Major Tommy McGuire, Jr., a Sebring native and a World War II ace fighter pilot, is one of five airmen whose heroic exploits in the Pacific Theater are detailed in a new book entitled Race of Aces by bestselling author John Bruning.
The book begins in 1942. General George Kenney, the new commander of the Fifth Air Force in New Guinea, wanted to do something to boost the morale of his airmen. They were being badly beaten by the airborne Japanese.
Kenney challenged his young aviators to a competition to try to beat ace pilot Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I record of shooting down 26 enemy aircraft.
Five fierce competitors stood out from the rest. Besides McGuire, they were Richard Bong, Gerald Johnson, Neel Kearby and Tom Lynch.
Long after these pilots had smashed Rickenbacker’s record, they kept trying to best one another. Sadly, they took greater and greater risks that inevitably ended in death.
Military historian, author, and Pulitzer Prize finalist James Scott calls the book “a heart-pounding narrative…..With a cockpit view of the fight, readers will hear the roar of the engines, feel the surge of adrenaline, and wrestle with the exhaustion that gripped these aviators in the marathon battle to become America’s top fighter pilot.”
But for New York Times book club reviewer Elizabeth Wein, “Bruning is at his best when he delves into the pilots’ anguish and obsessions…..The tension in Race for Aces is driven not by the race to surpass Rickenbacker, but by the desperate hope that some of these personable young men will survive and make it home.”
‘Extensively researched and expertly written, the book confirms Bruning’s status as the premier war historian of the air,” British military historian and broadcaster Saul David said.
Major McGuire scored 38 aerial victories in a P-38 aircraft and was America’s second highest scoring ace. He received numerous military honors, including the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 25-26, 1944, when he shot down seven enemy aircraft.
On Jan. 7, 1945, McGuire was killed in an extremely hazardous maneuver at low altitude in an attempt to save the life of a comrade. McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey was named in his honor.
Race of Aces is available from Amazon in hardcover, Kindle, and in an audio version.