In the summer of 1942 Jim Vernon, a nineteen-year-old student in Butte, Montana, joined the U.S. Navy’s aviation cadet training program. By the end of the war he was flying F6F Hellcats from the USS Ticonderoga against the Japanese mainland. This memoir provides a carrier pilot’s view of the conflict in the Pacific during the final months of the war when the atomic bombs were dropped and Japan capitulated.
A member of VBF-87, Vernon gives a highly personal eyewitness account of life in a bomber-fighter squadron and the roller-coaster emotions involved in combat sorties over the hostile sea and land. He describes his feelings about meeting the challenges of war and offers stirring memories of his love of flying and the camaraderie of his flying mates—both in the air and on liberty. Added to this entertaining narrative are details of the mobilization and training of carrier pilots as well as a discussion of the high incidence of noncombat fatalities and the air group’s response to the kamikaze threat, information that contributes important dimensions to the overall story of the air war.
Completely candid about his emotions regarding day and night landings and errors made in the cockpit, Vernon gives a vivid glimpse into the past at a time when teenagers matured rapidly as they faced the realities of war. His recollections will strike a cord of recognition with aviators everywhere and will inform and entertain those with an interest in World War II combat.