My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII by Norman E. Berg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
From his days as a Naval aviation cadet learning his trade aboard the "Yellow Peril" biplane trainers in 1942, to his first bombing runs on Guadalcanal, to life aboard an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, Norman Berg offers a fast-paced narrative filled with humor and meticulous attention to detail. Much more than a simple WWII memoir, this story goes beyond the action of battle to explore one young, wartime couple's struggle to balance love, duty, and their commitment to each other.
This book is an honest account of Berg's journey to become a US Navy carrier-based attack pilot during WWII. We follow him right from school through training and eventual deployment aboard Navy aircraft carriers operating in the Pacific theater against the Japanese. Throughout all of this, he has a young wife at home and a baby on the way, so this adds an additional stress to his tour.
Berg's first tour of duty involves operations around the Solomon Island chain (Guadalcanal, etc.) where he gets his baptism of fire and first real experiences of the unique challenges and horrors of war. After a stint back in the USA, he is redeployed on another carrier and this time is involved in action along the Marianas Islands, including the famous "Marianas Turkey Shoot". After this the push continues on to the Philippines where Berg leads raids right into Manilla Harbour.
The book is fairly well written and it doesn't appear to have had any serious editorial input which I really liked as the story remains more 'real' to me. Written in a style that is quite conservative and with well-chosen words, unlike the Vietnam War era Chickenhawk (the best war memoir I've read) which is a bit more gritty but I still found it to be a compelling read which many times had me feeling like I was there with him in his Avenger bomber at 200 feet racing toward a Japanese ship under heavy anti-aircraft fire. One aspect of the text that I liked a lot was the regular insertion of what appear to be snippets from his wartime diary that gave further insight into his thoughts and moods.
Overall a very good book that I would recommend to anyone, whether they be interested in war stories or not. A great story of fear, doubt, courage, tribulation, triumph and love. Well worth the purchase. Top stuff.
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