Reaper Leader: The Life of Jimmy Flatley

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Naval Institute Press, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 384 pages

Although Jimmy Flatley had much to do with the U.S. victory over Japan, few outside the close-knit naval aviation community have heard his colorful story. A naval hero in every sense of the word according to former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James L. Holloway III, Flatley was a formidable fighter pilot in combat, an inspiring leader, and a gifted operational planner. Flatley's combination of talents are fully examined in this biography and reveal why he was so vital to the war effort. Known to his squadron mates at Guadalcanal as "Reaper Leader" Flatley--with Jimmy Thach and Butch O'Hare--was instrumental in communicating tactical advice throughout naval aviation and changing the perception that the supposedly inferior F4F Wildcat fighter was actually superior to the Japanese Zero when properly utilized. His biographer, Steve Ewing, also explains how Flatley's combat experience established the credibility necessary for a middle grade officer to initiate sweeping changes in naval aviation both at the front and with the entrenched naval establishment.

The author credits Flatley's persistence and credibility for successes at Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. In post-war years these same qualities helped him make naval aviation what it is today by again challenging the status quo and effecting sweeping and significant changes in naval aviation safety. This biography is the second in a planned naval aviation trilogy that when complete will include the three notable carrier fighter tacticians in the Pacific war--Thach, O'Hare, and Flatley.

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An excellent read with particular insight into the mind of such heroes who brought their experiences to the occasion of necessary call of duty. Ewing beautifully entwines a three-fold the story of a man's life with the military history and rational for action during a tipping point of the world powers. I was a student of Dr. Ewing's and always enjoyed his class. He has the unique ability to draw you into the story and understand the many facets of the gem. Kyle D. Massengale 

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About the author (2002)

Steve Ewing, senior curator at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, is the author of biographies on Jimmy Flatley among other books.

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