The First Hellcat Ace

Being there . . . . to meet and greet the legendary Cdr Hamilton McWhorter III, the first ace to
fly Grumman’s dream F4F and F6F Hellcats, and a brave survivor of three aircraft carrier
deployments during their World War II Pacific Sea battles. Initially assigned to VF-9, a fiercely
undaunted fighter squadron engaging Vichy French forces in North Africa during November of
1942, his unit was the first to convert to the new F6F. This was the fighter-bomber our Navy
would use to riddle and smash Japanese air power during its hop, skip, and jump attacks and
island invasions from Guadalcanal and the Southwest Pacific to Tokyo Harbor. It should be
remembered that America’s goal on January 6, 1942, was to produce 60,000 planes and 45,000
tanks that year, and, in 1943, to produce an additional 125,000 planes and 75.000 tanks.
Between Britain and the United States, the staunch Allies introduced between late 1941 and
1942 the F4F Wildcat, P40C Tomahawk, and the P40K Warhawk. Then, in late 1943, the “the
handsome two big boys” arrived on the carriers, the F4U Corsairs and their mighty F6F Hellcats.
With their newly designed Merlin-engined flying power, the tough aircrafts extended the U.S.
Army Air Force’s radius of fighter operations to 500 miles. The American aircraft industry’s forte
was the air-cooled radial engine, the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 18-cylinder (in two rows), fitted
in all the arriving P47 Thunderbolts and P61 Widows exceeding 2,200 hp. When the new
Merlins were detoured to England to update the British Spitfires and Hurricanes rolling out of
the factories, the Pratt and Whitneys were substituted in the F6Fs Hellcats and F4U naval
fighters. In short, the war in the Pacific was over great distances. Yet, after Midway, we
prevailed and won, especially with our advanced firepower. Meanwhile, our quiet submarines
cut the Japanese sea routes preventing Japan from obtaining raw material, metals, rubber,
copper, and fuel. Failing economic strength meant more to Japan than individual bravery, since
Japan had one-tenth of what we had in the U.S. Our radar was superior to theirs and our
antiaircraft guns easily shot their Mitsubishi Zekes and Zeroes, Hamps and Bettys from the
beautiful Pacific skies down. Yet the Japanese troops didn’t surrender. They fought to the bitter
end, or often blew their own heads off, preferring suicide to dishonor. 7,000 kamikazes died,
and, in the final 90 days of the Pacific War, 100,000 soldiers were killed. The last step was to
invade Japan, although 60 million civilians were preparing to defend her.
A GEORGIA NATIVE WHOSE FAMILY DATED BACK TO THE 1700s, HAMILTON “Mac”
McWHORTER III, A NAVAL AVIATION CADET UNDERGOING TRAINING ON 7 DECEMBER 1941,
AND EARNED HIS WINGS OF GOLD IN EARLY 1942, OFFERS US HIS INCREDIBLE BIOGRAPHY
POSTHUMOUSLY. THUS, WE CAN BEGIN WHAT ‘THE MILITARY WRITERS’ SOCIETY OF AMERICA’
CHEERS IN JOYOUS ACCLAMATION, “ONE OF THE ALL -TIME GREATEST STORIES OF U.S. NAVAL
AVIATION HISTORY”. AGAIN, THE NON-PAREIL CASEMATE PUBLISHERS PLACE A
CONTEMPORARY HERO-PILOT, LT.COL. JAY A. STOUT, USMC (RET.), WITH A 20-YEAR SERVICE OF
4,700 FLIGHT HOURS, 37 COMBAT MISSIONS IN THE F/A – 18 HORNET DURING DESERT STORM,
IN THE MASTER ROLE OF A BIOGRAPHER EDITOR. WITH HIS OWN EXPERIENCES FROM
AUTHORING 14 PREVIOUS WWII NAVAL TITLES, IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT COLLECTIVELY HE HAS
CREATED VIA THE FIRST-EVER F6F HELLCAT ACE’S ACCOUNTS ALONE A NEW LITERARY AUTO-
BIO-MEMOIR GENRE.
Reviewed and highly recommended by Don DeNevi

“THE FIRST HELLCAT ACE”, by Cdr HAMILTON MCWHORTER III, USN (RET.). Casemate
Publishers, Havertown, PA. 19083: 2024, 226 pages, 70 b&w unpublished photos, 6 ¼” x 9 ¼”,
hardback, $34.95. Visit, www.casematepublishers.com.
No greater Introduction could alert the reading World War II enthusiast-buff better than the
following publicity lead-in written in 2001 when the initial version of “The First Hellcat Ace” was
published: “Today the U.S. Navy’s World War II fighter pilots remain less known than their Army
Air Forces counterparts. One reason is that they have left far fewer memoirs, a great loss
because nothing can replace authentic descriptions of fighter combat by those who actually did
it. Fighter ace, Hamilton ‘One Slug’ McWhorter, a member of elite Fighting Squadron 9, flew
nearly the whole war, first over Northwest Arica, then in the 1943-44 Central Pacific offensives,
and finally in the grim assaults against Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and finally in the skies over the
Japanese homeland. No story like his exits. Vividly written, ‘The First Hellcat Ace’ is an
important contribution not only for the Pacific battles but the air war in general.”
When yet another legend, John Lundstrom, author of the great “The First Team: Pacific Naval
Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway”, wrote the above paragraph in 2001, Hamilton’s first
memoir “The First Team”, had just been published by Pacific Press.
So much more praise can be heaped on the 2023 revised version of, “The First Hellcat Ace”.
But, for this reviewer, no amount of secondary eulogizing and extoling can be warmer and
more endearing than the final paragraph penned by Jay on August 11, 2023, via his Afterword
(page 226): “Mac ‘went West’ in 2008 and I’ve missed him dearly ever since. As kind, modest,
skilled, and intelligent as he seems within these pages, he was even more so in real life. When
we worked together on the book, he was almost embarrassed to discuss his successes, and was
always considerate when talking of others. He was a true, sincere, gentleman, a devoted father,
and a man who was as much in love with his wife as anyone I’ve met. These are the attributes I
most want people to know about my friend, Mac.” Jay A. Stout

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