Thomas McKelvey Cleaver’s Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15 is a wonderful recollection about a group of US naval aviators who were in the air over the Western Pacific 70 years ago in two historic naval engagements – the Philippine Sea (also known as the Mariana Turkey Shoot) and Leyte Gulf – which broke the back of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Known as Carrier Air Group 15, this group of Naval Aviators, became a highly decorated unit with over 300 enemy aircraft shot down and numerous ships including the world largest battleship Musashi and the Zuikaku, the last of the Japanese carriers who participated in the Pearl Harbor attack, sunk.
Based on unit records and interviews with still living members of the unit, Cleaver tells a wonderful and very readable story about a unit whose seven month tour on the USS Essex demonstrated the value of strong leadership, excellent training, and group cohesiveness that created a true killing machine. As he does so, he details the daily life of carrier operations as well as providing the backgrounds of key officers and enlisted personnel and how they came to be part of the Fabled Fifteen.
I liked this book as it provides both a historical context of carrier operations as well as the human element of war. I was also struck, as I read the dates of the battles, that what I was reading was unfolding 70 years ago at this time!
Highly readable and well written, Fabled Fifteen is a great addition to the large body of literature on the US war effort in World War 2. It will be a welcome addition to anyone interested in both military and aviation history.
I rate this book a ‘great’ read.
Note: I was given a galley copy of this book from Net Galley via the publisher (Casemate Publishers) in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.