Japanese Army Air Force and the Imperial Japanese Navy vs The Allies
Volumes 1 to 4
Michael John Claringbould
Kent Town, South Australia: Avonmore Books, 2019 - 2021
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, November 2021
The Pacific Adversaries series presents detailed accounts of aerial warfare in the Pacific. The underpinning selection criteria is that both Allied and Japanese records have been able to be matched so accurate presentations have been made compared to frequently exaggerated claims made in the past. Close attention has been made to establishing the actual aircraft involved. The volumes can stand alone and read as individual works. Michael has been instrumental in locating downed aircraft and identifying lost crews of both sides of the conflict and uses his skill as a digital 3D aviation artist to great advantage.
All volumes contain a brief introduction that includes relevant maps, a Glossary and Abbreviations, and a list of Japanese Army and Navy aircraft types appearing in that specific text. Chapters include photographs of the airmen involved, the aircraft on the ground (sometimes located after crashing) and airstrip locales. Whilst the aircraft and tactics used by both Japanese forces differed, the Navy used land- and carrier-based aircraft and float planes.
Volume 1: Japanese Army Air Force vs The Allies
New Guinea 1942-1944
1 June 2019. Softcover 112pp RRP $34.95
After decisive defeat at Rabaul in January 1942 the RAAF Wirraways were immediately withdrawn as fighter aircraft. In December a Wirraway did down an enemy Oscar fighter - it now resides in the Australian War Memorial. In May 1943 another Oscar collided with a USAF Flying Fortress with both aircraft being lost. Another American downed pilot was found one month after parachuting into dense jungle and was subsequently hidden for six months in a local village. This pilot returned in 1964, having raised funding for the establishment of two schools in West New Britain.
Volume 2: Imperial Japanese Navy vs The Allies
New Guinea & the Solomons 1942-1944
1 June 2020 Softcover 108pp RRP $34.95
Two Japanese Vals attacked Gurney Airfield on 27th August 1942 after leaving Buna, but both were dispatched into the sea by RAAF Kittyhawks. Next month a Zero pilot crashed into the sea, swam to an islet was found by local natives. The took him to Kitava Island, having made sure members of an Australian outpost located nearby would be there on his arrival. He was executed and buried there, with natives still tending his grave. An American who survived a crash-landing was beheaded by local natives living under Japanese control near Popandetta.
Volume 3: Imperial Japanese Navy vs The Allies
New Guinea & the Solomons 1942-1944
1 June 2020 Softcover 102pp RRP $34.95
In November 1942 the first combat version of the Lockheed Lightning was put into service and overshooting its land target the bomb landed in the water at the end of the Lae runway causing a huge geyser. One Zero flew into it, thus becoming the first ‘kill’ for the new Lightnings! December 1942 saw a Zero lose its tailfin after cutting a Flying Fortress in two. The Zero pilot nursed his plane to a landing, but the tail-gunner was the only survivor after a struggle to free himself of his aircraft and parachute into the sea near Choisel Island.
Volume 4: Imperial Japanese Navy vs The Allies
The Solomons 1943-1944
13 May 2021. Softcover 112pp RRP $34.95
A US Liberator attacking a floatplane base on Shortland Island on 13 February 1943 was set upon by two floatplanes that knocked out its outer port engine and set fire to its starboard wing. At this stage, unbeknown to the two pilots, four of its crew bailed out. The inner starboard engine was knocked out as the Liberator flew across Choisel Island. The fighters gave up the chase and the pilots were able to ditch within view of Choisel - reaching the shore nineteen hours later. Sailing by night, their eventual evacuation by Catalina organised by a coastwatcher saw them back at Henderson Field on 4 March. A total of 62 USAF and RNZAF fighters engaged 60 Zeroes attacking the two airfields on the Russell Islands on 7 June 1943. Both sides lost nine aircraft, with all Allied, but no Japanese pilots surviving.
The author should be truly proud of his work, and his readers most grateful for these first-class accounts of the air battles in the Southwest Pacific during World War II. A military aviation fan’s delight.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making these works available for review.