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    A fascinating and poignant tale

    Michael Veitch's latest offering is a compellingly written account of an air battle which took place at a critical juncture of WWII, lasting just 6 weeks near the beginning of 1942 just across the Torres Strait to our north. This is an event in Australia's military history, much less well known than the almost overlapping Kokoda ground campaign, during which time arguably some of the most famous of those same troops (the 39th Battalion) were already valiantly trying to defend Port Moresby from these Japanese air raids on the ground. In other words, all of this occurred several months prior to Kokoda. The air battle itself was fought by only a handful of inexperienced young pilots, and supported by the other airmen in their ground crew. They were (together) the founding members of the RAAF's 75 Squadron. They'd been given a seemingly impossible task, having been asked (in effect) to directly confront the might of the Japanese war machine. There is, in this painstakingly researched book, quite a comprehensive detailing of the perceived interplay of the various factors affecting the extremely daunting odds they were now facing: whether it's the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two opposing aircraft types which were vying with each other in the hope of eventually gain dominance in the air, or the almost complete lack of moral support and the equally appalling lack of reasonable living conditions on the ground. The terrain surrounding them was not only a navigational challenge when flying, particularly with no radar, but the prospect of making it back was slim if they ever had to make a forced landing any distance from their base, or similarly happened to survive being shot down. The fact that they managed to put up ANY sort of substantial fight at all is amazing enough, but to have done so as virtually untrained pilots in terms of combat techniques/ navigational skills (etc) and yet actually going on to be become somewhat more than just the mere 'stop-gap' they were originally intended to be...is even more amazing! Their leader John Jackson was a highly charismatic figure who was trusted implicitly by his whole squadron of airmen. This is a tale which the author has crafted to perfection, injecting just so much passion into his subject matter, while conveying the greatest respect and admiration for the individuals involved. It really is a book that's very hard to put down, once you've begun reading it!
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