Naval Aviation in the Korean War: Aircraft, Ships and Men
By Warren Thompson, Pen & Sword, South Yorkshire, UK, 2012, $50.
Thank goodness for books like this that reduce the extent to which the Korean War has become a forgotten conflict. Prolific author Warren Thompson takes us through the war from its dark early days to the peak of combat and into the stalemate of the armistice. In doing so, he focuses on the remarkable way in which the U.S. Navy managed to spring back into action after the agonies of post–World War II downsizing. Initially the Navy fought with what it had— a few carriers largely equipped with a piston-engine force, guarded by early Grumman F9F Panther jet fighters. As understrength as that force was, it caught the North Koreans at their most vulnerable points, at first slowing, then stopping and reversing their advance. As the U.S. went on with what was termed a “police action,” the Navy built up its strength with new aircraft, additional personnel and more vessels.
Thompson makes good use of personal interviews and memoirs to give readers insights into the hazards of the very different types of missions flown. He has wisely confined this book to the Navy, noting that the Marines’ efforts during this period deserve a book of their own.
Three invaluable appendices add details that should prove interesting to buffs and researchers alike. The first lists carrier deployments by ship, air group, squadron, aircraft type and tail code—details that are especially important for modelers, but also allow readers to see the increase in strength and in the variety of types. The second appendix is sad, showing aircraft lost by date, type, squadron and carrier. It’s a doleful toll, made even more explicit via a table showing the monthly losses. The third appendix details air-to-air victories by Navy pilots over the enemy.
As is usual with Thompson’s work, this book is a joy to read and an invaluable research tool.
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.