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Bombers North (Paperback)

Allied bomber operations from Northern Australia 1942-1945

Aviation WWII

Imprint: Avonmore Books
Pages: 156
Illustrations: Fully illustrated; colour
ISBN: 9780645246995
Published: 1st April 2023



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In early March 1942 Allied forces in the Netherlands East Indies surrendered and the lightning Japanese conquest of South East Asia was complete. Amid fears of a Japanese invasion of Australia, two understrength RAAF squadrons of Lockheed Hudsons began a brave fight back against the enemy from the Darwin area. These modest initial efforts were the beginnings of an unwavering campaign by Allied bombers waged from Northern Australia until the end of the war in August 1945.


As the Hudson squadrons were rebuilt throughout 1942, they were joined by a unique Dutch squadron operating B-25 Mitchells. From 1943 USAAF Liberators joined the fight, and their great range enabled them to attack targets deep within the NEI. From 1944 they were replaced by RAAF Liberators.


Other RAAF squadrons used an assortment of aircraft including Vengeances, Beauforts, Mitchells, Venturas and Catalina flying boats. The last type waged an important mining campaign against Japanese held ports in the NEI and later to the Philippines and beyond.

Drawing on a wealth of new sources, Bombers North presents for the first time the full story of a little-known bomber offensive waged from remote northern Australia.

Avonmore Books has established a reputation for well researched and professional narratives and analysis for the air war in the Pacific theatre of operations during the Second World War. Dr Tom Lewis is a prominent Australian author and historian who has written extensively on Australia's experience in the World War Two with an emphasis on very specific subjects like this current book about bomber operations based out of Northwestern Australia. The story of bombing operations from Northwestern Australia from 1942-1945 against targets in the Netherlands East Indies, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and beyond. Additionally, Dr Lewis uses new research, and he has consulted several Japanese sources as well. This combines to produce a comprehensive and enthralling book for historians and enthusiasts alike.
The book begins with a brief look at the bomber types involved in these operations beginning with Lockheed Hudsons and progressing up to Vultee Vengeances and Consolidated B-24 Liberators. Bristol Beauforts, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, North American B-25 Mitchells, and Consolidated PBY Catalinas feature prominently throughout the book as well. Then there is a chapter on the Japanese fighters they faced along with the deadly anti-aircraft guns used by the enemy. Chapter four is when we get to read about the early operations with Royal Australian Air Force Hudsons quickly augmented by US Army Air Force (USAAF) B-17s flying from fields near Darwin. Bristol Beaufighters and Martin B-26 Marauder operations followed and then the Dutch began operations as well with B-25s from No. 18 NEI squadron. Next the reader learns about early USAAF B-24 operations that allowed even longer ranged targets to be struck. The introduction of mixed crews from the RAAF and the USAAF was an intriguing new aspect for this reviewer. Next, it's on to nocturnal missions using Catalina flying boats for bombing and mine laying missions. And now with the tide turning against the Japanese, some units traded in their Hudsons for Bristol Beafort bombers, but this was a relatively short period for the Beauforts before they were replaced by B-25 Mitchells. By mid 1945, the USAAF B-24 and Dutch B-25 units had moved out of Northwestern Australia and RAAF Liberator units continued the missions in the NEI and targets beyond. Lastly, the author details more Catalina mine laying missions, convoy escort, and some B-24 missions that were still opposed by Japanese fighters even at this late stage of the war. All of this is supplemented by an abundance of personal accounts and specific unit actions. It really grabs the reader and impresses upon you the dangers these crews faced, and the realisation of the tragic losses endured by these units.
The book is divided into 14 chapters preceded by acknowledgments, an author bio, a useful glossary and abbreviations section, two map pages, and a brief introduction. There is a short conclusion before two very interesting appendices with one looking at the history of No. 18 NEI squadron and the second one being a veteran's personal account of flying in RAAF bombers in the South Pacific. There is then a list of main sources consulted by the author and helpful index. This recent volume follows the same attractive and beautifully illustrated format from Avomore books. The editing is top notch as is the inclusion of phenomenal artwork and well-chosen photographs. This appears to be a stand-alone volume unlike previous series such as the South Pacific Air War. But it is just as enjoyable and gripping as the previously mentioned series. The level of research that seems indicative of all Avonmore authors is commendable and in this reviewer's opinion, they are the go-to books on the subject of air operations in the South Pacific. I highly recommend this book that breaks new ground looking at an often-overlooked and important aspect of the air war in the South Pacific. This is a must have book for anyone with an interest in bomber operations in this much neglected theatre of the Second World War.

Todd Shugart

"Well-written and informative, as well as being superbly researched and illustrated throughout with rare images and colour artwork."

4 Stars

Aeroplane - March 2024
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