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Race of Aces: WWII's Elite Airmen and the Epic Battle to Become the Masters of the Sky

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  104 ratings  ·  29 reviews
The astonishing untold story of the WWII airmen who risked it all in the deadly race to become the greatest American fighter pilot.

In 1942, America's deadliest fighter pilot, or "ace of aces"-the legendary Eddie Rickenbacker-offered a bottle of bourbon to the first U.S. fighter pilot to break his record of twenty-six enemy planes shot down. Seizing on the challenge to
Hardcover, 522 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by Hachette Books
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Average rating 4.35  · 
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Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I was in high school back in the early 80's, I read Steve Birdsall's excellent book on the 5th Air Force, "Flying Buccaneers", and fell in love with the great race by several pilots to become the highest-scoring American ace of World War II. In the following years, I read stories about Richard Bong, Thomas McGuire, Neel Kearby, Gerald Johnson and Charles MacDonald in various other books, but never knew how much the desire to be Number One consumed some of them...until now.

John Bruning has
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A few weeks ago, while seated in my cubicle at work having lunch, I came across "RACE OF ACES" quite by accident -- courtesy of The New York Times. Being an aviation buff, I could hardly contain my excitement from reading the NYT review of the book.

"RACE OF ACES" is a story that begins during the dark days of the Pacific War in the summer of 1942. From the attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor (December 7th, 1941) to the middle of 1942, Japan's military machine had run riot in the
Dan Curnutt
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an interesting historic novel. Bruning takes us on a fascinating read about the exploits of our air campaigns in the South Pacific. We follow the true lives of several pilots who go from average every day life to that of being wartime hero's. But on the way we get a great documented telling of the struggles of getting the right planes, the right pilots and the right leaders into the war theatre.

It was disheartening to read about the many pilots that never made it into war because they were
Deon Stonehouse
Wow, he can write! He has all of the requisite footnotes and indexes to prove this was a comprehensively researched book, but it races across the page like a tsunami!

That we won the war in the Pacific is a near on miracle. Our guys were fighting in inhospitable places, outnumbered, against a foe that did not tolerate frailty or failure. What did we have? A bunch of crazy brave young men willing to hurl themselves into the sky flying unpredictable machines into fierce battles with the odds
Dan Trefethen
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
For those people interested in WWII aviation, this book provides a blow-by-blow, turn-by-turn account of many of the major air battles and dogfights in the Pacific theater, mostly during the campaign on New Guinea, leading up to and including the invasion of the Philippines.

Aerial warfare is a curious thing. Official counts are kept of enemy planes downed (called “kills” although the pilot may survive). Pilots either receive official credit, or credited with a 'probable', or uncredited when
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A interesting book on World War II pilots who fought in the Pacific campaign. The story focuses on Richard Bong, Tommy McGuire, Neel Kearby, Charles MacDonald, and Gerald Johnson, who through training, became the deadliest aces during the Pacific War.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Race of Aces is an educational, powerful, and intense read, with a behind the scenes look at the Southwest Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II. In the early years of the War, air forces from the United States, Australia, and Japan engaged in an unrelenting struggle for superiority in the skies over New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Allied forces were operating under primitive conditions in a largely unknown and noxious physical environment. John Bruning explores the technology and ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detailed account of the air war in the Pacific from the perspective of Air Force aces. Bruning brings 30 years of research to play in this account of the aces who sought to break Eddie Rickenbacker's record and their goal to be be top American ace of WWII. Bruning makes the characters come alive, flaws and all.
The book is a record of the heroics of the Pacific War, but also a warning about the popularization of individual achievements in combat. The media, as well as the ambition of the
Craig Pearson
Dec 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. Some reviewers have described this book as an historical novel. The author probably took liberties with conversations and situations but all in the context of telling the story. I did find it difficult to stay interested with the characters and the situations they found themselves in, both in the civilian world and in combat. 'Race of Aces' does give the reader valuable insight into flight training and the minutiae of ...more
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In “ The Race of Aces” author John R. Bruning has written a history of aerial combat in WWII that should attract the attention of anyone interested in history of those war years and will be of interest to those interested in air combat.
The book which is set in the South West Pacific, begins as Gen. George Kenney takes command of the battered Fifth Air Force. American pilots fly the outmoded P-39 a heavy, slow and ungainly aircraft , and the P-40 which was a bit better . Both , however, were
Nathan Schmidt
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book as an advance copy through Goodreads First Reads and am very grateful for the opportunity to read this brilliant book prior to publication.

This was a great book, with a focused lens that kept us connected to the larger tides of World War II while helping us better understand the specific Pacific theater that the aces were fighting in. What I like most about the book is that it helps us visualize the setting of the fighters' story, from the sensation of taking off to the
Terri Wangard
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
In an effort to improve morale in the Southern Pacific theater, General Kenney said he’d give a case of scotch to the first fighter pilot to best Eddie Rickenbacker’s total of 26 kills in WWI. Rickenbacker sweetened the deal by throwing in a case of his own.

