Featured Book

Deember 2014

"Carrier Attack - Darwin 1942: The Complete Guide to Australia's own Pearl Harbor"

Book Review
by Bob Hackett

"Carrier Attack - Darwin 1942" is by former naval officer, award-winning author of 11 books and former director of the Darwin Military Museum, Dr. Tom Lewis and Peter Ingmam with whom he also co-authored Zero Hour in Broome. Lewis is also the author of Darwin’s Submarine I-124, about the 80-man Japanese boat sunk outside Darwin in 1942.

Hardbound with dust cover, ISBN 978-0-9871519-3-3, published in 2013 by Avonmore Books, Kent Town, South Australia and available in Australia at $49.95 (AUSD), or by contacting the publisher at: http://www.avonmorebooks.com.au.where the other two books are also available. Carrier Attack is also available from selected booksellers in North America and the United Kingdom.

The Raid on Darwin is little-known in the West and surprising also in Australia itself. Lewis and Ingman provide necessary historical backbround about the port of Darwin located on the coast of northern Australia. In early 1942, Darwin was transformed from a small refueling station to a temporary refuge for the United States Asiatic Fleet retreating from the impending defeat in the Philippines. The book is the first in-depth analysis of the raid that uses primary sources including material from Senshi Shoso, the Japanese official history, and other newly translated documents.

The authors trace the development of Japanese aircraft carriers and carrier-based aviation, They also give an almost minute-by-minute account as the four big carriers move into position, launch aircraft and the strike force of bombers and fighters crosses above the coast and adds surprise to the raid by approaching Darwin from the southeast.

Japanese strategy called for invasion landings on the Dutch/Portuguese island of Timor on 20 February and Java, Netherlands East Indies shortly thereafter. Japanese planners recognized the need to protect these landings from possible Allied counter-attacks including any mounted by air and naval forces from Darwin, The planners therefore decided to conduct a major air raid on Darwin.

The bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 was the first and the largest air attack on Australia in World War II. The raid was carried out by 188 aircraft of Pearl Harbor veteran Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo's Kido Butai carrier's AKAGI, KAGA, HIRYU and SORYU led by PH veteran Cdr Fuchida Mitsuo and 27 IJN bombers based at Ambonia, Moluccas, NEI and another 27 IJN bombers operating from Kendari, Celebes, NEI. The authors detail the ferocious air attacks on the 64 vessels in Port Darwin's harbor, wharves, the town and nearby civil aerodrome and Royal Australian Air Force base. During the two air attacks, around 235 died including 124 American airmen and sailors, most on destroyer USS PEARY (DD-226) and seaplane tender USS WILLIAM B. PRESTON (AVD-7). Hundreds of others were wounded. Eleven ships were sunk, 13 others damaged and 30 Allied aircraft were destroyed.

Readers of Parshall and Tully’s “Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway” will also appreciate Lewis and Ingman’s attention to detail. For example, they note that the Darwin raid was unusual compared to ‘deckload spotting” used in the big raids at Pearl Harbor and Midway. On those raids using this practice, only half of the aircraft force were launched at one time to conserve fuel. Second raids were necessary with surprise lost resulting in much higher losses of Japanese aircraft. At Darwin, a maximum strike was launched in a single wave preserving the element of surprise and minimizing losses. The book explains how this was possible.

The authors conclude that the air raid accomplished its goal of protecting the Timor invasion force and caused the loss of most of the cargo shipping available to support Java and the Philippines. The raid also made Darwin unsuitable to serve as a major offensive base for the remainder of the war. Further, the raid caused scarce fighter squadrons and other resources to be diverted there at the expense of the defenses of Port Moresby and Papua New Guinea.

This meticulously researched 368 page book contains an introduction, explanatory notes, acknowledgements, 17 chapters with both footnotes and end notes, 17 appendices, references and a general index. It also includes color maps, rare photos and 23 pages of color profiles of key Japanese, Australian and American aircraft and surface vessels and is full of interesting side-stories and facts.

Lewis and Ingman's book makes an important contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the development of naval aviation and the Pacific War. I highly recommend this book.

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