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Pacific Skies

American Flyers in World War II

Jerome Klinkowitz

Publication Year: 2004

World War II ¨ Aviation--> From 1941 to 1945 the skies over the Pacific Ocean afforded the broadest arena for battle and the fiercest action of air combat during World War II. It was in the air above the Pacific that America's involvement in the war began. It was in these skies that air power launched from carriers became a new form of engagement and where the war ultimately ended with kamikaze attacks and with atomic bombs dropped over Japan. Throughout the conflict American flyers felt a compelling call to supplement the official news and military reports. In vivid accounts written soon after combat and in reflective memoirs recorded in the years after peace came, both pilots and crew members detailed their stories of the action that occurred in the embattled skies. Their first-person testimonies describe a style of warfare invented at the moment of need and at a time when the outcome was anything but certain. Gathering more than a hundred personal narratives from Americans and from Japanese, Pacific Skies recounts a history of air combat in the Pacific theater. Included are the words of such famous aces and bomber pilots as Joe Foss, Pappy Boyington, Dick Bong, and Curtis Lemay, as well as the words of many rank-and-file airmen. Together their stories express fierce individualism and resourcefulness and convey the vast panorama of war that included the skies over Pearl Harbor, Wake, and Guadalcanal and missions from Saipan and Tinian. As Pacific Skies recounts the perilous lives of pilots in their own words, Jerome Klinkowitz weaves the individual stories into a gripping historical narrative that exposes the shades of truth and fiction that can become blurred over time. A book about experiencing and remembering, Pacific Skies also is a story of unique perspectives on the war. Jerome Klinkowitz, a professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, is the author of forty books, including such World War II titles as Their Finest Hours, Yanks over Europe, and With Tigers over China.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiv

Americans know well the pictures of their country’s air war in the Pacific, from the battleship Arizona billowing smoke caused by a Japanese bomber’s hit and settling to the bottom of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, to the mushroom cloud rising over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Between these two events, many know the map like the back of their hand: the enemy’s opening...

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pp. xv-xvi

Pacific Skies is a book not of maps or pictures but of words. My research into the narrative methods by which participants in the air battles of World War II’s Pacific theater have told their stories would not have been possible without the help of speciality book dealers around the world, whose stocks have covered the sixty-year history of this literature—a literature still being written...


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pp. xvii-xxii

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INTRODUCTION: A World Away from War

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pp. 3-32

What American air power would accomplish in the Pacific during World War II was, in the late 1930s, almost completely unimaginable. That the German Luftwaffe and British Royal Air Force would soon be fighting it out in the skies over Europe was no useful measure: that conflict, begun with dogfights and sustained with high-level bombing, used tactics and strategies that...

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pp. 33-77

It seems incomprehensible that World War II could have started any other way. Certainly from America’s standpoint, the war already under way in Europe had all the hallmarks of a distinctly European affair. Take the belligerents: England, France, Germany, and Italy had been at each other’s throats for over six hundred years. This present conflict had grown from troubles...

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pp. 78-121

The Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, flown on April 18, 1942, stands as America’s first offensive action of World War II. The Battle of Midway, fought between June 4 and June 6 of the same year, is considered the first major victory by U.S. forces in the war, the Coral Sea Battle of a month before coming out a draw. Although the attack on Tokyo would prove most of all a morale lifter, the...

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pp. 122-166

“I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific,” James Michener begins his book of fact-based stories drawn from his experiences as an aviation maintenance troubleshooter and senior historical officer. “The way it actually was. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner...

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ENDGAME: Kamikazes and the Bombing of Japan

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pp. 167-226

By the summer of 1944, the endgame strategy of America’s war in the Pacific could commence, involving both sides in a different kind of war, the nature of which argued against any attempts at individualism. The issues were America’s ability to mount mass bombing raids and Japan’s unique response to this threat. Once the Imperial Navy’s carrier strength was removed in the...

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CONCLUSION: Dimensions Moral and More

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pp. 227-270

Air war in the Pacific skies of World War II ends with the introduction of atomic weaponry, and hence it initiates more concerns than it solves. There were moral dimensions to the act that would not only continue but grow in importance, so that two generations later the problem seemed less resolvable than ever. Political dimensions were even more wide ranging, encompassing...


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pp. 271-276


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pp. 277-285

E-ISBN-13: 9781604730548
E-ISBN-10: 1604730544
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578066520
Print-ISBN-10: 1578066522

Publication Year: 2004