The south Pacific was a grim place. The European war received the lion’s share of supplies. The men of the Fifth Air Force had to cope with bad food, bad living conditions, diseases, and not enough planes and parts.

Several fighter pilots

William Harris
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received an advance copy of "Race of Aces", by John R. Bruning, courtesy of the publisher. I am delighted to report that it was a wonderful read. The first thing to note is that the framing literary conceit is the intense competition in the Army Air Forces (AAF) under the command of Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific Theater of War for the title of ace of aces. Eddie Rickenbacker's status as the best known American ace at the end of World War I and his enormous business success since then ...more
Feb 07, 2020 rated it liked it
As the # of stars indicate, I liked but did not love this book. Understand, this was an audio-book so part of my review is based on the reader.

The good: Very interesting story about men whose names are known only to those in "the community" - Bong, McGwire, etc al. I consider myself one a peripheral member of said community (Former AF crew chief) and my biggest thrill at the Smithsonian Air and Space annex was seeing Dick Bong's last P-38 - utterly unrestored, gun smoke still on the nose. Gave
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
”Race of Aces” is a must read for any World War II or aviation enthusiasts. John Bruning tells the story of a group of American aviators in the South Pacific theater who took up Fifth Air Force commander General George Kenney’s challenge to be the first to break American “Ace of Aces” Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I record of 26 planes shot down. As Bruning notes, “Fewer than 5 percent of combat fighter pilots achieved acehood”—at least five confirmed destroyed enemy aircraft—“but they ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Along with Unbroken and In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, one of my all-time favorite WWII-period biographies or histories. Incredible heroes, incredibly told. (I listened to the Audible version; the narration was superb). The depictions of the aircraft mechanics and construction engineers was also highly compelling, even though far less was (somewhat understandably) written about those two other groups of heroes.

The discussions of the brutalities by the Japanese, just like
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I understand the reasons for the high ratings that have been doled out to this book due to the detailed reporting and research that obviously went into creating it, this came across to me as a very stylized account of a narrow part of the Pacific theater during WWII that was much more thriller than historical document. I can understand a lot of readers being hooked into this story of brave derring-do, but the writing and framing of the narrative was so heavy with pomp, testosterone & ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A well written book about the incredible Ace Race of WW2. I found it interesting that these men were so famous at the time, and I (and likely many others) had never heard their names before. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to learn more about them and their service through this interesting, exciting read.
Barbara White
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Race of Aces is fantastic. Realism abounds in the characters and the descriptions of action scenes. Knowing how these men risked their lives for their country and freedom. The title of the book is telling, which keeps the reader wanting more. Thanks to Goodreads First Reads for a copy of Race of Aces.
Don Price
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well Researched and Written

Informative book on fighter warfare in the Pacific in WWII. Answered a lot of questions I had. Uses extensive research from multiple sources. John Bringing is an author worth following.
Mary Greiner
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good for folks more interested than I am with this genre.
Dan Orr
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is a tough book to read because of the details of merciless combat but it does give an excellent account of what US Army Air Force pilots and ground crews had to endure during WWII in the Pacific.
Mark B
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a "can't put down" book for military history buffs. I didn't know of this race until reading this book.

I'd give it a 10 star if possible!
Bill Linton
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting history of the Warfare in the Pacific. It was a little long-winded at times, but it was very interesting.
JJ Cooper
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the better WWII accounts in recent years.

An extremely well-researched account of the ace race in the Pacific War. it has excellent detail. Well worth the time.
Steven R. Netter
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Race of Aces by John R. Bruning is a great look into US fighter pilots in the Pacific. Really enjoyed learning about these men, their families, their planes and what drove them to succeed. Incredible bravery, but with triumph also comes a lot of tragedy. Recommend checking it out.
Steve Hench
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very accessible, well-researched. Could really benefit from including some maps, though.
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received this as a Goodreads advanced copy read. I found this book well written. It was evident that the author spent considerable time and effort researching and fact checking.

Anyone interested in military aviation, particularly during WWII will find this book of great interest.
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy from Netgalley.

My typical fare is Sci-Fi/Fantasy but I have an abiding love of history, particularly military history. This checked so many blocks for me.

Reading a pre-release version, there were a few small things that I am sure will be caught and corrected before publication so I won't even count those as a negative. Towards the positive, it is apparent that Bruning has done his research (quite extensively based on his listed resources).
rated it really liked it
Feb 04, 2020
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John Bruning is the author or coauthor of twenty-two non-fiction books, including four New York Times best sellers, and seven national best sellers, including the critically acclaimed "Race of Aces," "Indestructible," "Outlaw Platoon" (with Sean Parnell) and "House to House" (with David Bellavia).

In 2011, he received a Thomas Jefferson Award for his photojournalism and reporting in Afghanistan