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Hailed as one of the finest examples of aviation research, this comprehensive 1984 study presents a detailed and scrupulously accurate operational history of carrier-based air warfare. From the earliest operations in the Pacific through the decisive Battle of Midway, it offers a narrative account of how ace fighter pilots like Jimmy Thach and Butch O'Hare and their skilled VF squadron mates--called the "first team"--amassed a remarkable combat record in the face of desperate odds. Tapping both American and Japanese sources, historian John B. Lundstrom reconstructs every significant action and places these extraordinary fighters within the context of overall carrier operations. He writes from the viewpoint of the pilots themselves, after interviewing some fifty airmen from each side, to give readers intimate details of some of the most exciting aerial engagements of the war. At the same time he assesses the role the fighter squadrons played in key actions and shows how innovations in fighter tactics and gunnery techniques were a primary reason for the reversal of American fortunes. After more than twenty years in print, the book remains the definitive account and is being published in paperback for the first time to reach an even larger audience.