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Pacific World War II Book Review  
The Siege of Rabaul
by Henry Sakaida
Phalanx  1996
96 pages
maps, photos
ISBN: 1-883809-09-6
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The Siege of Rabaul

A group of ragtag Japanese fighter pilots, mostly sick and inexperienced were left to "wither on a vine" after Rabaul was bypassed by Allied forces, and abandoned by the command. With only a handful of broken down planes, they are expected to defend the beleaguered base from the numerically superior Allies, who at this stage of the war are flying better aircraft than their underpowered, underarmed Zero fighters.

Author Henry Sakaida weaves an incredible history of Japanese pilots and ground crews that beat the odds and do the impossible long after the Allies deemed that Rabaul was neutralized and no longer a threat. This is the true story of an enemy that did not call it quits, and even went so far as to strike back at American forces during daring surprise attacks to the admiralties - on two occasions! As Sakaido says, and I whole heartily agree: its a story better than Hollywood could ever produce!

The book begins with the war coming to Rabaul and informs the reader about the tireless efforts of Japanese forces to keep a rag tag airforce flying by patching together hulks to create a handful of flyable aircrat at Tobera Airfield, long after the area was considered Rabaul 'neutralized' as of February 1944.

The story is told through interviews with Allied and Japanese veterans. In addition to a lavish history, the book is filled with photographs... nearly every one of them from personal collections or rare Japanese sources, including Allied & Japanese commanders and pilots.

Divided into 21 chapters, each is full of new information, insights and photographs. Of special interest are chapters on Japanese Night fighters (Irvings operating in the Rabaul area), the shooting down and capture of Pappy Boyington, the two seater Zero, American Guided Missle attacks against Rabaul with the secret pilotless TDR attack drone, the food situation for the Japanese, and daring Japanese attacks against the Admiralties with Kate torpedo planes, when the Allies considered Rabaul neutralized.

This book is impossible to put down from the moment you open it. Although the Japanese resistance after February 1944 could not have possibly changed the tide of the war, it is proof of the incredible determination and fighting spirit even under the worst conditions and odds. A must for every reader's book collection!

Interivew with author Henry Sakaida
Review by Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019

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