In the Pacific in World War II, the dearth of US Navy fleet aviation capabilities became acute following the loss, in 1942, of four aircraft carriers to combat action. New Essex-class fleet aircraft carriers were being built, but would not be ready soon enough. Time was of the essence. President Franklin D. Roosevelt intervened to solve the problem — directing reluctant Navy “top brass” to turn cruiser hulls, already laid down, into light aircraft carriers. This created nine Independence-class ships, which would earn more battle stars, on average, than their bigger, better-known sisters (the twelve finally-completed Essex carriers that saw combat action). Aboard two of the light carriers were future presidents, George H. W. Bush, and Gerald R. Ford. Pilots and aircrews flying from the 622-foot “flat-tops” earned scores of decorations for heroism. These included two Medals of Honor, Navy Crosses, Silver and Bronze Stars, and dozens of Distinguished Flying Crosses. Some of the recipients, such as Edward “Butch” O’Hare, are familiar to aviation buffs. Others, including Hollis H. Hills, who flew in the two greatest air battles of the war: Dieppe in 1942 and the “Great [Marianas] Turkey Shoot” in the Pacific in 1944, less so. Britain similarly began construction on ten 698-foot Colossus-class light fleet carriers. Four entered service before the end of the war, and were allocated to the British Pacific Fleet, but arrived too late for frontline action. Aboard the BPF’s larger carriers, which fought in the Battle of Okinawa and other actions, were members of many Commonwealth countries. Among them was Robert Hampton Gray, who (posthumously) was Canada’s last Victoria Cross winner of the war. One hundred sixty-five photographs, maps, and diagrams; appendices; and an index to full-names, places, and subjects add value to this work.
Cdr. David D. Bruhn, USN (retired)
2021, 6x9, paper, index, 480 pp