Avonmore's Black Sunday

Author/Artists: Michael Claringbould




$44.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 136 pages, softbound, 36 profiles and dozens of photos. Second edition.
ISBN: 978-0-645-24698-8

The war in the southwest Pacific was more than just battles against the Japanese, it was also a battle against the elements. New Guinea was not only a fairly inhospitable locale, but that area was one that was meteorologically prone to rapidly changing weather conditions. It would not be too far from wrong to state that the weather was as big an enemy as the Japanese. Storms could quickly form in the warm, humid air and tower to heights such that aircraft could not simply fly above them.

One day in April, 1944 was such a day that caused more losses to the 5th Air Force than any other day during the war. To set the stage, the Japanese were almost totally pushed out of New Guinea. Plans were made to invade Hollandia on the northwest coast. First, it was important to ensure that there would be no Japanese air opposition so one last major raid was planned. As often happens, the previous raid pretty well knocked out all Japanese opposition, but one more was going to be held just to be sure.

As it turned out, it was one raid too many. Though units got through the building storm, it was when they tried to return that everything went south. Radios didn't work well or not at all due to the storm. Winds were strong. Cloud tops were at 80-90,000 feet, and most pilots were not instrument rated. It was a recipe for disaster and a disaster it was. Dozens of aircraft were lost either to running out of fuel trying to get through the storm or crashed on overly small emergency strips.

This book tells that story through research of official records and interviews of those who lived through it. It is a tale of heroism, near death experiences, and in some cases, just bad luck. The author is particularly well suited to tell this tale as he is an expert on this theater of operations. Originally published over 20 years ago, this edition includes additional information that has come to light since then. It is a book that I know you will find riveting and is one I most highly recommend.

April 2023

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