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by John G. Bishop
John G. Bishop 2003
Cover Price: $30 + $5 shipping
|Cameras Over The Pacific
Marine Photographic Squadron 254
While Marine Corps aviation is famous for its fighter pilots and ground support roles, it is not widely known that the USMC had a photographic reconnaissance squadrons during WWII. Their story is an important part of history, but until now has been overlooked.
The book begins with a forward by Major General Louis J. Conti USMC (Retired), then begins the story with the formation of the VMD-1 photographic reconnaissance squadron in April 1, 1942. The book details training in southern California and the western United States with PB4Y-1 Liberators, the U.S. Navy version of the B-24 Liberator.
Chapters include, making aerial maps which is fascinating both for its explanations of these techniques - including cameras used, developing and layout, and also the photographic examples presented in full page format. In combat, the unit was based at Bomber 1, Koli Point, Piva North, and Emirau to perform mapping over New Ireland, Momote, Yap and Ponape.
During the night of February 3, 1944 PB4Y-1 Liberator piloted by Major Christensen and PB4Y-1 Liberator piloted by Capitan Yawn took off from Stirling Airfield on a 12 hour flight to perform a photographic reconnaissance over Truk. On February 4, 1944 at dawn the pair arrives at 23,000' and photograph the anchorage at Truk Lagoon including Musashi, a carrier, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and many cargo vessels. Although surprised the Japanese they were soon met by anti-aircraft fire and chased by fighters. Afterwards, the photos from this flight were studied by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) at Pearl Harbor for photo interpretation and ship designers conclude the huge battleship must displace at least 60,000 tons and be armed with 18" guns. The photographs taken are used in the planning for "Operation Hailstone" during February 16-17, 1944. Their photographs of this important enemy base were used to create detailed surveys of its airfields, islands, and even the construction of a scale, three dimensional map of the area.
At the end of the Paciifc War, the squadron had rotated home and was transitioning to the F7 Tigercats. It is not surprising that the book on photo reconnaissance would include spectacular photos. The images reproduced in the book are richly illustrated with large, full sized photos of people, locations and aircraft. Simply for the photos alone, this book is an excellent addition to your Pacific aviation library.
The book also includes detailed appendixes with copies of all the units citations and records, details on their airplanes markings, and chart with complete serial number and nose number data, even a muster roll for the unit listing all crew members and personnel, and complete index.
Review by Justin Taylan
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