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Publisher's Summary

The astonishing untold story of the WWII airmen who risked it all in the deadly race to become the greatest American fighter pilot.

In 1942, America's deadliest fighter pilot, or "ace of aces" - the legendary Eddie Rickenbacker - offered a bottle of bourbon to the first US fighter pilot to break his record of 26 enemy planes shot down. Seizing on the challenge to motivate his men, General George Kenney promoted what they would come to call the "race of aces" as a way of boosting the spirits of his war-weary command.

What developed was a wild three-year sprint for fame and glory, and the chance to be called America's greatest fighter pilot. The story has never been told until now.

Based on new research and full of revelations, John Bruning's brilliant, original book tells the story of how five American pilots contended for personal glory in the Pacific while leading Kenney's resurgent air force against the most formidable enemy America ever faced.

The pilots - Richard Bong, Tommy McGuire, Neel Kearby, Charles MacDonald and Gerald Johnson - riveted the nation as they contended for Rickenbacker's crown. As their scores mounted, they transformed themselves from farm boys and aspiring dentists into artists of the modern dogfight.

But as the race reached its climax, some of the pilots began to see how the spotlight warped their sense of duty. They emerged as leaders, beloved by their men as they chose selfless devotion over national accolades.

Teeming with action all across the vast Pacific theater, Race of Aces is a fascinating exploration of the boundary between honorable duty, personal glory, and the complex landscape of the human heart.

"Brings you into the cockpit of the lethal, fast-paced world of fighter pilots.... Fascinating." (Sara Vladic)

"Extraordinary.... a must-read." (US Navy Captain Dan Pedersen)

"A heart-pounding narrative of the courage, sacrifice, and tragedy of America's elite fighter pilots." (James M. Scott)

"Vivid and gripping.... Confirms Bruning's status as the premier war historian of the air." (Saul David)

©2020 John R. Bruning (P)2020 Hachette Books

Critic Reviews

"Here is a true story with something for everyone. Love, war, treachery, adventure, and above all an intimate portrait of the made-for-Hollywood life of a man who broke all the rules and remade them to his liking...Bruning shows us a big-hearted man determined to save his family - and a brilliant scientist-pilot who was determined to win the war along the way." (Adam Makos, New York Times best-selling author of A Higher Call and Devotion)

"This is a beautifully told story of a family separated by war, and of an extraordinary father, driven to avenge his family, who by sheer force of character changed the nature of warfare. A superbly told tale of love, honor, courage, and devotion." (Alex Kershaw, New York Times best-selling author of Avenue of Spies)

"Satisfying...Combat aviation buffs will enjoy Bruning's explorations of a little-known history." (Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about Race of Aces

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Excellent story

What a terrific insight into the lives of these great flyers. Their stories should be told for the generations that come after. What sacrifices they made for our freedom. Well delivered story

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fiction im not sure, but story i loved.

Narrative was great. story i listened to welcomingly over a few days, I myself 31, my grandfather told me similar stories at the campfire. To day i can listen to this stuff like no end.

I absolutely recommend this book, as it is absolutely based on the truths of the war, all the heroic amd horrific acts.

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very good

thank you for sharing this story of the brave men and women of this Book and thank you so much

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frustrating writing style ruined military history.

Just awful.The author has taken interesting military historical events between endless attempts at 'improvement' by padding it with corny fictional romance novel character development.i couldn't even finish it.Wasted my $.

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incredible story.

An excellent account of the P38 air war. Very detailed. a rather sad ending though.

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Too soapy

Unlike a lot of other military books. Goes on too about peripheral issues, romance etc. not enough battle and technical detail for me. Unlikely to see it through

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Superb but tragic account of the Pacific P-38 Aces

A superb but ultimately tragic account of the P-38 war in the Pacific. The book was very comprehensive in its telling of all of these amazing men, their personalities, their experiences and their machines. Easy to listen to and well read,This book must surely be the preeminent text on this subject.

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P-38

The P-38 has been one of my favourite WWII fighter aircraft, and yet I’ve had much difficulty in listening to stories about pilots able to exploit it’s maximum potential. This is the 1st story about the P-38 Lighting and its Ace pilots that I’ve come across. It is a well told story that gives the highest accolades to the P-38’s capabilities in the hands of it’s best pilots, in the midst of the tragedies of a global war.

