Fortress Rabaul, The Battle for the Southwest Pacific January 1942-April 1943. By Bruce Gamble. Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2013 [reissue of 2010 book]. Maps. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp xvii, 398. $19.95 paperback ISBN 978-0-7603-4559-7
Fortress Rabaul, the second of a trilogy by author Bruce Gamble, chronicles the longest air battle in World War II. It takes readers from the fall of the small Australian garrison on a lonely and isolated corner of New Britain in January 1942 to the successful interception of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto by USAAF P-38s on April 18, 1943. Gamble is the nephew of a B-17 navigator who flew many missions during the early campaign to hold the Japanese on the western slopes of the Owen Stanly Mountains. He does an excellent job of weaving the stories of the hard-pressed Allies to defend the toehold surrounding Port Moresby with the initially triumphant and then increasingly desperate Japanese.
Gamble takes great pains to show how the Allies, using their limited and mostly outdated and out-classed equipment, waged an increasingly successful holding action against a superior force. The stories of the missions flown by P-39s and P-400s, early models of the B-17, and Australian Catalinas against an increasingly heavily defended target emphasize the dedication of a small group of airmen. Gamble details the efforts to perfect attack profiles, particularly the development of skip-bombing.
The book also relates conflicts within the leadership on both sides. On the Allied side, MacArthur's views toward the efforts of airmen and the views of his chief of staff toward the efforts of the Air Force are addressed in detail. The internal conflicts between Kenney and Walker, Kenney's desire to implement skip-bombing, and Walker's insistence on high-level...