Book Review

Top Gun: 50 Years of Naval Air Superiority

Author: Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Format: Hardcover, 160 Pages
ISBN: 9780760363546
Publisher: Motorbooks, 2019

Review by Richard Mohns

I enjoyed reading the book “Top Gun: 50 Years of Naval Air Superiority” written by best-selling author and president of the Military Writers Society of America, Dwight Jon Zimmerman.

This attractively bound coffee table book with excellent graphics is sure to be a pleasurable read for any aviation enthusiast – particularly those whose pedigree includes fighter pilot!

Featuring more than 200 images, multiple interviews and personal stories from aces, engineers, and commanders, this historical account of the role of naval aviation in combat is compelling and informative.

As a book relating the story of the US Navy Top Gun pilot training program, the content actually juggles three themes: the story of the Top Gun program, Hollywood’s impact on fighter pilot aviation including of course the iconic movie Top Gun; and finally a history of the evolution of aircraft in a war fighting role.

The three stories are all individually enjoyable and informative, but the flow of the book jumps from one to the other. It is difficult to get absorbed in the story as the author has inserted numerous factoids throughout each chapter causing the reader to lose the thread of the story at times. The use of multiple different fonts further exacerbates the ease of the read, I often found myself trying to discern which font was the continuation of the story as opposed to an introduction to each chapter or a caption to an illustration. The review copy contains several editorial and pagination errors should be corrected in future publishings.

The framework of the story is US-Centric, which would be understandable if the storyline dealt only with the Top Gun story itself, however, as the author attempts to weave the evolution of the Naval Top Gun flying within the context of global combat aviation, it results in a limited view of the evolution of aviation in war. International readers might find this bothersome, but for most this will not detract from the pleasure of the read.

Notwithstanding the incoherency of the story flow, I found the book very enjoyable. The author has incorporated numerous outstanding images and illustrations that are sure to please any reader.

With its many interesting tidbits of aviation history, aviation enthusiasts will undoubtedly find this a worthwhile, attractive and entertaining read.

– Richard Mohns is a former RCAF fighter pilot.