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Warts and all air combat

I was a bit worried this would be a hero-fest, bragging about how great these pilots were, It turned out to being anything but. The pilots involved were covered in great detail, both strengths and flaws.

The air combat accounts, likewise, point out the pilots and aircraft best and worst attributes. While recognising the pilot scores, the book does point out the great difficulty in confirming kills, and that in fact on many occasions both sides claimed kills far higher than actually occurred on the day. It also displays the grief and horror of losing close friends, and the perils of leadership.

Well worth the read.

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A Captivating Story

A great story and despite it's length compared to some other books of a similar nature it remains very interesting. A lot of great information throughout the book.

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  • Etienne
  • 09-04-2020

Boring, confusing storyline, some technical details wrong

I tried to listen to it a few times but I couldn’t finish. I’ve read many such war non-fiction books and this is the only one where I got confused between characters. The story jumps from one setting to another without much transition. It also seems to me thst the author tried to impress the reader with technical expertise about the P-38 and other aircraft while not being an expert in the subject. The author keeps refering to the Ki-61 as a fighter with a liquid-cooled inline engine, and later numerous instances of ‘the inline-engine fighter’. The Ki-61 had an inverted V-12 engine which is not the same as an inline engine. As a mechanically-inclined person, this bugs me to no end. There are a few technical details that also bugged me such as saying that changing the fuel mixture to full-rich before combat is a good example of how technically complicated and advanced the P-38 was. It is not. Enriching the fuel mixture was standard procedure on pretty much all fighters during WWII. I quickly lost interest after that and there were other such instances. If you are a mechanical buff this may not be the right book for you.

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  • Andy
  • 31-01-2020

Incredible story

It reads like fiction. It bleeds like history. So appreciative of the research John Bruning put into this masterpiece.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Steve Hillman MD
  • 11-03-2020

My Heroes

This is a personal account of the top aces of WWII. After listening to scores of books on the subject I was surprised repeatedly. As the son of an Ace in the ETO, I can only be extremely thankful for this great story.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Daniel Jungkuntz
  • 03-03-2020

Great story, great history.

I was unaware of this epic Fighter Ace competition. Dick Bong was a name I'd never heard of before this book. I'm glad this book is available so that his an all the efforts of the WWII veterans don't get forgotten.

19 people found this helpful

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  • E8NDave
  • 22-01-2020

Great book!

This topic holds a special interest to me. It is something I have studied most of my life as my father was in many of the places the 5th AF traveled to. It is an assembly of a lot of research on the different fighter groups and meshing them all into a timeline. With familiar characters and places the book does tell a really interesting story and lends perspective on exactly what pilots were willing to do in order to become the Ace of Aces. While the story is great, the narrator is not. He made the book very hard to listen to and struggled with many of the pronunciations of places. The book was very well researched is still well worth the listen or read. You will not regret purchasing!

18 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-01-2020

This is book brings history to life!

I first heard about this book on Facebook from one of my Facebook friends who flys world war two aircraft at air shows. He posted that his friends new book was amazing. Let me tell you it is! The way this book is written brings the ace race to life and the narrator does an amazing job reading it.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Jeffrey Ammenti
  • 04-03-2020

Amazing book ofthe air war in the Pacific

This was a great book focusing on many pilots in the south west Pacific the story flowed well and i did not want to turn it off I highly recommend this to any person that enjoys military history

11 people found this helpful

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  • Mike from Houston
  • 28-02-2020

Defines the Term. “The Right Stuff”

One of the finest literary works of our era. Take a peek at the lives of our Air Aces of The Southwest Pacific during WW2

9 people found this helpful

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  • CArolyn conroy
  • 11-02-2020

Race of aces

Very interesting. Enjoyed the readers voice. Good historical account of brave fighter pilots in ww 11 and their families. Would make a good movie. Recommded to the audio book fans. Carolyn

8 people found this helpful

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  • crown is not the same
  • 30-01-2020

Outstanding

This listen was one of my favorites the narrator kept me riveted and eager to hear the next part of the Ace race!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-09-2021

Race of Aces review

This story is proof, that real life history is far more captivating than any fiction could ever be. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in the intensity of warbird stories, as well as WW2 era history.

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  • Craig
  • 19-03-2020

Enter the aviation world of the Ace.

Very well told story. Full of historic fact and heroic deeds in the air. Tinged with the sadness of a competitive breed that unfortunately leads too sorrow and loss. A must for all those into the history of aviation within the sphere of war.

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