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The Cactus Air Force


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Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: BEFORE – January 4–July 31, 1942 CHAPTER 2: RXI – May 25–August 6, 1942 CHAPTER 3: HEAVY BOMBERS – June 10–August 6, 1942 CHAPTER 4: HELPLESS – August 7–August 20, 1942 CHAPTER 5: THE CAVALRY ARRIVES – August 20, 1942 CHAPTER 6: FIRST CONTACTS – August 21–August 25, 1942 CHAPTER 7: EARLY DAYS – August 26–September 4 CHAPTER 8: EDSON’S RIDGE – September 1–September 13, 1942 CHAPTER 9: GROWING INTO THE JOB – August 30–September 15, 1942 CHAPTER 10: DECISIONS – September 1942 CHAPTER 11: TIT FOR TAT – September 15–30, 1942 CHAPTER 12: NIMITZ – September 1942 CHAPTER 13: STORMY WEATHER – October 1–11, 1942 CHAPTER 14: THE NAVAL BATTLE OF CAPE ESPERANCE – October 12, 1942 CHAPTER 15: CRISIS – October 13–15, 1942 CHAPTER 16: RELIEF – October 16–18, 1942 CHAPTER 17: DOG DAYS – October 19–23, 1942 CHAPTER 18: THE MOST DIFFICULT TIME – October 23–30, 1942 CHAPTER 19: BACKS TO THE WALL – November 1–14, 1942

Promotional Information

The Cactus Air Force will look in detail at each day of battle for Guadalcanal between August 20 and November 15, 1942. Quoting from diaries and interviews, this will be a deeply personal account that will interest and involve readers in the daily detail of life and existence on the island as well as the daily fights with an enemy that was a constant threat from beginning to end.

About the Author

Eric Hammel is recognized as one of the leading American military historians, with more than 40 well-received books that are considered authoritative on their subjects published over a 50-year career. His previous books on the Solomons campaign, Carrier Clash, Carrier Strike, Decision at Sea and Starvation Island are among the leading authoritative sources on the subject due to their extensive use of first-person testimony. During 40 years beginning in 1961, Hammel interviewed more than 150 American participants in the air campaign at Guadalcanal, none of whom are still alive. These interviews are the most comprehensive first-person accounts of the battle assembled by any historian and form THE Cactus Air Force. More importantly, Hammel’s interviews involved the junior officers and enlisted men whose stories and memories were not part of the official history, thus providing a unique insight. Thus, Cactus Air Force will be unlike any other of the many histories that have been published over the years of this event. Co-author Thomas McKelvey Cleaver is one of Osprey’s most successful authors and is also a recognized authority on the Pacific War with his best-selling books Pacific Thunder and Tidal Wave. Reviewers frequently cite his ability to “put the reader in the cockpit.” The Guadalcanal campaign has interested him ever since he found his father’s copy of “Guadalcanal Diary,” and he brings a lifetime of study to the project. Hammel and Cleaver are close associates and friends; each brings their own strengths to produce a book that will set a new standard for this topic.


Hammel and Cleaver have once more brought Guadalcanal front and center. Theirs is a harrowing tale of unpreparedness, intelligence and leadership failures, of learning hard lessons in the furious crucible of war, of sacrifice and loss, of great courage, and, ultimately, of a great victory secured at a fearsome cost.
*Richard P. Hallion, former Historian of the US Air Force*

Overstating Eric Hammel’s impact as a military historian is impossible. His focus on aviation—and Guadalcanal in particular—has seen few equals. Today, we benefit not only because Hammel had the foresight to capture the first-person accounts of thousands of veterans, but also because he possessed the knowledge to place them in the proper context.
*Jay A. Stout, author of 'Jayhawk: Love, Loss, Liberation and Terror Over the Pacific'*

Eric Hammel’s research, done when no one else was interested in learning these stories, has allowed a story we all think we know well to be told anew, through the words of those whose stories were never told before. The Cactus Air Force is a vital contribution that provides new information about this crucial battle.
*Barrett Tillman, author of 'Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan, 1942–1945'*

Eric Hammel was outstanding among us in finding participants and conducting interviews. His best work glowed that way, notably in his Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima publications.
*Richard B. Frank, author of 'Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle'*

This superbly written description of the conflict in the Pacific chronicles these battles with reference to official records and, more importantly, personal accounts of the US participants taken from interviews and diaries. These graphic and moving accounts create a vivid narrative for the reader.

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