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Race of Aces

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Member Reviews

This book is out of my comfort zone to be sure! I normally read just about the European theatre of WWII but this book did not disappoint! I really enjoyed the book and wish I could use it for my classroom but it is just a bit too advance for my students.
Definitely recommend for someone’s personal library!
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“Race of Aces” is an enjoyable and comprehensive account of flight training, austere living and air combat. I, personally, am a lover of aviation and aeronautics but sometimes find overly detailed historical fiction a bore. However, Bruning does a great job with his liberties adding in character development and delightful additions to the story lines. This book is excellent for those wanting to learn about WWII aviation but need a more enjoyable avenue to stay interested.
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As a WWII buff, I found this book engaging and it brought the characters to life. The pacing was just right and the settings were well described.
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”Race of Aces” is a must read for any World War II or aviation enthusiasts. John Bruning tells the story of a group of American aviators in the South Pacific theater who took up Fifth Air Force commander General George Kenney’s challenge to be the first to break American “Ace of Aces” Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I record of 26 planes shot down. As Bruning notes, “Fewer than 5 percent of combat fighter pilots achieved acehood”—at least five confirmed destroyed enemy aircraft—“but they accounted for 47 percent of all the enemy planes knocked out of the sky.” What originally began as Kenney’s desperate attempt to improve morale and rally his group of underequipped pilots at their remote and dangerous jungle outposts soon became a heated competition—one that caught the imagination of the home front and produced a group of fighter pilots who became the best in American history. Bruning takes the reader inside this elite group of aces, introducing men such as Dick Bong, Tommy McGuire, Neel Kearby and Gerald Johnson, and tells their stories both in the air and on the ground and before and after the war. Beyond his gripping aerial combat recreations and eye for the telling detail (as when, for example, he notes that the extreme humidity of jungle life meant that “the longer they wore headphones on missions, the more likely they’d return with something sprouting in their ears”), Bruning also considers the moral questionability of pushing men to risk everything to win a contest—a Kenney gambit that often had tragic and far reaching consequences. Propulsive and suspenseful.

Thank you to NetGalley and Hachette Books for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.
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An in depth story revolving around the five great Aces of World War II in the Pacific. The book entails the journey of their day to day lives and struggles to become the greatest fighter pilot of their time. When General Kenney arrived to his new command, he found a ragtag fighting force with low moral, so the current holder of the highest number of enemy kills in the US Air Force, Eddie Rickenbacker was invited to speak to the men. A friendly rivalry ensued to beat his record. The book covers the lives of the Aces from childhood and how they came to be in the Pacific all the way through to the end of the war and the effect it had on their families. Easy to read and highly recommended for people interested in air fighting in WWII.
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I really tried on this one, but it was all too predictable, the sort of Gee Whiz! account that was popular during the Second World War and the years immediately following. I didn't finish and won't be recommending it to my followers.
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This is a hard one for me to rate. If I consider only the story and concept of the book, I rate it 5 stars. The details are plentiful and very interesting. The story follows the timeline of events in a chronological order. 

I acknowledge the version I read was an ARC copy and hasn't been through a final edit, but boy is filled to the gills with errors. One common error was the misuse of "passed" vs "past."  I lost count of the number of times the word should have been "past."  There are many instances of missing words, sentences without a verb, and many times extra words appear in the text. Another major issue is the number of repeated phrases where the text was changed but the original phrase is remains in the sentence. I also lost count of the numerous times the word used was "they" but should have been "the" and vice-versa. 

I hope the editor of the text is detail oriented and reads every single word of every sentence. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced copy for me to read and review.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. Some reviewers have described this book as an historical novel. The author probably took liberties with conversations and situations but all in the context of telling the story. I did find it difficult to stay interested with the characters and the situations they found themselves in, both in the civilian world and in combat. 'Race of Aces' does give the reader valuable insight into flight training and the minutiae of living in bare bones outposts. Good information just no wow factor.
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In an effort to improve morale in the Southern Pacific theater, General Kenney said he’d give a case of scotch to the first fighter pilot to best Eddie Rickenbacker’s total of 26 kills in WWI. Rickenbacker sweetened the deal by throwing in a case of his own.
The south Pacific was a grim place. The European war received the lion’s share of supplies. The men of the Fifth Air Force had to cope with bad food, bad living conditions, diseases, and not enough planes and parts.
Several fighter pilots sought to become the highest scoring ace. Many were obsessed. Neel Kearby and Tommy McGuire got themselves killed because they crossed a line between duty and ambition.
Charles Lindberg showed up, wanting to fly and get kills, even though he was a civilian. And he scorned the American fliers for their immoral actions when they strafed enemy pilots they’d shot down. He would have gotten himself killed with his poor situational awareness if not for those immoral pilots. He was pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and a hypocrite.
I learned a lot about the Fifth Air Force. The lifestyle was atrocious. The ground crews were the unsung heroes. Admirable aces like Jerry Johnson and Dick Bong, survived the war, only to die in crashes in 1945.
I found one statement by the author shocking. The Japanese intended to fight to the bitter end and, for the aces, this may have been welcome news. They would have plenty of opportunities to score. Would they seriously want to prolong the war, resulting in the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and sailors, so they could get more kills?
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What an interesting historic novel. Bruning takes us on a fascinating read about the exploits of our air campaigns in the South Pacific. We follow the true lives of several pilots who go from average every day life to that of being wartime hero's. But on the way we get a great documented telling of the struggles of getting the right planes, the right pilots and the right leaders into the war theatre.

