The Crash of Little Eva: The Ultimate World War II Survivor Story.

Author:Agoratus, Steve
Position:Book review

The Crash of Little Eva: The Ultimate World War II Survivor Story. By Barry Ralph. Gretna Louisiana: Pelican, 2006. Index. Maps. Sources. Photographs. Pp. 209. $15.96 ISBN: 978-1-58980-447-0

Last reviewed under its original title of Savage Wilderness: The Epic Outback Search for the Crew of Little Eva (Air Power History Fall 2006), this book is a U.S. reissue of a volume first published in Australia in 2004. Little Eva describes the outcome of the first mission of 90th Bomb Group B-24D Liberator 41-23762 on December 2, 1942 over New Guinea. Becoming lost in violent thunderstorms on return from the mission, Little Eva flew deep into the wild and sparsely populated interior of northeast Australia. With fuel dwindling, the crew bailed out. The ensuing five-month ordeal in the hostile jungle claimed the lives of all but three.

Australian Barry Ralph wrote a groundbreaking book about the interactions of U.S. soldiers and Australians during World War II, They Passed This Way: The United States of America, The States of Australia and World War II (2000). Unfortunately, Little Eva makes for uneven reading. The first two chapters summarize the history of the Army Air Forces, early U.S. military effort in the South West Pacific, and the B-24 Liberator. Ralph's attempt to condense an admittedly complex era into a few pages is occasionally awkward and inaccurate. I missed such key developments as the numerous aviation boards, establishment of GHQ Air Force, and Rex interception; Lindbergh is cited as an expert on aviation without the context of his isolationist activities. Aside from Geoffrey Perrets' Winged Victory, the bibliography is disappointingly thin. Air Force histories by Stephen McFarland (1997), David Anderton (1989) and Bill Yenne (1992) were all recently published at the time. Eric Bergerud, Fire in the Sky (2001); Thomas Griffith, MacArthur's Airman (1998); or Steve Birdsall, Flying Buccaneers (1977) all cover the South West Pacific air war. The account of the B-24's development is fairly complete but would have been bolstered by such works as those of Birdsall (1973), Robert Dorr (1999), Martin Bowman (1995), and Frederick A Johnsen (1999). The Preface does not mention consultation with fellow Australian Steve Birdsall, dean of the South West Pacific air war.

The account of the 90th BG's history is solidly based on interviews with veterans, group records, and Wiley Woods' Legacy of the 90th...

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