BLACK SUNDAY
WHEN WEATHER CLAIMED THE FIFTH AIR FORCE

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visits since 11 December 1998

 

In New Guinea on 16th April 1944 the U.S Fifth Air Force lost thirty-seven aircraft to a late-afternoon frontal system which cut them off from their home bases of Gusap, Nadzab and Saidor. Another nine were seriously damaged, and as a result the Fifth suffered its biggest operational loss of the war. The freak weather created the biggest weather-related loss in aviation history. The events of the day were lost to history for five decades because they occurred in such a remote theatre.

Eight years in the making and now in its third edition, the author has recently completed a revised 53,161-word depiction of this epic mission, which includes six appendices, a detailed index, and rare photographs. The book documents every loss and incident, including quotes from survival reports and describes post-war discoveries of several of the missing aircraft. The narrative was assembled from more than 200 first-hand sources, including declassified USAAF, Japanese and Australian records, private records, interviews with survivors, and field trips to New Guinea.

To date the historical legacy left by the Fifth Air Force has largely been ignored. Those interested in flying will find the magnitude and nature of this mission's losses absorbing. Aviation historians will recognise that the minutiae and detail contained in the book is unsurpassed in this field. Fifth Air Force veterans who were in New Guinea at the time will understand the full extent of the misfortune.

 

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Michael Claringbould