Guadalcanal August – September 1942 Volume 1
Avonmore Books is an Australian publisher specializing in military and aviation history, with a particular interest on the early period of the Pacific War. Avonmore prides itself in being the only mainstream Australian military history publisher producing full colour, illustrated books. While expensive to produce, we strive to produce titles that are a pleasure to own and read, and which incorporate first-class profiles, illustrations, and maps. To date, Avonmore Books has published 25 aviation books.
Raised in Port Moresby, pilot Michael Claringbould is a globally recognized expert on the New Guinea air war and Japanese aviation in particular. In 1976 he conducted numerous surveys of crash sites in Papua New Guinea while based at Lae. The following year he continued his survey of crash sites in the Solomon Islands. In 1984 he was a key member of a RAAF salvage team, which recovered an intact Douglas A-20G "Hell'N Pelican II". From 1995 to 2001 he conducted fourteen surveys of crash sites in the Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Michael is an established author in this field as well. His books include Helluva Pelican, The Forgotten Fifth, Forty of the Fifth, and Black Sunday.
Peter Ingman is an author specializing in aviation and WWII Pacific War history. Peter has co-authored five widely acclaimed Australian WWII history books: Zero Hour in Broome, Carrier Attack Darwin 1942 and four volumes of the South Pacific Air War series. Through his publishing business Avonmore Books, Peter has also had extensive input into further military history books by a variety of authors. An award-winning essayist, Peter is the Chairman of the History Group at the South Australian Aviation Museum. He lives in Adelaide with his two young children.
The front cover features a color illustration of Japanese ace, FPO1c Sakai Saburo [64 victories] taking a photograph from his open cockpit with his Leica camera. His opponent, VF-5 pilot, James Julien “Pug” Southerland [5, maybe 7, victories] is preparing to bail out of his riddled Grumman F4F Wildcat over Guadalcanal. “Pug” Southerland would be the first American pilot to score an aerial victory of the Guadalcanal campaign, a 4th Kokutai Mitsubishi G4M1 bomber. His Wildcat blew up, probably from gasoline vapors that had pooled under his feet. As “Pug” bailed out, his 45-caliber pistol caught in the cockpit before he managed to free himself from his burning Wildcat. Shock, Exhaustion, and eleven wounds found him behind enemy lines. Evading Japanese soldiers, Pug found his way to the coast where some natives risked their lives to feed him, treat his wounds, and return him to American lines.
The rear cover depicts a color illustration of FPO1c observer Morisaku Shinzou’s Mitsubishi G4M1 dropping their torpedo just before the destroyer minesweeper USS Trever managed to land an anti-aircraft shell in the left engine. The explosion killed the pilot and shattered the co-pilot’s right arm. Morisaku wrestled the controls from the dead pilot to guide the bomber into a “controlled” crash into the ocean.
I counted 18 color side profiles, 20 color illustrations, and six maps by Michael Claringbould. There are also 59 period black and white period photographs, three color photographs, along with nine tables.
Michael Claringbould and Peter Ingman describe the beginning of the Guadalcanal [Part of the Solomons islands] campaign from both sides. Subsequent volumes will cover the balance of the Solomons campaign. Volume one starts off the American invasion of Tulagi (the Solomons capital) and the invasion of Guadalcanal to capture the Japanese airfield that would be renamed Henderson Field. Michael Claringbould and Peter Ingman provide detailed daily operation accounts from the initial invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi to the end of September. Although most expected this face-off to be a naval battle, these two months saw land-based air forces carrying the aerial load. Both sides of this conflict are well presented and checked against the other side to get a clear picture of what actually happened.
The Pearl Harbor attack obviously woke up America and started the process of getting the US war machine into the South Pacific. Part of this effort involved shipping aircraft to the area. Page 28 shows off a good example of the Martin B-26B Marauder fitted out with a torpedo to an anti-submarine role. Marauders participated in the Battle of Midway but were not successful, losing two aircraft in attempts to attack the Japanese carrier force. Two Marauders were lost in the Battle of Midway with another two lost on the flight from Hawaii to New Caledonia. The Marauders would also be supported by New Zealand Lockheed Hudsons and USAAC B-17E Flying Fortresses.
