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Posted on Jun 1, 2006 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Hammer From Above: Marine Air Combat Over Iraq – Book Review

By Richard N Story

hammer.jpgBook Review: Hammer From Above: Marine Air Combat Over Iraq
Jay Stout, hardcover, 2005

‘Every Marine is a rifleman first’ is not just a credo for the United States Marines, but an organizational fact. This philosophy helps explain why the Marine aviators are willing to get their planes down in the mud to help their brethren on the ground. Marine aviation has a record unmatched by any. The Marine Airedales continued their superlative work in the skies over Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Their story is told with unflinching honesty in Hammer From Above: Marine Air Combat Over Iraq by Jay A. Stout.


Jay Stout is a former Marine pilot who decided to tell the story of his former comrades during the war. Jay Stout’s experiences made him a natural to tell the tale. Aviators talk to aviators more so than they would outsiders and as a former Marine he could connect even more so with the current Marine aviators. The book is a no holds barred look at the run up to war and then the air campaign over Iraq. Relying on testimony from the pilots and crews freshly returned from Iraq gives the book the feeling of being written then and there by those involved. Jay Stout used a maximum of common sense to let the people tell their own story and interjected himself only to clarify the testimony or to set the picture for the testimony.

Just about every arena of Marine aviation is covered in the book including a chapter dealing with VMU-1 ‘Watchdogs’ who were one of two Marine UAV squadrons. Everybody who played a part got into the story. From the fast movers to the snakes to the trash haulers; nobody’s accomplishments were too little to be acknowledged. One area that caught my interest was how the United States used flame weapons, but denied the use of napalm weapons which were declared illegal by the United Nations. Another gripping story was of the AV8Bs being launched from the Bon Homme Richard during inclement weather. But these are just two of the many stories that make up the book.

The list of interviewees is extensive and the research is top rate. Being an uncorrected proof there was a few minor grammatical errors that should be corrected in the final galley version. Another item that was minimally confusing was the creation of apparent ‘sidebars’ within the main text, but no distinction in the uncorrected proof. Also as an uncorrected proof there were none of the illustrations that would be included in a special 16 page insert. Many of the illustrations were made by the interviewees them self during the events being described by using digital cameras, camera phones, etc. I sadly missed the inclusion of pictures in the proof. If the illustrations are as good as the text is than they should be thrilling too. With a list price of $25.95 for a hard cover book this book is well within reach of any fan of military aviation or anybody interested in the United States Marine Corps or Operation Iraqi Freedom. This book is very, very highly rated.