Such Men as These: The Story of the Navy Pilots Who Flew the Deadly Skies over Korea by David Sears
Quality military history of naval aviation during the Korean War. Historians traditionally bemoan America’s enthusiastic disarmament after World War II, and former U.S. Navy officer Sears (At War with the Wind: The Epic Struggle with Japan’s World War II Suicide Bombers, 2008, etc.) does not rock the boat. Budgets shrank, both draftees and skilled career men were discharged, ships were scrapped and vital military-technology research-jets, helicopters, new carrier designs-was shelved. North Korea’s 1950 invasion of the South found the United States with only a single, old aircraft carrier in the Pacific. After a scramble to refurbish the ships, recall reservists and spend generous new appropriations, Navy leaders assembled an impressive fleet that rained destruction on the North. As with Vietnam, North Korea was a poor, agricultural country with few of the key industrial targets bombers prefer, so airmen concentrated on railroads, bridges, tunnels and road traffic, which provided only occasional dramatic destruction in exchange for a steady stream of casualties. Sears does not shy away from politics and technical developments, but he focuses on an almost day-to-day account of carrier ground-attack missions. He follows the lives of a dozen Navy airmen, painting a vivid picture of their background, flight training and problems flying obsolete propeller aircraft, rudimentary early jets and the first futuristic but alarmingly dangerous helicopters. The author includes the moving story of the first black naval aviator, as well as the horrendous experience of several pilots taken prisoner. Military buffs will enjoy the nuts-and-bolts battle details, but Sears also offers a solid general history of naval air warfare.