P-47D Thunderbolt Series Southwest Pacific 1943-1945
“When we met the Thunderbolts they immediately surrounded and separated us from protecting the Donryu (bombers). They attacked from above, outnumbering us three or four to one, however we lost no fighters. In conclusion we did not lose, and one Hayabusa which failed to drop one of its fuel tanks survived. I am of the firm opinion that the Thunderbolt can be shot down if we take advantage of its mistakes. Four enemy Thunderbolts only amount to one or two of our planes…”
This is a quote from 248th Sentai commander, Major Muraoka Shinichi after aerial combat when eight Ki-43-II Hayabusa fought against 16 P-47Ds from the 36th Fighter Squadron on 26 December 1943; two P-47Ds were shot down with no loss to the Japanese. Author Michael Claringbould writes an honest assessment of P-47D performance in New Guinea, the focus of this book, outlining the Thunderbolt’s “lack of manoeuvrability”, poor performance in a low energy state, heavy take off and landing weights for the theater’s rudimentary airfields, and New Guinea’s humid and hot air offered thin air density, which was particularly dangerous when low and slow.
The author continues,
“Numerous works to date referencing the history of the Thunderbolts in the SWPA (Southwest Pacific Area) fail to underline its disappointing SWPA record which at times verged on the disastrous. All narratives of the highest-achieving Thunderbolt combat unit, the 348th FG (Fighter Group), portray the popular image of success: a superior type carving its way through inferior opposition, earning disproportionately favourable combat results. This curious and bogus narrative derives from accepting Allied claims at face value instead of cross-checking with relevant Japanese records, and not consulting the USAAF field maintenance logs. Armed with this information, the type’s true combat record in New Guinea of misfortune and lacklustre results come into sharp focus.”
The author’s research is exhaustive and impressive. This book highlights the pilots, crew chiefs, squadrons, groups, and command that supported the P-47D aircraft in New Guinea. Histories and fates of the aircraft and pilots are impressive and captivating, even documenting the time a pilot was executed and the location of his remains. The author has personal experience finding these aircraft decades after they came to rest, often violently in the mountains, jungles, and water.
The book is a fascinating and remarkable insight into P-47D Razorbacks and their operations in the Southwest Pacific, complete with extensive photographs, maps, detailed illustrations, and a color profile section composing the following chapters and appendices:
- About the Author
- Glossary and Abbreviations
- Chapter 1 – Markings and Technical Notes
- Chapter 2 – 9th Fighter Squadron “Flying Knights”
- Chapter 3 – 36th Fighter Squadron “Flying Fiends”
- Chapter 4 – 39th Fighter Squadron
- Chapter 5 – 40th Fighter Squadron “Fightin’ Red Devils”
- Chapter 6 – 41st Fighter Squadron “Flying Buzzsaws”
- Chapter 7 – 69th Fighter Squadron “The Fightin’ 69th”
- Chapter 8 – 310th Fighter Squadron
- Chapter 9 – 311th Fighter Squadron
- Chapter 10 – 340th Fighter Squadron “The Minute Men”
- Chapter 11 – 341st Fighter Squadron “The Black Jacks”
- Chapter 12 – 342nd Fighter Squadron “The Scourgers”
- Chapter 13 – Fifth Fighter Command Headquarters
- Chapter 14 – Combat Replacement Training Center
- Sources & Acknowledgements
- Index of Names
Historians and modelers will gain a lot from this book. The photos and color profiles are worth the price of the book alone. The color profile section has great illustrations of all eleven of the Southwest Pacific Theater’s P-47D fighter squadrons serving under the Fifth Fighter Command Headquarters in New Guinea. There is a lot of modeling inspiration within the 108 pages of this book. The Markings and Technical Notes chapter is very impressive with how markings evolved, how engine cowls often moved with the pilots and crew chiefs to other Thunderbolts. Anyone wanting to model a unique Thunderbolt will find plenty of examples with camouflaged parts (most often cowls with artwork) on bare metal P-47s. There is also a section on the unique fuel tanks fabricated in Australia to extend their range. From the first Thunderbolt mission on 16 August 1943 to the end of the war, Thunderbolts flew in New Guinea (after the war moved north to the Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines, the Combat Replacement Training Center was established to teach aircrews how to fly the aircraft in their inventory; besides the P-47, were the A-20G, B-25, B-24 and the newest aircraft, the P-51D).
Author and illustrator Michael John Claringbould was born and raised in Port Moresby, New Guinea and is a resident of Australia, who served his country as a Foreign Service Officer in the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. Fluent in translating Japanese military documents and records, he brings fresh and new perspective to English readers. He has authored numerous books on the air war in the Southwest Pacific and the US Fifth Air Force. Mr Claringbould has authored 27 books to date; his series includes Pacific Profiles (this is the tenth and latest volume), South Pacific Air War (five volumes) and Pacific Adversaries (four volumes) and one of books of air combat in the Pacific. Mr Claringbould’s extensive research and experience fill large gaps in the South Pacific air war knowledge and history.
Profuse thanks to Casemate (https://www.casematepublishers.com) and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample.