19 November 2020

Landmark title from Avonmore Books

Avonmore Books, now in its tenth year, is probably Australia's highest profile aviation history publishewith an established international distribution network (i.e. stock in stores overseas) and continued and justified accolades for its continuing South Pacific Air War and relatively recent Pacific Adversaries series. The first book from this South Australian-based business was the groundbreaking Zero Hour in Broome, a book that set a lot of things straight and challenged accepted truths about the disastrous attack on one of Western Australia's north-west centres. Not taking things at face value, no matter how entrenched, has been an enduring theme for Avonmore's books ever since.

Tom Lewis was there from the start, co-authoring Zero Hour with owner Peter Ingman. They followed up with Carrier Attack Darwin 1942. Tom published several other books with Avonmore, The Empire Strikes South for example, and Peter joined forces with Michael Claringbould for the South Pacific Air War series (Volume 4 coming soon!). 

With Eagles over Darwin we see Tom return to the very first air combats over Australia as it and its allies reeled in the face of the Japanese onslaught. From the back cover blurb:

A massive Japanese attack on Darwin on 19 February [1942] had left the town and its air base in ruins. An understrength squadron of USAAC P-40E Warhawks had fought a gallant defence but was all but wiped out.


Northern Australia was now at the mercy of Imperial Japanese Navy Betty bombers and Zero fighters whose crews were both skilled and experienced. However, help was on the way. The 49th Fighter Group was the first such group to be sent from the US after the start of the Pacific War. Its destination was Darwin.


From modest beginnings on make-shift airstrips, the 49th FG entered combat with its feared Japanese adversaries. Its P-40E Warhawks were poor interceptors but were rugged, reliable and well-armed. 


Over several months the 49th FG pilots fought a brave and innovative campaign against a stronger enemy that did much to safeguard Australia in its darkest hour. Today, lonely and long forgotten airfields still bear the name of American pilots who made the ultimate sacrifice.

This is going to be an important book when it's released. I don't think much has been written on the subject, about American Warhawks defending Darwin, for a few years, and the last book I can remember reading on the subject was James Morehead's In My Sights. The most recent work I can think of is the well-regarded Darwin's Air War by Bob Alford. The Ferguson and Pascalis Protect & Avenge is perhaps the largest work on the 49th FG, but, a product of the mid-nineties, it's getting long in the tooth now and can be found wanting. Tom Lewis has been investigating Warhawks ops over Darwin for a while now and uncovering new information that will surprise and, as usual, challenge. A vignette of Australia's defence, and USAAC/USAAF history, very much deserving this treatment. 

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