The Hostile Sky

A Hellcat Flyer in World War II
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Published:July 15, 2014
By James W. Vernon (Author)

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.

List Price: $21.95
Member Price: $17.56
Product Details
  • Subject: Aviation
  • Paperback : 224 pages
  • Illustrations: 24 b/w photos
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (July 15, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1612514960
  • ISBN-13: 9781612514963
  • Product Dimensions: 5 X 8 in
  • Shipping Weight: 8.64 oz

James W. Vernon served aboard the carriers USS Randolph and Ticonderoga during the Second World War, flying Hellcats with three Air Group 87 squadrons. Before the war’s end, he saw combat in Okinawa and Japan. After the war, Vernon earned a PhD in geology, served in Korea as a photographic intelligence officer, and retired from the Naval Reserve as a lieutenant commander. As president of a geological scuba diving consulting company, he pioneered the application of manned submersibles to commercial geological exploration.

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