Voices of the Pacific Audiobook Review

Voices of the Pacific: Untold Stories from the Marine Heroes of World War II

Author: Adam Makos

Narrator: Tom Weiner

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing, April 2013

Audio Length: 10.75 hours

ISBN: 9781624609848

While I generally favor traditional printed books (preferably in hardback), I do occasionally listen to an audiobook.  The advantage of this format is the book can be enjoyed while engaged in other activities, such as modeling or driving.  In this case I was able to download the audio file from my local library, then link my phone to the car speakers and listen while driving to the MMCL IPMS show in Louisville last month.  It beats listening to the radio and makes the drive informative and enjoyable during what would otherwise be wasted time.

This book lends itself well to the audiobook format, being the personal recollections of fifteen Marines who fought in the Pacific War.  The men all share their stories in short narratives, and often relate different perspectives of the same battles.  The campaigns covered are Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and finally Okinawa.  Each of these operations was unique, with its own set of conditions and environments.  One thing they had in common was the effect on the Regiments and individual Marines.  By the end of each campaign the units had suffered tremendous casualties, and the surviving Marines were in rough shape – exhausted, underfed, diseased, and with their uniforms in tatters.  Assaults which were planned for three days often lasted for thirty days or more.

I recognized two of the Marines as authors of their own books – Sterling Mace and Chuck Tatum.  Many others relate anecdotes of other names well known to students of the Pacific War – authors Robert Lecke and Eugene Sledge, along with Marines famous for their combat exploits such as John Basilone and Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

Overall this is a fine book which offers insights of the war from the perspective of the individual Marines who fought it.  The last two chapters were also interesting, they described the Marines’ discharges from the service and their assimilation back into society.  They were also asked what advice they would give to young people today, and to society in general.  While this podium is continuously mis-used by celebrities, media figures, politicians, and athletes, the Marine veterans have paid for their citizenship in a very real way and earned the opportunity to voice their opinion.  Listening to this audiobook is time well spent, I can recommend it without hesitation.

World War II US Cavalry Units Book Review

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World War II US Cavalry Units: Pacific Theater

Osprey Elite Series Book 175

By Gordon L. Rottman, illustrated by Peter Dennis

Softcover, 64 pages, bibliography, and index

Published by Osprey Publishing October 2009

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84603-451-0

ISBN-13: 978-1-84603-451-0

Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches

A minor bit of trivia is that most nations still had horse-mounted cavalry units at the beginning of the Second World War, a few nations retaining them until the end.  For the U.S. Army, the Louisiana Maneuvers in 1941 demonstrated that the cavalry could not keep pace with mechanized units and even the most die-hard officers realized the era of the horse was near an end.  Still, the last combat actions of the U.S. cavalry were in the defense of the Philippines – the last U.S. cavalry charge was on 16JAN42 when a platoon from the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) charged a vastly superior Japanese force crossing the river at Morong and held until reinforced.  They continued to fight as cavalry until starvation of the troops at Bataan forced them to slaughter their mounts for food in March.  Thereafter they fought as infantry, many forming the nuclei of guerrilla groups rather than surrender.

Most U.S. cavalry regiments gave up their horses and transitioned into infantry regiments during the war.  The 112th Regiment was noteworthy in deploying to New Caledonia and equipping with Australian horses.  It was soon found that the horses were not well suited for the jungle terrain and that they did not find sufficient nourishment in the local vegetation, compelling the 112th to return their mounts and reorganize as infantry in March 1943.  A peculiarity of the horseless cavalry units is they maintained their traditions, keeping uniform articles such as specialized boots and their organizational structure.  Compared to standard infantry regiments a cavalry regiment was half the strength and lacked many of the heavier supporting weapons.  The cavalry was also organized with two rifle troops per squadron, while the infantry had three rifle companies plus a weapons company per battalion.  This made the horseless cavalry regiments weaker and less tactically flexible than standard infantry regiments.

Given the unusual subject, I found this book fascinating.  It is a standard-format Osprey Elite volume, brief but well-illustrated.  It is of the “facts and figures” style, listing the component elements of the units described and their actions, but this gives the reader a firm understanding of organization and composition of these unusual formations.  Recommended for those nostalgic for the cavalry or curious about their transition from the horse.

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Pacific Profiles Book Review

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Pacific Profiles Volume One: Japanese Army Fighters New Guinea & the Solomons 1942-1944

By Michael Claringbould

Softcover, 104 pages, index, photographs, and 85 color profiles

Published by Avonmore Books, December 2020

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0648665917

ISBN-13: 978-0648665915

Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches

At the close of the Pacific War the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were directed to destroy their records and photographs, including logbooks and snapshots kept by the individual service members.  This order, coupled with the language barrier, has long frustrated historians and modelers researching the Japanese military.  The result is few publications in English on the subject, and even many Japanese language sources lack the depth and detail seen in their foreign counterparts.

The author has stepped squarely into this void.  An Australian who spent several years in New Guinea, Michael Claringbould had the opportunity to examine many of the aircraft wrecks there and recorded their camouflage and markings.  He was then able to compare his observations with Allied technical reports and prisoner interrogations, along with surviving wartime photographs including those taken by aircrews attacking Japanese airfields.  Using this information he has rendered a total of 85 color profiles detailing several examples of paint schemes of each of the JAAF fighter Sentai sent to fight in the South Pacific.

