Intrepid's Fighting Squadron 18

Flying High with Harris' Hellcats

  • Subject: Fall 2024 Catalog | World War II | Aviation & Space
  • Format:
  • Pages:
  • Illustrations:
    5 Maps, 30 B/W Photos
  • Published:
    January 14, 2025
  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13:
  • Product Dimensions:
    9 × 6 × 1 in
  • Product Weight:
    24 oz
Hardcover $34.95
Member Price $20.97 Save 40%
Book: Cover Type


USS Intrepid’s Fighting Squadron 18 (VF-18) was one of the U.S. Navy’s highest-scoring carrier units of World War II. Despite having only one combat veteran in its roster, its aviators—including Cecil “Speedball” Harris, the Navy’s second-ranking ace—were credited with shooting down more than 170 planes during their 81-day tour of duty, earning the squadron the nickname “Two-a-Day 18” in newspapers nationwide. How did a novice unit with a comparatively short time in theater accomplish such a feat?  

To answer this question, Intrepid’s Fighting Squadron 18 follows squadron members through training, into combat, and finally to the end of their harrowing stories—whether they took the return trip home or made the ultimate sacrifice. Drawing extensively on archival and family collections, author Mike Fink reveals the personalities of these men and the binding friendships they built. “Moe” Mollenhauer, Fighting 18’s youngest pilot, had a score to settle with the Japanese. Outspoken “Punchy” Mallory incredibly was reprimanded for shooting down enemy planes. And the squadron’s best-known figure, Cecil “Speedball” Harris, took the lead in preparing his peers for war before they took their place at the tip of the Navy’s spear. Intrepid’s Fighting Squadron 18 is as much about the bonds these young men formed as it is about Pacific War history.    

The men of Fighting 18 joined the Navy’s massive fast-carrier force in August 1943—just in time to participate in the last great air and sea battles in the Pacific. They were one of the first squadrons to engage Japan’s massive battleship force during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, racked up incredible scores and suffered devastating losses during the Formosa Air Battle, and bore witness to an unthinkable new weapon—the kamikaze suicide attack—as the war entered its desperate endgame. Ultimately, Intrepid’s Fighting Squadron 18 showcases the powerful impact of war on those who fight it and sheds light on the impact of those men on the war itself.

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