It was disheartening to read about the many pilots that never made it into war because they were killed flying planes that were untested and needed further development before they could go to war. How terrible it was to loose pilots just because equipment wasn't truly ready to fly!

But the story documents the lives of airmen who are challenged to break the record of ACES from WWI. Can they do better than scoring 20 plus kills? Can they become the next "ACE" pilot? Can they survive all of the cards stacked against them? Can they provide air cover for our ground troops and Navy so that we can prosecute the war in a way that will allow us to win?

I found this book interesting and yet sad because of what war does to people.

I think anyone would benefit from reading this account of the war and learning what brave men and women had to endure, overcome and accomplish so that we could live in a nation like the United States.
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A detailed account of the air war in the Pacific from the perspective of Air Force aces. Bruning brings 30 years of research to play in this account of the aces who sought to break Eddie Rickenbacker's record and their goal to be be top American ace of WWII. Bruning makes the characters come alive, flaws and all.
The book is a record of the heroics of the Pacific War, but also a warning about the popularization of individual achievements in combat. The media, as well as the ambition of the pilots, drove the race of aces. Unfortunately, many died in combat due to their reckless actions in pursuit of kills. 
This is a long and detailed book. However, after 100 pages I could not put it down. I recommend it to anyone interested in WWII or the history of aviation.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a prepublication ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Have read many books about WWI figher pilots, but none on WWII. I've been missing out, because this book was a great retelling of WWII fighter pilots competing to surpass Eddie Rickenbacker's total of 26 victories in the First World War - the highest scoring American ace. This competition took place in the Pacific Theater as five pilots jumped in the race to 27 & was reported nationwide to an excited audience. However, the pilots involved struggled with the conflict sense of duty and their desire for glory. Very exciting read.
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I received an advance copy of "Race of Aces", by John R. Bruning, courtesy of the publisher.  I am delighted to report that it was a wonderful read.  The first thing to note is that the framing literary conceit is the intense competition in the Army Air Forces (AAF) under the command of Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific Theater of War for the title of ace of aces.  Eddie Rickenbacker's status as the best known American ace at the end of World War I and his enormous business success since then provided a sort of preview of the possible rewards awaiting the successful pilot.  However, rather after the fashion of a recent popular movie, "There can be only One."  The interesting thing here is that the framework sets up a prism through which to view the whole Pacific War, particularly the campaigns on New Guinea and building towards the invasion of the Philippines.  The gritty and well written narrative gives an unprecedented view of the air war against Imperial Japan as seen through the lens of the AAF.   The story is both moving and frightful, with a fascinating cast of charaters and their aircraft.  Most notably the Lockheed P-38 Lightning in its various incarnations.  Despite the title's rather universal implications, only an occasional casual mention is made to the AAF in Europe or even to the Marine and Naval aces in the rampaging Carrier task forces in the Pacific.  Marked by humanity, erudition, and solid research, this book is an invaluable addition to the shelves of anyone with an interest in military aviation during the Second World War.
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Race of Aces is an educational, powerful, and intense read, with a behind the scenes look at the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II. In the early years of the War, air forces from the United States, Australia, and Japan engaged in an unrelenting struggle for superiority in the skies over New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Allied forces were operating under primitive conditions in a largely unknown and noxious physical environment. John Bruning explores the technology and tactics, the multi-dimensional battlefield, and the leadership, living conditions, medical challenges, and morale of the combatants.

In July 1942, General George Kenney assumed command of the US Fifth Air Force in General Douglas MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Theater. Kenney was an innovator, and he promptly began revitalizing an air force that had been weighed down with poor aircraft and poor morale. During a visit by America's most successful World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker, Kenney promised a case of scotch to whomever broke Eddie's record. Rickenbacker promptly offered a second case to the winner. So, the race was on for a Pacific ace to top Rickenbacker's record. Pilots like Neel Kearby, Dick Bong, Tommy McGuire, and Gerald Johnson, along with other contenders, began to pile up scores. It is somewhat difficult to talk about the ace race without revealing plot elements. Suffice it to say that the author presented very fascinating and extremely thorough background information on the main contenders and their ongoing challenges to become the winner.

Enjoying history, I have read a number of books regarding WWII, along with hearing many stories from family members who served. Race of Aces was very readable and almost impossible to put down. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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My typical fare is Sci-Fi/Fantasy but I have an abiding love of history, particularly military history. This checked so many blocks for me.

Reading a pre-release version, there were a few small things that I am sure will be caught and corrected before publication so I won't even count those as a negative. Towards the positive, it is apparent that Bruning has done his research (quite extensively based on his listed resources). Summarizing a list of sequential events is not difficult, but he has taken the multitude of sources and information then sorted and done a superb job of combined them into a compelling story. 

I greatly enjoyed the book and would love to see a version with the photographs that were mentioned at various points through out. A definite recommend for anybody that enjoys military history, and could still be enjoyable even for those that don't.
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