The Cactus Air Force

Air War over Guadalcanal

The Cactus Air Force cover


Using diary entries, interviews and first-hand accounts, this vivid narrative brings to life the struggle in the air over the island of Guadalcanal between August 20 and November 15, 1942.

The battle of Guadalcanal was the first offensive operation undertaken by the US and its allies in the Pacific War. The three months of air battles between August 20, 1942, when the first Marine air unit arrived on the island, and November 15, when the last enemy attempt to retake the island was defeated, were perhaps the most important of the Pacific War. “Cactus,” the code name for the island, became a sinkhole for Japanese air and naval power, as they experienced losses that could never be made good.

For 40 years, the late Eric Hammel interviewed more than 150 American participants in the air campaign at Guadalcanal, none of whom are still alive. These interviews are the most comprehensive first-person accounts of the battle assembled by any historian. More importantly, they involved the junior officers and enlisted men whose stories and memories were not part of the official history, and thus provide a unique insight.

In The Cactus Air Force, Pacific War expert Thomas McKelvey Cleaver worked closely with Eric to build on his collection of diary entries, interviews and first-hand accounts to create a vivid narrative of the struggle in the air over the island of Guadalcanal between August 20 and November 15, 1942.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: BEFORE – January 4–July 31, 1942
CHAPTER 2: RXI – May 25–August 6, 1942
CHAPTER 3: HEAVY BOMBERS – June 10–August 6, 1942
CHAPTER 4: HELPLESS – August 7–August 20, 1942
CHAPTER 6: FIRST CONTACTS – August 21–August 25, 1942
CHAPTER 7: EARLY DAYS – August 26–September 4
CHAPTER 8: EDSON'S RIDGE – September 1–September 13, 1942
CHAPTER 9: GROWING INTO THE JOB – August 30–September 15, 1942
CHAPTER 10: DECISIONS – September 1942
CHAPTER 11: TIT FOR TAT – September 15–30, 1942
CHAPTER 12: NIMITZ – September 1942
CHAPTER 13: STORMY WEATHER – October 1–11, 1942
CHAPTER 15: CRISIS – October 13–15, 1942
CHAPTER 16: RELIEF – October 16–18, 1942
CHAPTER 17: DOG DAYS – October 19–23, 1942
CHAPTER 18: THE MOST DIFFICULT TIME – October 23–30, 1942
CHAPTER 19: BACKS TO THE WALL – November 1–14, 1942

Product details

Published 01 Sep 2022
Format Ebook (PDF)
Edition 1st
Extent 336
ISBN 9781472851048
Imprint Osprey Publishing
Illustrations 16-page black and white plate section.
Series General Aviation
Short code GNA
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing

About the contributors


Eric Hammel

The late Eric Hammel was one of America’s leading…


Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver has been a published write…


Richard P. Hallion

Richard P. Hallion holds a Ph.D. in history from t…


Book Vote

Tell us what titles you would like to see published by Osprey, then vote for your favourites in our monthly book vote!

Related Titles

Sign up for Osprey membership for access to thousands of plane profiles, maps, battle scenes and more. Plus up to 30% off website purchases

Free UK delivery for orders £30 and over