Book Review: Admiral John S. McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power


by William F Trimble

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2019. Pp. xviii, 374+. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $38.00. ISBN: 1682473708

Master of Naval Air power

Prof. Trimble (Emeritus, Auburn) is the author of several well-received works on naval aviation, and here gives us a look at John S. McCain (1884-1945), father and grandfather to two naval officers of note. Like several other noted naval airmen, he began his career in the surface Navy, only earning his wings in 1936, at the age of 52. By the time Pearl Harbor occurred he had commanded an aircraft carrier and the aviation assets of the Atlantic Fleet. He later commanded naval air forces in the southwest Pacific, especially during the Guadalcanal campaign, served a tour as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air, and then commanded carrier task forces across the Pacific from mid-August 1944 through the surrender of Japan, only to die of a heart attack literally days afterwards. Trimble does a good job of narrating McCain’s career, while weaving into his account an overview of the rise of naval aviation, and the strategic, doctrinal, technical, political, and operational issues that shaped the war.

McCain comes across as a very able commander, and one who at times had some unique insights into the how the war was unfolding, notably during the final months, he concluded that Japan’s Army and Navy, although expending half-trained pilots in suicidal missions flying obsolescent aircraft, were hoarding more capable flyers and better aircraft for a final battle in the Home Islands, which proved absolutely correct. Trimble is very even handed in his account, pointing out where McCain erred, most notably during the disastrous typhoon of December 1944.

A volume in the USNIP series “Studies in Naval History and Sea Power”, Admiral John S. McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power is good book for anyone with an interest in the Pacific War or carrier aviation.


Note: Admiral John S. McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power, is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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