South Pacific Air War – Volume One (The Fall of Rabaul)


This large format paperback by Michael Claringbould and Peter Ingman is packed with photos, maps and diagrams – both in colour, and black and white.  It also includes a large number of beautifully illustrated ‘Aircraft Profiles’.

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This volume chronicles aerial warfare in the South Pacific from December 1941 until early March 1942, during which air operations by both sides became a daily occurrence.  As Imperial Japanese Navy flying boats and land-based bombers penetrated over vast distances, a few under-strength squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force put up a spirited fight.

However, it was the supreme power of aircraft carriers that had the biggest impact.  Four Japanese fleet carries facilitated the capture Rabaul over a devastating four-day period in January 1942.  The following month, the USS Lexington’s fighter squadron VF-3 scored one of the most one-sided victories of the entire Pacific War.

By March 1942 the Japanese had landed on mainland New Guinea, and the scene was set for a race to control Port Moresby.  This is the full story of both sides of an air war that could have been won by either incumbent, but for timing, crucial decisions and luck.