Examination of the wrecks has allowed the author to make some interesting observations, particularly concerning the armament of the fighter types in New Guinea.  The three types presented here are the Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar), Ki-45 Toryu (Nick), and Ki-61 Hein (Tony).  Western publications have struggled with sub-type designations for these aircraft, often confusing airframe and armament variants.  This book offers some clarification of these designations.  The most interesting detail for me were the three armament variations of the Ki-43 – two 7.7 mm, two 12.7 mm, or a mixed armament of one gun caliber of each.  Many sources assign either letters or Japanese characters to differentiate each option, but actually the weapon mounts accommodated both weapons and maintenance crews could fit either type in the field.  The author has confirmed this observation with captured Japanese records and service manuals.

This book provides some interesting information for the JAAF researcher and ample eye-candy to inspire modelers.  There is even a section on captured aircraft evaluated by the Americans.  This work is the first in a series, with a companion volume on JAAF bombers and transports already published and additional books announced for later this year.  Recommended for aviation enthusiasts researching Imperial Japanese Army aircraft.

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Fine Molds Nakajima A6M2 Zero of CDR Taketora Ueda in 1/72 Scale

This aircraft is Tora (Tiger) – 110, the mount of the CO of the 261 Kokutai.  This aircraft features prominently in Thorpe’s classic Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings of WWII, being pictured on the cover, a photograph (below), and a color profile.  Very attractive, but also problematic.  The photograph shows a Type 21, with a dark finish on the forward fuselage and a lighter finish aft.  Various people (all of whom know much more about this than me) have interpreted the difference in colors as two greens, discoloration due to primer, dirt or fading, or even as the aft fuselage being painted red matching the Hinomaru.  Thorpe’s cover artwork depicts a Type 22 with the wing stripes and upper wing Hinomaru moved inward.

For my build I chose the primer interpretation and mixed the green a little lighter for the aft fuselage and sections of the upper wings, but I keep thinking it would look good in red.  Fine Molds kit, all stripes are painted, tail codes are Hasegawa decals.

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Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero of Takeo Okumura in 1/72 Scale

The fifth leading Imperial Japanese Navy ace was Takeo Okumura with 54 victories.  The model represents WI-108, an A6M3 Type 22 assigned to the 201 Kokutai at Buin in September 1943.  The only profile I was able to locate of this aircraft was in Osprey Aces 22, IJN Aces 1937-45, which was depicted in a badly chipped paint job.  Most photographs of operational Zeros show little or no chipping, so mine is rendered similarly. Okumura was credited with four Chinese aircraft prior to the start of the Pacific War.  He was assigned to the aircraft carrier Ryujo during the Guadalcanal Campaign and was transferred to the Tainan Air Group at Rabaul.  When operating from Buin in September 1943, he was credited with nine victories and one shared over five sorties, a record for the Pacific War.  He was lost at the end of the month attacking a convoy off Cape Cretin, New Guinea.

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Tamiya Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero of Saburo Sakai in 1/72 Scale

Saburo Sakai is the most well-known of the Japanese aces in the West, thanks to the publication of books in English of his exploits by Martin Caiden and by Henry Sakaida.  He opened his account in China where he scored four victories.  He was part of the force which attacked US airfields in the Philippines on 08DEC41 (local time).  Over Guadalcanal he was wounded by rear gunners of a formation of SBD Dauntless dive bombers which he mistook for Wildcats, the mistake cost him an eye.  He survived the war and was credited with 64 victories.  V-103 was one of the aircraft flown by Sakai while a member of the Tainan Air Group.  The remains of this aircraft (and those of its’ last pilot) were discovered on Guadalcanal in 1993, and Sakai himself has verified that this is one of the aircraft which he flew while with the Tainan Air Group.

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Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero of Shoichi Sugita in 1/72 Scale

Shoichi Sugita was credited with his first arial victorie on 01DEC42, a B-17 Flying Fortress.  He formed part of the escort for the transport carrying ADM Isoroku Yamamoto on the day he was shot down.  T2 190 was an A6M3 Type 32 assigned to the 204 Kokutai at Rabaul in May, 1943, and wears a field applied mottled camouflage.  In August of 1943 he was himself shot down but escaped by parachute, although badly burned.

Chief Petty Officer Shoichi Sugita flew the Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden-Kai with the 343rd Kokuti operating from Matsuama, Japan in March 1945.  CPO Sugita was credited with approximately seventy victories, including seven in the Shiden-Kai.  He was killed on 15APR45, shot down while attempting to take off by US Navy F6F Hellcats.  His Shiden-Kai is modeled here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/05/07/hasegawa-kawanishi-n1k2-shiden-kai-%e7%b4%ab%e9%9b%bb-violet-lightning-george-in-1-72-scale/

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Tamiya Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero of Tetsuzo Iwamoto in 1/72 Scale

This aircraft is only known from entries and a sketch in Iwomoto’s journal, and is one of three he flew from Rabaul which displayed kill markings.  Researchers have been trying to determine the manufacturer, model, and markings for these aircraft, but only one rather fuzzy photograph has surfaced publicly thus far.  Tetsuzo Iwamoto survived the war.  His personal diaries record 202 enemy aircraft claimed, historians have put the actual total at 80.

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Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero of Hiroyoshi Nishizawa in 1/72 Scale

The highest-scoring Japanese naval aviator was Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, credited with 87 victories.  A Japanese photographer shot several in flight photographs of UI-105, which was flown by Nishizawa while assigned to the 251 Kokutai operating out of Rabaul in May of 1943.  On 25OCT44 he led the escort group during the first Kamikaze mission in the Philippines, claiming two American aircraft.  The following day he was flying as a passenger on a transport plane when it was attacked and shot down by two US Navy F6F Hellcats.  Nishizawa died in the crash.

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