a story of competition between the two for the title of America's leading ace. …