The official invasion of Tulagi and Guadalcanal was on 7-August-1942. Page 65 highlights one of the first US aircraft shot down as depicted on the front cover. James “Pug” Southerland is shown standing in front of his aircraft in a black and white photograph with a Michael Claringbould color profile of his Grumman Wildcat. The aerial battle between Southerland and Sakai Saburo is well described. The eight Grumman Wildcats involved in this interaction saw Sakai Saburo’s No. 3 Chutai take out five F4F-4s with the loss of three pilots. Two other Wildcats managed to get back to the Saratoga, but were severely damaged in the fight.
Three 11th Bomb Group Boeing B-17Es are depicted in the color illustration leading into Chapter 8 (Page 96). Based at Palikulo, Espiritu Santo, up to fourteen Flying Fortresses provided reconnaissance and bombing capability throughout the Solomon Islands. Of course, being at a forward base, getting parts to maintain these B-17Es became a huge issue. Page 186 shows off one of these Flying Fortresses, “Galloping Gus” [41-9215], where the 500-pound bombs are being fitted with fins.
VMF-224 commanding officer, Major Robert E. Galer, is shown leaning on the cowling of his Grumman F4F-4 on Page 209. The Wildcat cowling bore the name “Barbara Jane” that led Galer [11 confirmed victories] to be one of the outstanding pilots and leaders during the Guadalcanal Campaign. Galer was awarded the Medal of Honor in March 1943 by Admiral Nimitz. Galer also was awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and went on to command Marine Aircraft Group 12 in the Korean War before retiring as a Brigadier General. A Grumman F3F-2 that he ditched off the California coast is now on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida. The Chapters include:
- About the Authors
- Glossary & Abbreviations
- Explanatory Notes
- Chapter 1 Japanese Overview
- Japanese Operations in the Solomons May-August 1943
- Chapter 2 Allied Airpower in the South Pacific
- New Caledonia [Page 028]
- New Hebrides
- Chapter 3 USN Carriers and Start of Operation Watchtower
- Carrier Air Strength – Circa Early August 1942 [Table]
- Task Force 61 [Table]
- Task Force 62 Amphibious Force [Table]
- Chapter 4 7 August: Dog Day
- 7 August Dawn Airstrikes [Table]
- Chapter 5 7 August : IJN Response – One Way Ticket [Page 065]
- Chapter 6 8 August: Torpedo Attack
- Chapter 7 9 August: Marines Left in Limbo
- Chapter 8 10-178 August: Henderson Field [Page 096]
- Chapter 9 18-23 August: Shock Troops! Japan Moves to Retake Guadalcanal
- Japanese Guadalcanal Convoys Departing Truk 16 & 17 August 1942 [Table]
- Chapter 10 24 August: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons Part 1
- Key IJN Forces Supporting operation Ka, 24 August [Table]
- Chapter 11 24 August: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons Part II
- Chapter 12 25 August: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons Part III
- Chapter 13 26-31 August: Rise of Cactus Air Force
- Cactus Air Force Strength 31 August 1942 [Table]
- Chapter 14 1-11 September: The Tokyo Express[Page 186]
- Chapter 15 12-18 September: Battle of Edson’s Ridge and Loss of the Wasp [Page 209]
- Chapter 16 19-30 September: Breathing Space
- Appendix 1 Allied Aircraft Losses & Fatalities [Table]
- Appendix 2 Japanese Aircraft Losses & Fatalities [Table]
- Sources & Acknowledgements
Much of the narrative is in third person, but there are still some first-person accounts. One involved Lieutenant Robert Howard, a Douglas SBD Dauntless. He had completed his bombing run when he was attacked by Zeros: “ [Howard] was confident that he scored hits when enemy planes presented no deflection shots, and again when a plane pulled out over him. After about eight passes, one fighter turned up sharply and made a head-on run which [Howard] met with simultaneous fire from his fixed guns. The enemy burst into flames and passed close under his left wing…rear gunner Lawrence Lupo was firing on a fighter directly astern and shot numerous holes through the tip of the vertical stabilizer of his own plane.”
Michael Claringbould’s color side profiles and color illustrations add a lot to the period black and white photographs to this tale. This was an easy read over five nights that was hard to put down. I am looking forward to subsequent volumes in this series.
My thanks to Casemate, Avonmore Books, and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.