The Struggle for Guadalcanal, from August 1942 to the Japanese evacuation in January of 1943, was the Stalingrad of the Pacific war (for the Japanese). The air war was just as bitter as the land and naval battles.
The Japanese committed their very best pilots who had plenty of experience fighting in China, the Philippines and in New Guinea. Their aces had racked up amazing totals mostly against our inferior planes such as the Brewster Buffalo and Curtis P-40: Nishizawa with 104, Saburo Sakai 64, and Ota 34. They flew the Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane with its great range and maneuverability.
Matched against this we had former farm boys like Marine Joe Foss from South Dakota with no combat experience. But he had a better plane than our earlier pilots, the first Grumman monoplane, the F4U “Wildcat.” It was not as quite as maneuverable as the Zero, slightly faster, but had tremendous fire power with six machine guns, and protected our pilots with the infamous 187-pound Jorgenson armor-plated seat, which almost nothing airborne in the world could pierce.
Foss put this toughness to the test. I believe he was shot down three times (although Wikipedia reports twice), a record for any of our top aces in the war. As the Japanese attacked our airfield on Guadalcanal, he was shot down and crashed on the field, then was forced to bail out and came down on the field, and later was shot down and crashed in the ocean.
In the end, Nishizawa escaped, but Sakai was crippled and Oro killed, while Foss’s victory total of 26 matched Edie Rickenbacker’s from World War I.
See Sakai’s very memorable autobiography “Zero.”