EVERY DAY A NIGHTMARE
American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942
by William H. Bartsch
Bringing to life the story of American pursuit pilots in the Pacific during the disastrous early days of World War II ...
In December 1941, two transports and a freighter carrying 73 P-40 fighter aircraft and 101 pursuit pilots were on the high seas, heading for the Philippines to bolster General Douglas MacArthur's Far East Air Force. They were subsequently diverted to Australia, with new orders to ferry the P-40's to the Philippines from Australia through the Dutch East Indies.
But on the same day as the second transport reached its destination on 12 January 1942, the first of the key refuelling stops in the Indies fell to rapidly advancing Japanese forces heading south to seize the oil riches of the Dutch colony. Their ferry route broken, the pilots - their number augmented by fourteen newly-arrived veterans from the Philippines - were ordered to relocate their aircraft to Java for participation in the desperate Allied defense of that ultimate Japanese objective.
Except for the pilots from the Philippines, almost all of the other pilots eventually assigned to the five provisional pursuit squadrons ordered to Java were recent graduates of flying school with just a few hours on the P-40. Only forty-three of them made it to their assigned destination, the rest suffering accidents in Australia, shot down over Bali and Darwin, or lost in the sinking of the USS Langley as it carried thirty-two of them to Java.
Even those who did reach the secret field on Java wondered if they had been sacrificed for no purpose. As the Japanese air assault intensified daily, the Allied defense collapsed. By contrast, only eleven Japanese aircraft fell to the P-40's.
Hard Cover, 506 pages
An extensive 48 pages of Index
15 Tables of Historical information
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Texas A&M University Press Consortium
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 31 August 2010
This page last updated 21 November 2015