Avonmore's South Pacific Air War Vol 4

Author/Artists: Michael Claringbould & Peter Ingman




$36.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 180 pages, softbound, profiles and photos.
ISBN: 978-0-6486659-7-7

This is the first book in this particular series that I've had a chance to read. It concentrates on the South Pacific theater of operations and is basically a day to day account of the war from both sides of the conflict. This is the fourth volume and cover the period of time from June to early September 1942. During this time, the main focus is on New Guinea, where the Japanese were getting established on the northern coast. The attempted landing in Papua, specifically Port Morseby was stymied by the events of Coral Sea in May and so it was determined that another way would be found. That was to occupy the northern coast and to press forward on the Kodaka Trail over the Owen-Stanley Mountains.

During this period of time, the main Japanese air forces for this region were those of the Imperial Japanese Navy. They had control over this sector and it wasn't until later than the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force got involved. The main Japanese base was at Rabaul, which had recently been taken over from the small Australian garrison. IJNAF units were then sent to bases in northern New Guinea so they could provide support for the Army's ground troops.

In the meantime, they sent raids to Port Moresby, where the Allies were building up forces. At this time of the war, most Allied bombers were based in northeastern Australia for fear they would be destroyed on the ground. The main Allied bombers were B-17s, B-26s and Hudsons with Australian Catalinas also providing long range night attacks. For fighter defenses there were USAAF P-39s and P-40Es along with Australian P-40E squadrons. In fact, often times these fighters were loaded up with bombs for ground attack sorties.

Those bombers that were sent against Rabaul stopped at Port Moresby for refueling before continuing onward. They flew their missions unescorted due to the distance involved. Meanwhile, the Japanese has located most of their bomber forces at Rabaul and had a heavy A6M presence there and along the New Guinea coast. It was at this time that the shorter ranged A6M3 joined the fight. These were designed solely as land based interceptors and did not operate from aircraft carriers like the majority of the other A6M2s in theater. Often the small bomber groups that flew over Rabaul were met with fairly heavy opposition from the Japanese. It is only the lack of experience in fighting the B-17s that kept the big bombers from having higher attrition. The Japanese did learn fairly quickly that the way to attack the B-17E/F was with a frontal assault and many planes were damaged in these missions.

The main focus of this book is on the Japanese build up at Buna and the Allied construction of the airfield at Milne Bay, a process that was done in secret and, thanks to the horrible weather in this part of the world, was not discovered by Japanese reconnaissance until it was well established. The book covers a little in regards to the Guadalcanal landings, but it is not the primary area of concentration of this volume.

Filled with great period photos, interesting stories, and some equally superb color profiles, it is a book that is not only an excellent reference, but a fascinating read as well. What is even better is that is is not the usual US-centric history but covers Australian forces, which did the majority of the fighting in this theater during this time. It is a book that I most highly recommend.

March 2021

Review book courtesy of Casemate Publishing. You can get your copy from this link

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