Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific

Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific

Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific

Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific

Synopsis

Using primary sources and interviews with surviving veterans, this is an account of the air war as it was fought in the South Pacific. It explores the technology and tactics, the three-dimensional battlefield, and morale of the combatants.

Excerpt

This book analyzes in depth the air war between Japan and the Allies in the South Pacific during World War II. The struggle took place on an immense battlefield that included New Guinea, New Britain, and the Solomon Islands. The period I examine begins in early 1942, when both sides almost simultaneously mounted serious military operations in the area. Initially both operations were relatively small. However, when the Japanese decided to undertake a land invasion of Port Moresby, New Guinea, in July 1942 and the Americans counterattacked at Guadalcanal in August, this triggered a conflict that quickly grew larger, more important, and brazenly violent. I end the analysis in early 1944, when the Allies crushed Japanese land-based airpower at the great base at Rabaul, a process completed by May 1944. Their defensive line shattered and their forces greatly weakened by the debacle in the South Pacific, the Japanese were unable to resist the coming onslaught that put the Allies on Tokyo's doorstep just more than a year later.

Three years ago I wrote Touched with Fire: The Land War in the South Pacific, which analyzes the brutal ground struggle in the same theater. It was soon obvious I could not create a comprehensive view of the crucial campaign in the South Pacific without either greatly simplifying a complex and fascinating subject or subdividing it into multiple volumes. The latter approach had much to recommend it, because no theater of the war was so dependent upon a combination of land, air, and sea forces than was the South Pacific. Strategically the various forces were intimately related at every step. Yet the type of war fought, and the experiences confronted by those who were there, were profoundly different depending upon whether one faced the war in a foxhole, in a bomber, or from the deck of a warship. Although this volume can be read independently with no loss of comprehension, it is in . . .

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