Finish Forty and Home
Finish Forty and Home was selected as a title within the Best of the
Best from University Presses 2012 program and presented at the annual
American Library Association conference. You can view the C-SPAN BookTV
video of the program featuring this title (at the 1:02:45 hour mark
for a seven-minute discussion).
During the early years of World War II in the Pacific theatre, against
overwhelming odds, young American airmen flew the longest and most
perilous bombing missions of the war. They faced determined Japanese
fighters without fighter escort, relentless anti-aircraft fire with no
deviations from target, and thousands of miles of over-water flying with
no alternative landing sites.
Finish Forty and Home, by Phil Scearce, is the true story of the men
and missions of the 11th Bombardment Group as it fought alone and
unheralded in the South Central Pacific, while America had its eyes on
the war in Europe. The book opens with Sgt. Herman Scearce, the author’s
father, lying about his age to join the Army Air Corps at 16. The
narrative follows Scearce through training and into combat with his new
crewmates, including pilot Lt. Joe Deasy, whose last-minute transfer
from training duty thrusts the new crew into the squadron commander’s
role. Inexperienced crews are pressed into combat with navigational
training inadequate for the great distances flown over Pacific routes,
and losses mount.
Complete Phil Scearce Interview from Mayborn School of
Journalism on Vimeo.
Finish Forty and Home takes the reader into combat with B-24 Liberator
bomber crews facing the perils of long missions against tiny
Japanese-held island targets. After new crews assembled into a squadron
on Hawaii, they are sent on a mission to bomb Nauru. Soon the squadron
moves on to bomb Wake Island, Tarawa, and finally Iwo Jima. These
missions bring American forces closer and closer to the Japanese home
islands and precede the critical American invasions of Tarawa and Iwo
Jima. The 42nd Squadron’s losses through 1943 were staggering: 50 out of
110 airmen killed.
Phil Scearce explores the context of the war and sets the stage for
these daring missions, revealing the motivations of the men who flew
them: to finish forty combat missions and make it home again. He based
his story upon substantial research at the Air Force Historical Research
Agency and the National Archives, interviews with surviving airmen, and
interviews and correspondence with the survivors of men who were lost.
His is the first book to document America’s bomber offensive in the
early days of the Pacific War.
“Phil Scearce’s Finish Forty and Home is a triumph of intimate
history, following the author’s seventeen-year-old airman father as he
goes to war in a forgotten but fiercely contested corner of World War
II. Through meticulous research and lyrical prose, Scearce captures the
grim grind of the Pacific war, life and death in a battered bomb
squadron, and the tumultuous experiences of a B-24 radioman and his
crew. Finish Forty and Home is a treasure: poignant, thrilling, and
illuminating.” —Laura Hillenbrand, best-selling author of Unbroken
“This book will help those who wish to gain a real insight to the
personal and human aspects of the air war over the Pacific. Sgt.
Scearce’s story will surprise no one who was there, and everyone who was
not.” —Dr. James A. Mowbray, Professor of Strategy, Doctrine, and
Airpower, Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base
“Scearce does a very good job of depicting the helter skelter of air
combat or the sometimes prolonged fight to keep an aircraft in flight.
The thing that comes across most clearly–a point essential to
understanding the experience of fighting in World War II–is that the war
was not a series of battles (they were highpoints) but an endless
process of violence that extracted physical and psychological damage
like a kind of water torture. There were so many different ways to die.
Consequently, life was cheap.” —Eric M. Bergerud, author of Fire in
the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific and Touched with Fire: The
Land War in the South Pacific
“This history brings back memories of the dear friends who gave their
lives in this war and is a tribute to them and to all those, like
Sergeant Herman Scearce, who laid their lives on the line and were
blessed to survive. It is a comfort to know that this record has been
written in remembrance of these patriots and of this part of our war in
the Pacific.” —Colonel Jesse E. Stay, U.S. Air Force
“Powerful and moving.” —World War II Magazine
“This is the rare volume filling in a glaring gap in American combat
aviation history… . The author strongly relates in the words and
memories of the participants the gut-wrenching sense of loss and the
frustration over the slow mission counts… . The author, through his
extensive work in tracking down and interviewing those who trained and
flew with his father—his commanders, pilots, fellow crewmen, ground
personnel—has delivered a work of art, as well as a strong
commemoration… . Highly recommended.” —The Journal of America’s