Doomed at the Start: American Pursuit Pilots in the Philippines, 1941-1942

Overview

During the first three days of the Japanese assault on American Pacific bases in December of 1941, the 24th Pursuit Group, the only unit of interceptor aircraft in the Philippine Islands, was almost destroyed as an effective force. Yet the group’s pilots, doomed from the start by their limited training, an inadequate air warning system, and lack of familiarity with the few flyable pursuit aircraft they had left, fought on against immensely superior number of Japanese army and navy fighters.

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Overview

During the first three days of the Japanese assault on American Pacific bases in December of 1941, the 24th Pursuit Group, the only unit of interceptor aircraft in the Philippine Islands, was almost destroyed as an effective force. Yet the group’s pilots, doomed from the start by their limited training, an inadequate air warning system, and lack of familiarity with the few flyable pursuit aircraft they had left, fought on against immensely superior number of Japanese army and navy fighters.

“. . . bold drama, with almost novel-like narration. This is good history. . . .” –Daniel R. Mortensen, Office of Air Force History

“. . . an engrossing and minutely detailed account based on a variety of US and Japanese government and military records and on personal interviews with the surviving pilots.” –Choice

“. . . an admirably detailed history . . . the work will [be of] interest to both aviation buffs and students of WWII.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“Ignoring the point of view of the top brass, Bartsch’s book becomes a triumph of human interest rather than another statistical account. . . . A winning account of a losing campaign defended by courage and honor.” –Journal of Military History

“. . . as much a compelling human drama as an objective and detailed unit history. . . . a prodigious achievement in unit history research that does overdue justice to the memory of a tragic group of airmen who did the best they could with what they had under extraordinary circumstances and against thoroughly daunting adversity.” –Military History

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bartsch, an economist historian of WW II in the Pacific, offers an admirably-detailed history of the five fighter squadrons deployed in the Philippine Islands on Dec. 7, 1941. With most of their planes destroyed or damaged in the inital Japanese attacks, the survivors fought on against overwhelming odds. From archives and extensive interviews, Bartsch pieces together the story of an effort ``doomed at the start.'' Noting that a high percentage of the men who stood in the front lines of the Philippines' defense were barely out of flight school, he cites their inexperience to help explain the pilot's difficulty adjusting their tactics to match those of their skillful opponents. Avoiding questions of strategy and policy, Bartsch also ignores the role of U.S. bombers in the Philippine campaign. Within these limits, however, the work will interest to both aviation buffs and students of WW II. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Library Journal
Fifty years ago the American-Philippine Army was destroyed on Bataan and Corregidor. The land campaign lasted five desperate months, but the air battle took three short days: by December 10th, the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Philippines was wiped out. The Americans flew obsolete aircraft, were inadequately trained, lacked anti-aircraft guns and radar. In addition, the senior officer corps was inept and understood neither the enemy nor the use of air power. The 24th Pursuit Group, along with the only modern group of B-17 heavy bombers, was destroyed on the ground on the second day of the war; the few remaining aircraft flew until the fall of Bataan, but accomplished little. Bartsch's scholarship, the amount and quality of his research, the brilliance of his writing, are all impressive. This work breaks new ground; there is nothing similar in print. For all comprehensive World War II collections.-- Stanley Itkin, Hillside P.L., New Hyde Park, N.Y.
From the Publisher

"...bold drama, with almost novel-like narration. This is good history..." -- Daniel R. Mortensen, Office of Air Force History

"...an engrossing and minutely detailed account based on a variety of US and Japanese government and military records and on personal interviews with the surviving pilots." -- Choice

"...an admirably detailed history...the will [be of] interest to both aviation buffs and students of WWII." -- Publishers Weekly

Stars and Stripes

"Ignoring the point of view of the top brass, Bartsch's book becomes a triumph of human interest rather than another statistical account ... A winning account of a losing campaign defended by courage and honor." -- Stars and Stripes
Journal of Military History

"...an impressive labor of love, interesting for general reader and useful for the specialist." -- Journal of Military History
Military History

"...as much a compelling human drama as an objective and detailed unit history...a prodigious achievement in unit history research that does overdue justice to the memory of a tragic group of airmen who did the best they could with what they had under extraordinary circumstances and against thoroughly daunting adversity." -- Military History
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Product Details

Meet the Author


William H. Bartsch is the author of two other books published by Texas A&M University press: the award-winning December 8, 1941: MacArthur's Pearl Harbor (2003) and Every Day a Nightmare (2010). Bartsch, a former United Nations development economist and independent consultant now exclusively researching and writing on the Pacific War, lives in Reston, Virginia.
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