Helion's The Darkest Hour vol. 2

Author/Artists: Michal Piegzik


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, softcover, over 50 images
ISBN 978-1-804510-23-0

After their success at Pearl Harbor along with their advances in southeast Asia, the Japanese navy ventured farther west into the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. The plan was to not only defeat the British Navy's Eastern Fleet in those areas, but to sink as many merchant vessels as possible to prevent the rapid reinforcement of troops in eastern India. This would allow the Japanese to more quickly advance in Burma and Malaya, eventually cutting off the Chinese from land reinforcement from the south.

Using many of the same ships that participated in the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese headed for the island of Ceylon, the home of the greatest concentration of British forces. The plan was to destroy British bases on the western side of the island. This would not only eliminate British air power, but also make those bases unusable for the British fleet in the Indian Ocean.

The first to be targeted was Colombo. The Japanese approach was largely undiscovered, though the Japanese did discover two British heavy cruisers and fairly easily dispatched both of them with carrier air power. The force then launched several attacks on Colombo, which were fairly successful in dealing a blow to both air and naval facilities as well as shooting down a fair number of British aircraft. The next was Tricomalee a bit further up the coast. They barely missed the British ships which had only recently left that port. These ships left for further west and the British navy was absent from this are until near the end of the war.

Meanwhile another smaller force entered the Bay of Bengal and proceeded to harry shipping that was plying the eastern coast of India. Again, they were fairly successful with the majority of shipping sunk in this area being the result of gunfire from Japanese cruisers and destroyers. The end result of these forays was a loss of Allied shipping plus several British and Australian warships sent to the bottom. In return, Japanese losses were minimal, being mostly the loss of some attacking aircraft. The Japanese then left in order to have ships available for the Coral Sea and Midway battles. Losses there and in Guadalcanal meant that the Indian Ocean was never revisited save for Japanese submarines.

Japan's Indian Ocean foray is superbly covered in this new book from Helion. The initial planning and then the execution of operation is covered in considerable detail. What I liked is that the author provides sufficient maps and charts in the proper place in the book so that we can follow both the Japanese and British movements. This is something in which many other books are lacking and these maps only increase the understanding of the situation as it unfolds. As usual in this series, there are great period phots as well as the usual full color profiles in the center section of the book. If you want to know about this particular side story in the Pacific War, this is the book you want.

January 2023

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