Bruning celebrates a handful of larger-than-life World War II fighter pilots and brings them to our attention once again ... Bruning is at his best when he delves into the pilots’ anguish and obsessions. His telling is based on a dragon’s hoard of primary source material, including well over 1,000 interviews he conducted himself. Though the narrative’s testosterone-fueled slang can sometimes feel exclusionary and even baffling, the noir tone helps to make some of the blow-by-blow accounts of aerial combat a bit easier for the layman to dig into ... Bruning’s work is a testament and a memorial not just to a handful of tragic heroes, but to those left bereft by this unique and explosive competition on the other side of the world.
With deft, grit, and no shying away from the horrifying realities of war, Bruning brings these heroes back to life, defining the struggles of morality, mortality, and glory that suffused their careers. On par with James Bradley’s Flyboys, and rich with historical information, Race of Aces reads like a novel and features interactions with figures such as Eddie Rickenbacker and Charles Lindbergh. Bruning’s suspenseful storytelling utilizes personal interviews with U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) veterans, oral histories, archives, military history agencies, and letters/diaries written by the aces themselves to flesh out life in the Southwest Pacific and the fever pitch to both survive in theatre and become the best of the best ... Eloquent and finely researched, this book will appeal to amateur historians or anyone interested in the USAAF and World War II maneuvers in the South Pacific.
... fascinates because of its attention to detail and strong characterization of these remarkable men. Mr. Bruning has been studying these pilots for two decades. We get to know their strengths, their driving ambitions and their foibles, as well as their loves and hopes in their private lives, so that they come across as real, three-dimensional individuals—not easy to pull off with a collection of 20-something young men, most of whom were killed before the war was over.