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|Book Review: Fire in the Sky, by Eric M. Bergerud
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|Author:||daviemax [ Thu May 08, 2014 4:42 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Book Review: Fire in the Sky, by Eric M. Bergerud|
Fire in the Sky is about the air war in the South Pacific. However, it is not a conventional history in the sense that it doesn't cover events in a strictly chronologic fashion. Rather, it is an analysis of the conflict that takes into account a broad range of factors. These include aircraft and aircraft engine designs, industrial capacity, overall military strategy and tactics, pilot training practices, environmental factors, and a host of other variables affecting the combatants. The author's broad assertion - that the battles of the South Pacific, specifically from the Solomon Islands through New Guinea and beyond to Rabaul - form the critical line of battle for the entire Pacific war is worth pondering. However, by somewhat discounting events elsewhere, such as Midway or the Philippine campaign, the author, although well-intended, appears to be a bit myopic in his focus. This perception is bolstered by his selective treatment of aspects of the South Pacific battles themselves.
However, in the opinion of this reviewer, these quibbles are trivial compared to the depth and sweep of the overall narrative. Bergerud clearly is a devoted aviation historian who has carefully researched his material and - to his immense credit - found and quoted many of the actual battle participants from both sides. These nuggets of reality are liberally sprinkled throughout the work and serve well to provide color that may be lacking in other histories. Combining these personal observations with his own analysis brings life to a theater war that at best has been unevenly studied and/or understood. The juxtaposition of these individual recollections to realities of combat imposed by aircraft and engine design limitations, as well as many other factors, brings the conflict into very sharp focus.
Individual readers may take issue with some of Begerud's opinions and prejudices - as I have - but they would do well to overlook these minor points of disagreement to appreciate what to me is a thought-provoking work that is also a great joy to read. He writes in a style reminiscent of the very accomplished John Lundstrom (author of the vivid First Team books on the first year of Pacific naval air war) and in fact references these works. Fire in the Sky is highly recommended to any WIX member who has an interest in the Pacific air war.
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