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An American Story

On the 50th anniversary of the creation of the “Topgun” Navy Fighter School, its founder shares the remarkable inside story of how he and eight other risk-takers revolutionized the art of aerial combat.

When American fighter jets were being downed at an unprecedented rate during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy turned to a young lieutenant commander, Dan Pedersen, to figure out a way to reverse their dark fortune. On a shoestring budget and with little support, Pedersen picked eight of the finest pilots to help train a new generation to bend jets like the F-4 Phantom to their will and learn how to dogfight all over again.

What resulted was nothing short of a revolution-one that took young American pilots from the crucible of combat training in the California desert to the blistering skies of Vietnam, in the process raising America’s Navy combat kill ratio from two enemy planes downed for every American plane lost to more than 22 to 1. Topgun emerged not only as an icon of America’s military dominance immortalized by Hollywood but as a vital institution that would shape the nation’s military strategy for generations to come.

Pedersen takes readers on a colorful and thrilling ride-from Miramar to Area 51 to the decks of aircraft carriers in war and peace-through a historic moment in air warfare. He helped establish a legacy that was built by him and his “Original Eight” — the best of the best — and carried on for six decades by some of America’s greatest leaders. Topgun is a heartfelt and personal testimonial to patriotism, sacrifice, and American innovation and daring.
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Genre: Nonfiction / History / Military / United States

On Sale: March 5th 2019

Price: $14.99 / $18.99 (CAD)

Page Count: 320

ISBN-13: 9780316416276

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Reader Reviews


"If an institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man, then the history of modern naval aviation might well be described as the lengthened shadow of Dan Pedersen. Here, in direct, vivid, and unvarnished prose, is the high-flying, supersonic tale of the Topgun program and its extraordinary founder. Through it all, Pedersen's innovative spirit, as well as his essential modesty, shines through."—Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author Ghost Soldiers and On Desperate Ground
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"Goose and Maverick, move over -- this is the true heart of Topgun, told with energy, style, humor, and tactical brilliance...a masterpiece that captures the essence of naval aviation in all its complexity and beauty. Dan Pedersen takes us on a high-speed jet ride through the fast times of Topgun, the Navy, and the need to fight our enemies from a position of superiority."—Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (2009-2013), chairman of the U.S. Naval Institute, and author of Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World's Oceans
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"A superb read...Dan Pedersen's Topgun is a riveting, seat-of-the-pants flight into the lethal world of the fighter pilot told by the man who started it all!"
Dan Hampton, New York Times bestselling author of Viper Pilot and Lords of the Sky
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"Teeming with white-knuckled action and the dynamic personalities who would come to define a generation of combat pilots, Topgun brings the deadly dance of air warfare alive."—Dick Couch, New York Times bestselling author of The Warrior Elite and Chosen Soldier
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"For those who will never experience the thrilling privilege of soaring at Mach 2 in the back seat of a Navy F-4 Phantom fighter, Dan Pedersen's superb memoir is the next best thing....Many aviators-turned-authors lose readers in jargon and procedures, but Pedersen's full-hearted personal narrative engages them with maverick charm, showing how he and his innovative team reinvented the art of air-to-air combat in the jet age. Topgun: An American Story is as revelatory as a freshly declassified briefing, written with the flair and insight of Tom Clancy."—Michael Fabey, author of Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific
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