12 May 2007

Annotated Bibliography - Aviation

Over in the comments to one of my posts someone asked for some recommended books to learn more about Naval Aviation. What I'd like to do is start the list, then open it up to further comments/additions from the readership. Feel free to range wider afield in either realm - aviation and or naval topics.

Whilst contemplating YHS' library (which remains large, much to the chagrin of Mrs. SJS...) several books of note seemed worth recommending, some of which you have seen around here before:

  • Fate is the Hunter by Ernest K. Gann. A compelling first hand account of flying from the 30's to the 60's. Two accounts, thunderstorm penetration over the Adirondack Moutnains in a DC-3 and flying into Bluie -Two West in Greenland duirng WW2 ended up with personal resonance for me in my flying career.

  • Gold Wings, Blue Sea : A Naval Aviator's Story by Rosario Rausa - everything you ever wanted to know about flying SPADs and carrier aviation in 1950s and 6hers 0s (not just for prop lovers either)

  • Bridges at Toko-ri by James Michner - should be mandatory reading for everyone, not just those in aviation.

  • Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully - there have been many books written on Midway; some good (Miracle at Midway, 'And I was There') others not so. The universal theme for all have been utilization of the same POV and resources. Parshall and Tully use a staggering quantity of original source materials - deck logs, diaries, message traffic, from both sides to piece together a detailed accounting of the battle that strips some of the better known but inaccurate perceptions. Along the way we learn how the IJN and USN operated their fleets, carriers and how different flight ops were within each navy. This is original reserch of the highest order.

  • Clash of the Carriers by Barret Tillman - the little told story of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, of which the Marianas Turkey Shoot was one of the more recognized components. The re-telling of the late afternoon strike against the IJN carriers, knowing full well that they were at max range (250+ nm) and that return and recovery would be at night (night flight ops were not a common practice back then) alone is worth the read.

  • Afterburner - Naval Aviators and the Vietnam War by John Sherwood - Sherwood compiles and analyzes an incredible breadth of information about the details of each of the Navy's operations during the air war and then relates the key parts of the narrative through the eyes of an pilot or flight officer involved in each action. Through tales of courage and fear, triumph and horror, Sherwood reveals the lives of common aircrew who performed extraordinary service. Their experiences illustrate the personal nature of war—even from the air.

  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - Tom Wolfe began The Right Stuff at a time when it was unfashionable to contemplate American heroism. Nixon had left the White House in disgrace, the nation was reeling from the catastrophe of Vietnam, and in 1979--the year the book appeared--Americans were being held hostage by Iranian militants. Yet it was exactly the anachronistic courage of his subjects that captivated Wolfe. In his foreword, he notes that as late as 1970, almost one in four career Navy pilots died in accidents. "The Right Stuff," he explains, "became a story of why men were willing--willing?--delighted!--to take on such odds in this, an era literary people had long since characterized as the age of the anti-hero."

  • Flight of the Intruder by Stephen Coontz.
As mentioned, there's more - but enough of that, let's hear what you, dear reader, consider to be your favorites...