This entry in the Osprey Combat Aircraft series looks at the combat career of the PBY Catalina in the Pacific during the Second World War. Although designated as a Patrol Bomber, the Catalina was most effective as a long range fleet scout (as at Midway), a night bomber and on air-sea rescue missions, but like every type of Allied aircraft present in the Far East at the end of 1941 had to be thrown into a fight against overwhelming Japanese forces.
Dorny starts with a look at the pre-war build-up of PBY squadrons in the Pacific - by the start of December 1941 the US Navy had active Catalina units at Pearl Harbor, on the Philippines and in Alaska. After that the book falls into three general sections - the period of initial Japanese success, which saw the PBY squadrons suffer heavy loses at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines and Dutch East Indies, the start of the American fight back, a period which saw the Catalina perform its original job as a long range fleet scout, most famously before the battle of Midway. Finally, as the US Navy moved on to the offensive in 1943 the Catalina was left behind, but found a new lease of life flying nighttime patrols over Japanese-held areas, and as an air-sea rescue aircraft.
Each of these separate periods is examined here, with the narrative well supported by eye witness accounts. In some books the bigger picture can be lost in a sea of recollections, but Dorny avoids that danger, and the individual accounts are placed in their context.
I would have liked the book to include a list of the PBY squadrons that used the Catalina in the Pacific, with their lineages given, to make it easier to keep up with the repeated pre Pearl Harbor changes in squadron designations, but having constructed one myself (US Navy Catalina Squadrons) I can understand why one was not included.
As always the text is well supported by a good selection of contemporary pictures - more than ninety in this case - and by thirty-two full colour illustrations. In some cases that results in several pages of illustrations of virtually identical aircraft differing only in small unit marking, but the paint schemes used on the Catalina varied far more than normal, starting with the colourful pre-war era, moving through a series of different daytime camouflage schemes and ending with the "Black Cats".
Preparing for War
Patwing 10's Ordeal
Coral Sea, Midway and the Aleutians
More Fighting in 1942
Dumbo - Air Sea Rescue
Victory in the Pacific
Author: Louis B Dorny