by Alexander S. White
Pacific Press 1997
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Jr. Dive-bombing Ace
This book is written by Joseph Sailer's nephew, Alexander White. It is complied from his letters to family members, recollections of colleagues. The roots of this book began with the discovery
of a chest Sailer's mother had kept with news clippings about him, photographs,
his aviator's log book, and diary. These elements were used as a framework
for the story of his life. According to the author, over the earlier
years of his life, he knew two things about his uncle: "he had
been a very good person, and he had been killed in WWII, at a place
Sailer was one of the first Marine Corps Diver Bomber pilots, and among his fellow pilots and superiors he was considered one of the most effective dive bomber pilots. As the leader of VMSB-132 he was a Marine who volunteered to fly missions and won the admiration of his comrades. He bombed the Japanese battleship Hiei the first enemy battleship sunk in the war, and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his service on Guadalcanal.
His story has several interesting points. Like so many others of his generation, Sailer was obsessed with flying. First, it is a detailed account of a young man in the depression of the late 1930's. Military service was one way to find work and learn to fly, and even briefly worked for United Air Lines. He also served a tour in England as a engineer and consultant for Sperry Gyroscope company, instructing the RAF to use auto pilot and Sperry bomb sights, a top secret project. War for the United States was imminent, and he returned to active Marine service just before Pearl Harbor.
The story of his overseas service begins when his dive bombing unit was assigned to Guadalcanal in November of 1942, where he flew SBD Dauntless dive bomber against the Japanese. Sailer was know by fellow pilots for being cool and methodical under fire. He would wait to release his bombs until 1,500 or 2,000 feet to ensure accuracy, instead of higher altitudes were the risk of enemy antiaircraft fire or mechanical malfunction were less.
His plane met its demise on December 7, 1942 when his SBD's dive flaps failed to retract after he released his bombs. His plane was unable to accelerate away from its target, and was jumped from behind by Japanese Pete floatplanes as his horrified squadron mates watched in horror, unable to turn around in time to intercept them. Sailer's usual radio operator and rear gunner, Howard Stanley, was not flying with him this mission. Stanley had flow with Sailor on all but one other of his missions.
The book is illustrated with many photographs from Sailer's personal collection, and interesting appendixes like his flight logs. For those interested in pilot narratives, this is a well researched text, with a unique voice all its own, researched by Sailer's nephew he never met. Its assembly of letters and interviews, in addition to historical overviews brings us into the world of this famous Marine Corps Aviator and into the cockpit of his SBD dive bomber at Guadalcanal.
Review by Justin Taylan
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October 29, 2018