By Christopher Miskimon

Georgia-born Hamilton McWhorter III wanted to be a fighter pilot. When the Pearl Harbor attack happened on December 7, 1941, he was a naval aviation cadet still in training. Within a few months he earned his gold aviator’s wings, assigned to fly the tough but outdated F4F Wildcat fighter. With squadron VF-9, he sailed to North Africa aboard the USS Ranger and took part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Returning to the U.S., VF-9 was reassigned to the new carrier USS Essex, bound for the Pacific. Hamilton discovered his unit was also receiving a new fighter, the F6F Hellcat. Soon he and his squadron fought the Japanese in an unending campaign across the Pacific, growing ever closer to Japan. He shot down his fifth Japanese plane in November 1943 near Tarawa, making him the first ace flying a Hellcat. By the end of the war his total was 12.

This memoir is a tribute to the author’s service in World War II. It is a realistic look at the life of a carrier pilot, eschewing any attempt at glory-seeking, instead delving into their concerns, duties and hardships. The book provides an interesting look into the war from a carrier pilot’s point of view.

The First Hellcat Ace (Cdr. Hamilton McWhorter III, USN Ret.; Lt. Col. Jay Stout, USMC, Ret., Casemate Books, Havertown PA, 2024, 225 pp., photographs, $34.95 HC)