One of the Truly Great WWII Aviation Memoirs! Professional writer Jay Stout and WWII air ace extraordinaire, CDR Hamilton McWhorter III (USN Ret) have captured a great piece of personal history in their non-fictional book, The First Hellcat Ace. This is truly one of the all time greatest stories of U.S. Naval aviation history. The authors take us along as we follow a young Hamilton go through his training (During the time of Pearl Harbor) and off on his battles over North Africa against the Vichy French and in the Pacific against the Japanese.
This is not just a story of how one man becomes the first air ace in a Hellcat Fighter but it deals with accounts of other men from “Fighting Squadron 9.” These were America’s best young men who fought in the skies above the likes of Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Tarawa Atoll among other places. They risked their lives daily in air to air combat and from hostile ground and ship fire.
There is much depth to the story telling as we get to look at McWhorter’s experiences as he reflects back on those days during the war. It is told as if it had just recently happened. The writing style is easy to read and follow and creates great excitement. It also gives us a more personal view of the men and what their lives were like. This book is suitable for most all readers.
If you enjoy aviation, or naval war stories, history, or just like to read about heroes, then this is the book for you. This is an important book that needs to be discovered by young Americans looking for old fashioned heroes. Commander McWhorter is the real McCoy and it would be good to honor him and others like himself before the Greatest Generation becomes just a memory. But when they do, I hope that this book will still be there casting long shadows over future generations.
Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2006)
THE FIRST HELLCAT ACE Cdr Hamilton McWhorter, III, USN (Ret) with Jay A. Stout Though he objected to being called such, Hamilton McWhorter III's service to family and country make him a standout among America's Greatest Generation. A Georgia native whose family roots date from that region's settlement during the 1700s, Mac McWhorter was a naval aviation cadet undergoing training when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. After earning his Wings of Gold in early 1942, Ensign McWhorter was trained as a fighter pilot in the robust but technologically outmoded F4F Wildcat. Initially assigned to VF-9-a fiercely spirited and hard-playing fighter squadron-he saw first combat in November 1942 against Vichy French forces in North Africa. After returning to the United States, VF-9 became the first unit to convert to the new Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter-the fighter the U.S. Navy would use to crush Japanese air power during the long offensive from the Southwest Pacific to the shores of Japan. From mid 1943, Hamilton McWhorter was constantly engaged in the unforgiving and deadly aerial warfare that characterized the battles against Imperial Japan. His fifth aerial victory, in November 1943 off Tarawa Atoll, made him the first ace in the Hellcat, and seven subsequent victories ensured his place in the annals of air-to-air combat. McWhorter's combat service, from the beginning of the war to the last campaign off the shores of Okinawa, makes his story a must-read for the serious student of the Pacific air war. Hamilton McWhorter III retired from the Navy as a commander in 1969. He passed away in 2008. A Marine F/A-18 pilot from 1981 to early 2000, Lieutenant Colonel Jay A. Stout is a combat veteran with over 4,600 flight hours. He has also authored Hornets over Kuwait, which recounts his own experiences during the Gulf War. What the experts are saying about The First Hellcat Ace: "Mac McWhorter not only survived three carrier deployments in World War II, he earned a reputation as one of the Navy's deadliest fighter pilots. His memoir captures the attitude of his generation-the heroism and the sacrifice, and the return to a loving famiy. It was an era never to return again." --Barrett Tillman, author of Hellcat: The F6F in World War II "Mac McWhorter became a noted Navy fighter ace during World War II, his three carrier deployments characterized by intense combat, the loss of numerous squadron mates, and the pain of separation from his wife and family. His memoir is not the stuff of legends or glamour so often associated with fighter pilots, but a sensitive look at the realities faced by carrier aviators who go in harm's way." --Bruce Gamble, author of Black Sheep One: The Life of Gregory "Pappy" Boyington "Not only a thrilling account of some of the great air battles of the Pacific war, Hamilton McWhorter's book provides a window through which we can view a generation of young men at war, impressed by their camaraderie and spirit and humbled by the hardships and fears they overcame." --M. Hill Goodspeed, historian at the U.S. Navy Aviation Museum