The South Pacific, as Eric Bergerud points out at the start of this book, was an unlikely place to develop into a battlefield during the Second World War. Lacking natural resources or any geographic significance in its own right, its proximity to the more important locations of Southeast Asia made it the centerpoint in the war between the Japanese on the one hand and the United States and her allies on the other. And a key aspect of that war was the struggle taking place in the skies between the respective air forces, a struggle that is the subject of Bergerud's weighty book.
In examining the air war, Bergerud eschews a traditional narrative account in favor of a thorough analysis of the various factors involved, an approach that allows him to glean insights that are often missing from most histories of the conflict. He divides this analysis into three parts, focusing on the geographic conditions, the men and equipment, and the tactics and nature of combat in the region. Each chapter is full of Bergerud's well-informed and opinionated explanations of the factors determining the nature of the air war and the advantages and deficiencies possessed by the two sides as they confronted each other. Readers may disagree with some of his conclusions, but there are valuable insights about the air war on nearly every page, ones applicable not just to the battles over the South Pacific but to the war as a whole as well.