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by Bob Alford
Australian Aviation Heritage Centre  2011
Soft cover
261 pages
maps, photos
ISBN: 978-0-9807713-0-5
Cover Price: $55A
Language: English

Order online via AAHC

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Darwin's Air War
An Illustrated History Commemorating The Darwin Air Raids
(Revised Edition)

The book begins with an introduction by John Grey Gordon who flew with the RAAF at Darwin and became Australian Prime Minister plus a description of the Australian Historical Society of the Northern Territory and Australian Aviation Heritage Centre (Darwin Air Museum) that sponsored the book. Divided into thirteen chapters spanning the history of the Northern Territory and Darwin from prewar to the present day.

The first chapter covers the development of the Darwin area into a military town and airbase Next, chapter 2 details the Allied withdrawal from the Netherlands East Indies as the Japanese advanced across the Pacific. An entire chapter is devoted to the February 19, 1942 when mainland Australia was attacked for the first time and the most damage inflicted by Japanese carrier aircraft. Chapter 4-5 cover Allied reinforcement and their first raids against Japanese occupied Netherlands East Indies (NEI).

Chapter 6-8 are devoted to the RAAF assuming command of the Darwin area and costly bombing raids with Hudsons and introduction of the Spitfire. Chapter 9 covers the increased Japanese Army bomber raids and recon over Darwin during 1943 with diminishing results.

Chapter 10-12 covers the arrival of the B-24 Liberators of the USAAF 380th Bomb Group at Fenton Airfield and bombing missions against enemy targets in the NEI. Also, the RAAF training and missions using the Liberator against the enemy. Both are told with mission summaries, strike photos and wreckage photos of those that crashed.

The final chapters detail the war from early 1944 onward when Japanese resistance slackened and became defensive and the only Japanese aircraft able to penetrate the defense of the Northern Territory were reconnaissance planes. The last incursion happened on June 12, 1944 when a solitary Ki-46 Dinah reconnaissance plane was intercepted by eight Spitfires and shot down. The last chapter covers the end of the Pacific War and Darwin area today.

The last section of the book are full page profiles of pilots who flew over Darwin. Each biography is a summary of the individual's background and wartime experiences, quotations and postwar life. Each profile that give the reader a sense of the multinational personalities in the air including British, Australian, Dutch, American and Japanese pilots. Included are: Cyde H. Barnett Jr. (USAAF, 49th FG), Jack "Squizzy" Taylor (RAAF, 12 Squadron), Robert Dalkin (RAAF, 13 Squadron), David M. Wheeler (RAF, 54 Squadron), Gus Winckel (NEIAF, 18 Squadron), Muramitsu Sasaki (JAAF, 70th DCS) and Forrest E. "Tommy" Thompson (USAAF, 380th BG).

Appendixes include a list of Japanese air raids over the Northern Territory presented in tabular format listing date, aircraft, targets and losses. Another appendix includes from the USAAF, RAAF, RAF and IJN. Plus technical details about each major aircraft type that participated in the battle and a summary of Japanese units and designations.

Darwin's Air War is a large format book, making it easy to read and visually rich with hundreds of photographs Allied and Japanese collections, many newly published or rarely seen. The center of the book includes four pages of full color photos taken by Clyde Barnett (USAAF, 49th FG, 8th FS) documenting life, aircraft and scenes at Strauss Airfield.

Author Bob Alford has been studying Darwin's WWII history for decades and does a splendid job bringing this material to life using quotations, flight records and photos, with a keen eye for key historical details.

The book is also a valuable resource for wartime photographs of many Northern Territroy aircraft wrecks, including A6M2 Zero 5349, G4M1 Betty T-361, Ki-46 Dinah 2414 , B-24J "Milady" 42-73134 plus many more.

Darwin's Air War is highly recommended for anyone interested in this topic. Although this book has the same title as the Darwin Air War 1942–1945 (1991 edition), this book is a really an entirely new and expanded study about the air war over Darwin and the Northern Territory of Australia. Likely, this book will become very collectable and difficult to acquire in the future.

Read interview with author Bob Alford

Review by Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
September 21, 2023

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