Monday, September 7, 2009

Thach Weave: The Life of Jimmie Thach

By Steve Ewing
338 pages US Naval Institute Press 2004 978-1591142485
This biography completes a trilogy on the three Navy fighter pilots-Jimmie Thach, Butch O'Hare, and Jimmy Flatley-who developed sweeping changes in aerial combat tactics during World War II. While O'Hare and Flatley were instrumental in making the "weave" a success, Thach was its theoretical innovator, and his use of the tactic in combat at Midway documented its practical application. This portrait of the famous pilot provides a memorable account of how Thach, convinced that his Wildcat was no match for Japan's formidable Zero, found a way to give his squadron a fighting chance. Using matchsticks on his kitchen table, he devised a solution that came to be called the Thach Weave. But as Steve Ewing is quick to point out, this was not Thach's sole contribution to the Navy. Throughout his forty-year career, Thach provided answers to multiple challenges facing the Navy, and his ideas were implemented service wide. A highly decorated ace who took part in the Battle of Midway, Thach was an early test pilot, a creative task force operations officer in the last year of World War II (Operations Officer for Admiral John S McCain – grandfather of the current Arizona senator) and an outstanding carrier commander in the Korean War. During the Cold War, he contributed to advances in antisubmarine warfare. This biography shows him to be a charismatic leader interested in everyone around him, regardless of rank or status. His dry sense of humor and constant smile attracted people from all walks of life, and he was a popular figure in Hollywood. Thach remains a hero among naval aviators, his most famous combat tactic still used by today's pilots.
A few minor errors were noted – USS Canberra listed as CV 70 instead of CA 70, CV 15 (USS Randolph) identified by hull number only and the misspelling of the word “scrapping” as “scraping.”
A well known chain smoker, Thach is seen with an ever present cigarette in a number of the photos contained in this work.
Author Ewing is well known for his numerous previous works on US Naval Aviation history and this book is probably one of his best.

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