A Hellcat Flier in World War II, The

Hostile Sky: A Hellcat Flier in World War II, The

The Hostile Sky: A Hellcat Flier in World War II by James W. Vernon. Naval Institute Press, 2062 Generals Hwy., Annapolis, MD 21401; 210 pages; 24 b&w photographs; $28.95.

So much is known about WW II’s high-scoring aces that it is refreshing to get the viewpoint of one of the “regular” pilots. “The Hostile Sky” by James Vernon tells the story of a Hellcat pilot who flew off the carrier USS Ticonderoga in the vast Pacific theater of operations.

This well-written, accurate account leads us through Naval flight training in the long process toward getting those coveted wings of gold. Here is a vivid glimpse into a decidedly small fraternity, but how does one get accepted?

Vernon allows readers to immerse themselves in the process and its sometimes absurd contradictions. He illustrates his feelings about meeting the hazards of war and offers dramatic memories of his love of flying and the comradeship of his flying buddies in the air and on the ground. He describes in detail the training and movement of carrier pilots and discusses the high incidence of non-combat fatalities and the air group’s response to the kamikaze threat-and thereby contributes important but little-known information on that aspect of the air war.

Vernon’s recollections provide a vivid look at a time when teenage pilots grew up a little more quickly amid the realities of war. It is a great story that’s well worth the few nights’ time required to read it.

Copyright Air Age Publishing Jun 2003

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