P-40E Warhawk vs. A6M2 Zero-Sen: East Indies and Darwin, 1942
This book is part of an excellent series on the course of World War II in the air, and although it is a little more inclusive than the title implies, it covers the action between the 3rd Kokutai and the Tainan Kokutai, Japanese Navy units equipped with Mitsubishi A6M-2 Zero Sens, Mitsubishi G4M-2’s, and Nakajima C5M2 reconnaissance types and based in the former Netherlands East Indies, and the U.S. Army 49th Pursuit Group, (Later 49th Fighter Group), armed primarily with Curtiss P-40E “Warhawk” fighters, and base in Northern Australia around Darwin. The Japanese were attempting to destroy Allied installations in Northern Australia, while the Americans were attempting to defend them. In general, the Japanese were probably better trained and more experienced than the Americans, but given the conditions of combat, the outcomes were fairly even. Although a few Japanese attacks were carried out with carrier based aircraft, most of their raids were from land bases north of Australia, well out of range of American aircraft.
The book begins with a chronology of events, beginning in 1941, and ending in late 1942. Each major raid or mission is described. Following is a chapter dealing with the design and development of the Curtiss P-40E and the Mitsubishi A6M-2, explaining the factors that affected the design of these aircraft.
The book includes a large selection of black and white photos of the aircraft and people involved, color drawings, maps and other visuals which serve to explain the sequence of events. The technical specifications of each aircraft are presented in detail, and one chapter thoroughly explains the strategic situation that faced the combatants.
One area I thought was especially good was the section on individual combat using each aircraft, and the comparison between the low powered and lightly loaded and constructed Japanese fighter and the heavier and better protected American P-40. American pilots developed tactics which usually overcame the superior maneuverability of the Japanese planes, and individual American commanders were allowed to engage the enemy using whatever tactics they thought would be most successful.
There is quite a bit of information included in the book that would be useful to model builders, including photos and line drawings of the aircraft used by either side.
One particularly useful part of this book is the discussion of the personal lives and qualities of some of the outstanding pilots of both sides, outlining their strengths and weaknesses, and describing their subsequent careers. Many survived, but quite a few did not.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The author includes an excellent section on the statistical analysis of the various engagements between the two forces, discussing the differences between the claimed victories of either side and the actual records, when these are available. Both sides tended to over-claim, but they usually admitted their own losses. The Americans used mainly the P-40E, and nearly all losses were of that type, whereas the Japanese lost not only Mitsubishi A6M’s, but also Betty bombers and C5M reconnaissance types, and this makes the totals a little confusing at times.
All in all, this is an excellent little book, useful as a historical reference and also as a source of information for modelers. It is certainly worth getting a copy if you have an interest in this part of our history. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy.