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by Lawrence J. Hickey
IHRA 1984 (1st edition)
1996 (4th Edition)
32 page color section with
Full Color Paintings
Maps, Aircraft profiles
Cover Price: $75.00
|Warpath Across the Pacific
The Illustrated History of the
345th Bombardment Group
During World War II
This review relates to the 4th edition published in 1996. Warpath Across the Pacific is the unit history of the 345th Bombardment Group (345th BG) nicknamed "Air Apaches" during World War II in the Pacific. Others reviews have called this book 'the finest history of an air combat unit ever published' . This distinction was earned from twenty years of research by the author, and honed during four editions of updates since it was first publication in 1984. The scope of the research and writing go beyond the pilots and missions of the group, to the larger history and details of individual experiences. The book is a beautiful, hardcover 8x10 table top volume with dust jacket. The art direction and design are equally amazing - providing hundreds of photographs, captions, maps, paintings and detailed appendixes.
The 345th BG's area of operations was vast, spanning over all of New Guinea and up into the Philippines, Chinese coast, Formosa and finally the southern islands of Japan and Korea. This combat history is divided over 21 in depth chapters of text that take the reader through every day, and ever mission of the "Air Apaches". During its 26 months of WWII service, the group flew a total of 58,562 combat hours on 9,120 strike sorties. It dropped 58,000 bombs, weighing 6,340 tons and fired 12.5 million rounds of ammunition. Credited with sinking 260 vessels for a total of 190,000 tons and damaging 275 others. A total of 260 planes were destroyed on the ground, and 107 aerial victories, in total the unit won the Distinguish Unit Citation four times. For aficionados of the B-25 Mitchell, this book will be of particular interests, as the 345th flew this medium bomber throughout its entire combat career, including the early model "C" and "D" variants, through the "J" model.
The Book and Text
Well written and concise, the book tells both the official history, and anecdotal history of its pilots, crews and personnel. This history is assembled from both official records, and hundreds of veteran interviews over decades of research in a very clear and unbiased method. The chapters cover every move, mission and detail of the Air Apaches, including the amazing stories of notable personalities in the group who survived crash landings, evading the Japanese, and the stories of POWs. Collectively, these accounts make up some of the most interesting and touching accounts of WWII aviation found anywhere.
The chapters of the text match the 345th's history, begins with the unit's activation on November 11, 1942 as a medium bomber unit at Columbia Army Air Base, South Carolina flying the B-25 Mitchell bomber and the formation of its four squadrons: the 498th Bombardment Squadron (498th BS), 499th Bombardment Squadron (499th BS), 500th Bombardment Squadron (500th BS) and 501st Bombardment Squadron (501st BS). Subsequent chapters detail the group's missions to reduce the Japanese airfields and shipping at Wewak and Rabaul. It participated in the large raids to Kavieng and New Britain before continuing to missions in Dutch New Guinea, the Philippines, Indochina, Formosa and the blockading of the Japanese coasts. The book conclude with the the end of WWII and the group's deactivation on December 10, 1945 at Ie Shima, and brief reactivation as a tactical bombardment wing from 1954–1959.
The book contains nearly 700 photos, including a 32-page section of rare color photography from WWII. Often flying at tree top height (or less) over targets to bombing and strafe, B-25's of the "Air Apaches" recorded some of the most dramatic photos of the war as they disabled aircraft, scored direct hits, or sunk ships. Arguably, the photos contained in this book represent the most outstanding combat photography ever taken - by any side, in any war.
The photo captions are worthy of special mention because of their precise detail. These captions provide a level of detail that only careful cross research and interview with the actual veterans can provide. The reader will find themselves reading each page of the book twice: once, for the text and a second pass to just absorb the photographs, and detailed captions. In many cases, the level of research of even these captions is amazing, often with even details related to the Japanese side, including aircraft identifications, and details about aircraft markings, damage and locations.
The 345th's path across the Pacific is made easier to follow with the books large, full sized maps. Each map functions in a greater capacity than simply showing the geography of a particular area. Each map is further coded with all locations mentioned in the text, including aerodromes, towns, and other sites relevant to missions, like Allied landings in the region. Numbers indicate the date and day of the mission the 345th flew against a particular target. Aircraft symbols indicate the date and location of the group's bombers. Like the rest of the book, its maps go above and beyond simply showing areas where missions were flown.
The book also contains 48 full-color aircraft profiles by artist Steve Ferguson. These profiles show the camouflage, markings and nose art of some of the most famous "Air Apache" B-25 bombers. Each profile includes a tag line with the each identity of the plane, and the location from which it was flying from. This segment clearly illustrates the rich legacy of nose art and decoration unique to this squadron and the South Pacific.
Full Color Paintings
The book includes five magnificent "Air Apache" combat paintings by aviation artists Jack Fellows. These five magnificent compositions depict several of the group's most famous missions. "The Epic of Tondelayo" depicts B-25D "Tondelayo" 41-30669 on October 18. 1943 in combat with A6M Zeros on the mission when when the 500th Bombardment Squadron (500th BS) earned a Distinguished Unit Citation and the loss of B-25D "SNAFU" 41-30054 and B-25D "Sorry Satchul" 41-30056 were both lost to eneny fighters. "The Falcons Over Rabaul" depicts 498th BS line abreast formation straffing along Simpson Harbor on November 2, 1943 that earned them a distinguished unit citation. "Convoy Attack Off The China Coast" shows the 499th BS's B-25J attacking a frigate in a battle of the China Coast April 6, 1945. "Lt. Blount at Saigon" shows a 501st BS Mitchell bombing a Japanese freighter near Saigon on April 28, 1945.
The appendices of Warpath are just as impressive and informative as the text. Appendix I details all personnel KIA and MIA while in service with the 345th BG. Noted are the date, aircraft identification, crew members and circumstances for each incident. Reading this appendix shows first hand the hard sacrifices that the unit paid in both combat and accidental losses. Appendix II is an essential tool for WWII Pacific researches. It is a list of all 345th BG planes, including number, model, serial number, nicknames, its pilot(s), crew chiefs and remarks about each bomber.
Appendix III details the group's markings and insignia including their evolution, development, purpose and often interesting and sometimes humorous anecdotes about them. The final Appendix include profile histories provides additional historical information on each of the color plates illustrated by Steve Ferguson. Again, the level of detail is amazing. Finally, a detailed bibliography and index are included in the last pages of the book.
In summary, this book is an amazing work on all levels of research and visual presentation. For those with only a basic knowledge of WWII, this book is an impressive portrait of one of the most interesting units in WWII history. For even those knowledgeable about the Pacific war, there are plenty of details to learn from Warpath.
Also check out International Historical Research Associates publications on 5th Air Force group histories including: Revenge of the Red Raiders, Rampage of the Roarin' 20's and Ken's Men Against The Empire.
Interview with author Lawrence J. Hickey
Review by Justin Taylan
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