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Publisher's Summary

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 US 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 listeners 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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2019 Dan Pedersen (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic 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 best-selling author Ghost Soldiers and On Desperate Ground)

"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 best-selling author of Viper Pilot and Lords of the Sky)

"With the hot-seat velocity and cockpit realism of a military combat thriller, the author delivers exacting details and emotional acuity....A noble, thrillingly realized combat aviation memoir from one of America's finest." (Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about Topgun

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The true story is way better than the movie.

The true story like everything Hollywood does is way better than the movie. These guys were of good and moral character not losers like in the movie. This book will teach you a lot about how to do anything right. As a jet pilot myself my training was reinforced by this book. A good pilot is always learning.

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I loved it!

Do yourself a favor, read or listen to this book. I’m actually sad that it’s over I will have to read it again. Thank you Dan for what you’ve done for this country.

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Great Insight into a Unique Organization

Great insight in the events leading up to the founding and success of Top Gun. A lot more than what you saw in the movie.

The writer takes you from the Korean War through Vietnam and other events that involved aerial combat. He also dives into the politics behind the new F35 and offers his personal opinion on the future of Naval Aviation with regards to fighters.

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History of Top Gun

This book tells the story of the founding of the fight pilot school called Top Gun and it’s evolution over time. I thought it was really interesting and written by a military aviation veteran and expert. Good listen.

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great listen, you feel like your in the cockpit

a well put together summary of a team's determination and will power to do it right.

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Fantastic listen

This book covers much more than the genesis of Topgun. It does a great job at contextualizing Topgun’s creation in the larger scheme of the vietnam war and military politics. Managing to weave in lessons on life and leadership, the audiobook gives an engrossing narrative where you never know which emotions you’ll feel in the next chapter. Sorrow, joy, frustration, and pride are frequent flyers.

Amongst harrowing tales of jet fighter combat and maritime rescue there are bits of outlandish stories; bribing crane operators with alcohol, a blond-haired doctor bringing women to the ship in a mercedes and an odd farm at a ship dock to name a few.

Its refreshingly easy to understand for those not familiar with aviation and military topics.

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If you thought the movie was good this is better

The story that covers the dedicated and passionate drive that created the real Top Gun. Naval aviators who had been a part of and suffered from crippling bureaucratic rules of engagement and flawed weapons. Took opportunity and changed things they knew needed to change. Dan has had a pretty incredible life as told in this book.

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  • G
  • 06-03-21

EXCELLENT BOOK!

it's hard to stop listening to this one. great book and great narrator. must read!

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Couldn't get into it.

I grew up loving aircraft and in particular fighter jets, and still do. However, I just could not get into this story. I just finished Robin Olds' book, which is excellent both in content and narration, but 'Top Gun' dosen't have the same oompf. Not sure if its the bland and seemingly simplistic writing, or the narration just isn't doing it justice, but I think it's probably a combination.

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Essential reading for Naval Aviation enthusiasts

I couldn't put it away. I consumed this book in a few days. No wasted filler here. Dan Pedersen describes his Naval Aviation career from enlistment to retirement as Captain of the carrier USS Ranger. His description of the formation of TOPGUN during 1968 and '69 is a case study in leadership and how a "Can Do" attitude can transform an organization. This is essential reading for anyone interested in jet fighter combat.

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  • D. Williams
  • 04-07-19

Bravo Zulu!

Has all the elements of a great story and is read with care and attention - well done narrator! Nice to get the pdf of the photos too. Will be buying this in print when the hardback goes on sale next month.

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  • Mst007
  • 03-23-19

Wild Aerial Ride!

Dan Pedersen takes the reader up in his backseat for a wild aerial ride throughout his entire Navy career. Vietnam, Top Gun, Supercarrier command, and a thorough education in ACM. Well written, superbly narrated, recommend highly!