The carrier task force—the symbolic and physical manifestation of the United States’ ability to project naval and air power across the globe—came of age during the Second World War. Fighting the Imperial Japanese Navy, and closely supporting General MacArthur’s and Admiral Nimitz’s island-hopping campaign, the carrier and its air wing transitioned from being just one more tactical element within the fleet to the formidable strategic weapon we’ve come to know today. Instrumental in bringing about this change was Admiral John Sidney McCain—grandfather of the late Senator John McCain—and the subject of emeritus professor William F. Trimble
’s most recent biography, Admiral John S. McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power
(Naval Institute Press, 2019), published by Naval Institute Press.
Taking a multidimensional approach, professor Trimble weaves together the narrative of McCain’s career with the history of a liminal moment in the Navy’s development as an institution, in the ascendency of naval aviation, and in the navy’s evolution from a battleship-centered force to the modern ‘air’ Navy.
Professor Trimble’s richly detailed biography goes a long way toward filling in the fine grained details of this story. Moreover, in reassessing McCain’s deep understanding of naval aviation’s multiple facets, and his ability to bring this knowledge to bear as the commander of Task Force 38, professor Trimble has carved out a space for McCain in the pantheon of the Second World War’s great fighting admirals. Indeed, McCain—as much as King, Halsey, Spruance, or Nimitz—was fundamental to the Navy’s success in the Pacific.