Night Cats and Cosairs By: Alan C. Carey Review

As a high school student, most of the reading I have done about WWII and The Korean War has been in the genres of oral history, biography and memoir.  As such, I am familiar with works where the story drives the narrative and the reader is swept into a time gone by.   This work, by Alan Carey is my first foray into the world of painstakingly detailed operational history.

Mr. Carey tells the story of the development of radar equipped night fighter aircraft flown by the US Navy and Marine Corps.  Because they were equipped for night fighting at the dawn of the jet age, the Vought F4U Corsair, the Grumman F6F Hellcat and the F7F Tigercat really represent the pinnacle of piston engine technology in aircraft.  This book provides the narrative for how these remarkable aircraft came to be and tells the story of the role they played in American air superiority from WWII through Korea as well as their continued use by foreign powers after the USA had moved on to jets.

This book will appeal to three kinds of readers; first, those who wish to become experts in understanding the development of these aircraft and their operational use; second, historians and scholars who want to understand the operational details of the role that night fighters played in WWII and the Korean War and; third, those who wish to understand the role that their grandfathers and fathers who flew and maintained these aircraft played in our country’s history.  Although the book spends a lot of time detailing operational history in the Pacific, Mr. Carey takes the time to identify individual pilots who were in the action.  For example, in discussing Carrier Operations from February-August 1945, Carey writes, “Lt. Kenneth Smith, on NCAP over Okinawa was vectored to a Betty approaching the landing support forces on the western side of the island at 2105, but Smith was forced to break off, as the bomber approached the fleet and the ships began to fire.  The Betty broke away and headed back towards the island followed by Smith, whose radar kept him on track until making a visual and identifying the bogey as an enemy bomber.  He closed to 500 feet and fired from slightly below the Betty, causing the entire starboard wing to burst into flames and the plane dove into the water.” (79).  This kind of operational detail is woven seamlessly throughout the book and for many of these heroes will be the only time that their names appear in print for the world to know their role in these historic events.  I can only imagine the thrill and pride that their families would feel to read their story and learn the about the role these brave men played in winning the Pacific war.

The presentation of this work is nothing short of beautiful.  Hundreds of photographs identify all of these aircraft and the groups and individuals who flew and maintained them.  The casual reader will enjoy simply flipping through the large glossy pages of this volume which is worthy of decorating any coffee table.  As a high school reader more familiar with IPads, texting and Snapchat, it took a little time for me to go beyond this surface reading, but I soon discovered that those who are brave enough to dive in to this beautifully written narrative, will find themselves becoming nothing short of expert in their knowledge of the history of night fighter warfare in the Pacific during WWII and Korea.

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Night Cats & Corsairs (The Operational History of Gruman and Vought Night Fighter Aircraft 1942-1953) by Alan Carey.  Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. 4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA  19310.  E-mail: