Warpath Across the Pacific Book Review

Warpath Across the Pacific: The Illustrated History of the 345th Bombardment Group During World War II

By Lawrence J. Hickey

Hardcover in dustjacket, 448 pages, appendices, bibliography, and index; 48 color profiles

Published by International Historical Research Associates

Language: English

ISBN: 0-913511-08-1

Dimensions: 1.1 x 8.8 x 11.3 inches

The 345th Bombardment Group (Medium) consisted of four squadrons of B-25 Mitchells.  They deployed to the South Pacific, flying their first combat mission from Port Moresby, New Guinea at the end of June, 1943.  They soon began mounting several .50 caliber guns in the noses of their aircraft and specialized in low-level attacks against Japanese airfields and shipping.  The Group moved to the Philippines in November 1944, and then to Ie Shima for the last month of the war.

Warpath Across the Pacific is as complete a unit history as it is possible to write.  It is organized chronologically, with each mission written up in detail.  Any noteworthy incidents, such as the rescue of downed aircrew, are detailed under separate headers along with the missions.  The text is arranged in two columns, and photographs of the crews and aircraft mentioned are provided throughout.  The 345th equipped their aircraft with cameras under the fuselage for bomb damage assessment.  There are hundreds of these combat photographs reprinted in this book.  These not only show the action of the missions described, but provide an unexpected wealth of documentation of the Japanese ships, aircraft, and installations.  Several of these photographs are reproduced on full pages.

There are 48 color profiles in the center of the book with detailed descriptions of the individual aircraft and its history.  A selection of color photographs is also included, along with four full-page paintings by aviation artist Jack Fellows.  Appendices list all the aircrew killed or missing, a table listing the serial numbers and details of every B-25 ever assigned to the Group, and a discussion of the evolution of the Groups’ marking which is a boon to modelers.

This work is the gold standard for aviation unit histories.  It is an invaluable reference for modelers and historians, well written and complete.  It is a large book and not cheap, but worth every penny.  My highest recommendation.

For anyone interested, Warpath Across the Pacific is still available here: https://irandpcorp.com/products/345bg/

The Storm on Our Shores Audio Book Review

The Storm on Our Shores: One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II

Authored by Mark Obmascik, Narrated by John Bedford Lloyd

Audiobook, 9 hours and 2 minutes

Published by Simon & Schuster Audio

Language: English

ASIN: B07JQ748P5

The Japanese seized the Alaskan Islands of Attu and Kiska in June of 1942.  The islands had little strategic value, the terrain and especially the weather made their occupation more of a liability than an asset.  They were invaded as a diversion to draw American attention away from the invasion of Midway Island, itself an elaborate plan intended to lure the American fleet into a decisive battle.

One of the Japanese soldiers sent to Attu was Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi.  Tatsuguchi was originally from Hiroshima.  He was a Seventh Day Adventist who studied medicine in California, became a surgeon, and married.  A family emergency obliged him to return to Japan, and as the international situation worsened he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army.  Tatsuguchi’s loyalties were divided between America and Japan, but his position as a surgeon would allow him to adhere to his religious beliefs.

Dick Laird grew up in the coal mining area of Appalachia during the Depression, and had joined the U.S. Army to escape the mines and improve his chances for a better life.  On 11MAY43 he was a 1SGT in the 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Division which was landed on Attu to retake the island.  The battle was expected to last three days, but instead lasted almost three weeks.  The Americans were poorly prepared to fight in the abysmal Aleutian weather and suffered greatly.  The battle culminated on 29MAY43 in a Banzai charge, during which 1SGT Laird killed a group of Japanese soldiers who were manning a captured U.S. mortar position, one of whom was Tatsuguchi.

All of this might have just been another of the multitudes of forgotten anecdotes of war, but Tatsuguchi kept a dairy which was sent by Laird up the chain of command to be translated.  He asked for a copy of the translation in hopes it might contain some information of military importance.  Instead, it proved to be a very relatable picture of a family man who had studied in America who didn’t want the war, a victim of circumstances who was caught in a conflict between the two countries which he loved.

When the Americans subsequently invaded Kiska they found the Japanese garrison had evacuated – neither country really wanted the islands.  The battle is largely unknown today despite being one of the more effective Banzai charges and almost resulting in a major fleet action.  Translations of Tatsuguchi’s dairy were circulated among American troops.  His copy of Gray’s Anatomy and his Bible were also recovered, and collectively eventually lead to a reconciliation between Laird and Tatsuguchi’s daughter.  This is a fascinating story behind the story, and well worth reading.  Highly recommended.

Nimitz at War Audio Book Review

Nimitz at War: Command Leadership from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

Authored by Craig L. Symonds, Narrated by L. J. Ganser

Audiobook, 14 hours and 26 minutes

Published by Tantor Audio, June 2022

Language: English


In the military failure requires accountability, regardless if there is fault.  In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack the leadership in the Pacific was shaken up.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed over several more senior Admirals and selected Rear Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to assume command of U.S. forces in the Central Pacific.  This was mainly a Navy and Marine force, Army General Douglas MacArthur would command the predominantly Army ground and Air Corps forces in the South Pacific.

Nimitz faced a daunting task – the U.S. Navy was demoralized by the defeat at Pearl Harbor and lacked the ships to take the Japanese head-on.  Even while the Allies prioritized the European Theater FDR and Admiral King demanded offensive operations against the Japanese.  Nimitz worked to rebuild the Fleet and morale while concentrating the forces available in a series of strikes to keep the Japanese off balance.  These culminated in the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the stunning victory at Midway.

Much of the book deals with Nimitz’ leadership style and the constant pressure to find the right men to command the carrier Task Forces.  Nimitz preferred to build up his subordinate commanders, giving them all the support he could to accomplish a mission and then turning them loose to do the job without interference.  He did not attempt to micro-manage operations from afar but trusted his Admirals to make the right decisions.  For security reasons the Task Group commanders generally would not contact Nimitz’ headquarters once an operation had begun – often the first reports of a strike would come from intercepted Japanese communications.

I was surprised how much of the job of command boiled down to politics and managing personalities.  In addition to inter- and intra-service rivalries, there were constant pressures from MacArthur over allocation of resources and operational command, and pressures from within the Navy over who should be given command of Task Groups and amphibious operations.  There was also a constant stream of dignitaries visiting Nimitz’ headquarters, all of whom expected to meet with and be entertained by Nimitz and his staff.

This book in well researched and written, and gives valuable insights into both Nimitz the man and the day-to-day pressures of command at the highest levels.  I can recommend this book without hesitation.

The Last Fighter Pilot Audio Book Review

The Last Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Final Combat Mission of World War II

Authored by Don Brown, Narrated by Robertson Dean

Audiobook, 4 hours and 40 minutes

Published by Blackstone Audio, July 2017

Language: English

ASIN: B07453C67Y

Captain Jerry Yellin flew P-51 Mustangs with the 78th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group.  In March 1945 the Group moved to Iwo Jima.  The island was not yet secure, and the pilots slept in foxholes at night and flew close support missions for the Marines during the day.  The Japanese defenders proved to be determined and resourceful, with many hiding out in extensive tunnel networks after the Marines had passed them by.  One of the last organized counterattacks was against the pilots’ bivouac area, with Japanese infantry infiltrating the area at night and throwing grenades into the tents.

The primary mission of the P-51 groups operating from Iwo Jima was Very Long Range (VLR) missions to Japan to protect B-29 Superfortress raids.  These were long endurance missions flown almost entirely over the vast, empty expanses of the Pacific.  While there were numerous search and rescue assets assigned (including submarines operating just off the Japanese coastline) weather was always a factor and losses in transit were common.  Over Japan the Mustangs covered sectors around the Superfortress formations, intercepting or driving off the opposing Japanese fighters.

After the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima (06AUG45) and Nagasaki (09AUG45) there was a lull as planners waited to see if the Japanese would accept surrender terms.  After a few days it was decided to resume operations, and Yellin’s squadron was assigned to conduct a fighter sweep against a Japanese airfield.  While the Mustangs were hitting their target the Japanese announced the surrender, although the pilots did not receive the recall notice.  Leaving the target, the formation entered a cloud bank.  Yellin’s wingman, 1Lt Phillip Schlamberg was not with the formation when they emerged.  Yellin had just led the last official combat mission of the war, and Schlamberg was the last casualty.

This is a rather short book, but a good one.  The long-range escort missions over Japan have received little attention in the book world, although there is some excellent gun camera film of the fighter sweeps in color available on line.  Recommended.

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


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.


Pacific Profiles Book Review


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.


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.









More Zero aces completed models here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/04/22/hasegawa-mitsubishi-a6m2-zero-of-takeo-okumura-in-1-72-scale/

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.









More Zero aces completed models here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/04/15/tamiya-mitsubishi-a6m2-zero-of-saburo-sakai-in-1-72-scale/

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.









More Zero aces completed models here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/04/13/hasegawa-mitsubishi-a6m3-zero-of-shoichi-sugita-in-1-72-scale/