On 19 February 1942 the Second World War came dramatically home to Australia when the Japanese launched a major air raid on Darwin. In response the Allies moved the US 49th Fighter Group to the area, and they were responsible for the defence of Darwin for the rest of 1942. In 1943 the defensive arrangement changed. The Americans moved on, and the Spitfire V equipped No.1 Fighter Wing, RAAF, with a mix of British and Australian pilots, took over. At the time they claimed some 60 victories, but more recent research has suggested that the true figure was rather lower.
This book is an attempt to produce a definitive record of the air battles around Darwin 1943, and in the process discover which of these figures was correct. In order to do this Cooper has produced a sortie-by-sortie account of the air battles around Darwin, covering every combat that involved the Spitfires. These are very detailed, but still readable, with plenty of material from the pilot's own accounts of the battles. The author has also used Japanese records to provide their side of the story (at least for losses - although both sides over claimed successes, the Allies were comparatively restrained compared to the Japanese, who claimed five times more victories than they achieved).
Cooper goes beyond a simple narrative to look at the reasons for the results of each combat, and in particular for the Allied failures. Amongst the problems he discovers are unreliable cannons, poor tactical planning compared to the Japanese, some unfortunate command decisions and plenty of bad luck. Despite these failings the Spitfire squadrons about held their own, and Cooper gives them full credit for their achievements and their improved performance as the campaign wound onwards.
This is one of the most detailed combat histories I've read, combined with an excellent analysis of the reasons behind the successes and failures of the defenders. The result is a valuable study of the only sustained attack on the Australian mainland during the entire Second World War.
1 - Playing catch-up
2 - The raid on Coomalie Creek
3 - 'A sharp reverse'
4 - Failure of the Big Wing
5 - Dogfights over Millingimbi
6 - Success at Last
7 - The army raid
8 - A missed opportunity
9 - The first Fenton raid
10 - The second Fenton raid
11 - The defeat of Japanese reconnaissance
12 - The accounting of battle
Author: Anthony Cooper
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation