Re­view Run­way

Flight Journal - - CONTENTS - By Bar­rett Till­man

Osprey, 272 pages

$25.95 (hard­cover), $22.99 (e-book) There is so much more to WW II Marine Corps avi­a­tion than Pappy Boy­ing­ton and the Black Sheep. Suc­cess­ful though they were, the sto­ried Cor­sair pi­lots have over­shad­owed the other fly­ing leath­er­necks for seven decades. Bar­rett Till­man’s su­perb trea­tise re­dresses that sit­u­a­tion.

With en­cy­clo­pe­dic thor­ough­ness and the grip­ping nar­ra­tive style that has char­ac­ter­ized his work for more than 40 years, Till­man cov­ers USMC fighters in ev­ery as­pect: air­craft, or­ga­ni­za­tion, peo­ple, and op­er­a­tions. He de­tails each of some 75 squadrons des­ig­nated “VMF” from 1941 through 1945, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the 50 that de­ployed out­side the con­ti­nen­tal United States. Each of the lat­ter en­tries in­cludes a syn­op­sis of wartime op­er­a­tions, bases, air­craft, and com­mand­ing of­fi­cers.

The air­craft sec­tion in­cludes some sur­prises for those new to the sub­ject. Be­sides the iconic Marine fighters, such as the Grum­man Wild­cat and Vought Cor­sair, Till­man de­scribes Lock­heed PV Ven­tura and F6F Hell­cat night fighters. And in a stroke of ob­jec­tiv­ity, he places the oft-ma­ligned Brewster F2A Buf­falo in con­text.

In all, 120 Marine pi­lots were cred­ited with five or more vic­to­ries to be­come aces. Till­man, who knew most of those who sur­vived the war, does his­tory a ser­vice with a sep­a­rate anal­y­sis of the Corps’ true top gun. He con­cludes that while the Marines have clung for gen­er­a­tions to the un­sup­port­able no­tion that Boy­ing­ton was their lead­ing ace, it has, in fact, al­ways been Joe Foss.

Osprey is well known for its em­pha­sis on il­lus­tra­tions, and this book is no ex­cep­tion. Some 200 high-qual­ity black-and­white and color pho­tos are in­cluded in four sec­tions, in­clud­ing a cor­nu­copia of rare squadron em­blems. The only down­side is that the cap­tions are sep­a­rate from the il­lus­tra­tions.

The back of the book is stuffed with an enor­mous va­ri­ety of ap­pen­dices that in­clude aces, bases, chrono­log­i­cal “snap­shots” of Marine or­ga­ni­za­tion, and much more.

At a re­tail price of $25.95, this is an ex­cep­tional bar­gain and likely to re­main the de­fin­i­tive treat­ment of the sub­ject for years to come.— John Lloyd

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