Carrier Air Group 15 was perhaps the most successful US carrier air group of the Second World War, serving on USS Essex during the Battle of the Philippine Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot) and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. During that period the group's fighter squadron produced more 'aces' than it suffered combat losses, while the attack groups played a part in the destruction of the massive battleship Musashi and the last surviving aircraft carrier from the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Zuikaku.
The group was only active from May to November 1944, itself an impressive sign of the scale of US military power in the later years of the Second World War. The group had a very active seven months, but this was a much shorter period of front line service than you will find for the units of any other major combatant, or even the USAAF. By 1944 the US Navy was able to rotate aircrews away from the front line and use them to help form new units, with junior officers going to training units and the rest going to new units - ideally each new unit was split three ways between new crews, experienced crews and experienced crews coming back from a period helping train new crews. As a result even new US air groups were both better trained and more experienced than their Japanese opponents, especially by 1944.
The group had three components - fighter, bomber and torpedo bomber - so we get two very different narratives. It is also nice to see some Japanese voices represented (although there aren't too many available given the crushes losses suffered by the Japanese navy).
Events are nicely placed in context - we get the US plans and the Japanese plans before the detailed combat narratives, so its always clear what the group is involved in. The combat accounts are well written, with a good use of eyewitness accounts.
This is a compelling account of the combat record of an outstanding unit.
1 - 'All Fighter Pilots! Man Your Planes!;
2 - Creating the Navy's Sunday Punch
3 - Coming Aboard
4 - Off to War
5 - The Marianas Turkey Shoot
6 - Pacific High Tide: June-September 1994
7 - Pacific Crescendo: September-October 1944
8 - The Battles of Leyte Gulf: October 17-29, 1944
9 - 'I Fear They've Saved the Worst of All This For Last": October 26-November 15, 1944
10 - And Then…
Author: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver