Eagles of the Southern Sky
Review by John Baxter 29 January 2013

John Baxter is associated with the prestigious Australian military bookshop in Melbourne, Hylands, and is also author of 'The Alternate Luftwaffe' and other military books found at http://www.luft46.com/jbtal2.html. You can contact John via Baxter Publications jjbaxter@techinfo.com.au. John's sent us the below review:

This is a long awaited publication by Tainan Research & Publishing 2012, which provides an objective and complete view of the aerial fighting over New Guinea throughout 1942 from both sides.  Not since the Saburo Sakai’s story of the Tainan Air Wing in ‘Samurai’ which gave just a glimpse of the fighting over New Guinea, has this story included the Japanese point of view and never in this much detail.

The book is letter size, with card covers and comprises 352 pages with 95 colour profiles of Japanese and Allied aircraft, 8 colour maps and 28 computer generated images of protagonists’ aircraft set against actual New Guinea terrain.  For modellers, there are Tainan Kokutai colour codings and a set of photos showing the oxidisation and thermal ageing/fading of the original, overall colour scheme applied to the Tainan Model 21 fighters.  And finally, over 380 b&w photos complete the vast pictorial content.

There is exhaustive, strong and heavily researched text provided by authors Luca Ruffato & Michael J Claringbould (with associate editors Lawrence Hickey, Gordon Birkett, Ed Dekiep & Steve Birdsall).  The style is very similar to that of Christopher Shores.  Now, there is some confusion, or so I found.  Zeros and many other aircraft types are presented within the text with either a Japanese name or the Japanese military aircraft designation system but with little consistency.  And without any of the Allied code names later applied, which is historically correct, in the time frame.  But unless you constantly refer back to page 16 for ‘translation’ it can be a little confusing unless or until you’re ‘up to speed’ and even then all types within the text aren’t mentioned in the decode on page 16.

Photo captions also provide alternative namings for aircraft but now with the extra alternative - tail numbers which also makes it a bit awkward unless you’re really well acquainted with the Japanese military aircraft designation system and or Japanese names.  For instance, unless you know what the G6M1-L is (page 31), you’ll find no clues until you discover a profile on page 229 or pictures 220 pages on from the first reference to the type!  Or, as I did, refer to Rene J Francillon’s ‘Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War’.  And, for the purists, I think it should be G6M1-L2.  There are some other little annoyances but I’m nitpicking and that’s totally unfair given the number of contributors/editors.  The book is well above such trivial matters.

Now the reality check – this is not a cheap book, in any sense.  At about $80 for a card cover book, you might hesitate at its asking price.  Rightly so; but the other side of the coin, pardon the pun, is that this is a very impressive production on a topic rarely commented upon in any similar detail, and RAAF information alone, as contained within, is very well worth having – in my opinion.  My recommendation is to check it out, you won’t be disappointed.  For me, this is a valued edition to go into my library and I suggest strongly that you look at this book at the earliest convenience.  It should sell quickly! It is a great book for any aviation military enthusiast but more especially for those interested in the air war over New Guinea and the RAAF’s participation during the period April to November 1942.