(Osprey Publishing, 96 pages, $20.00)
Part of the new Osprey Air Campaign series, Rabaul 1943–44: Reducing Japan’s
Great Island Fortress by Mark Lardas is an excellent read, filled with original artwork, maps, illustrations (by Mark Postlethwaite), and historical photographs. For readers interested in the aircraft and strategies used in the South Pacific theater of World War II, this 96-page paperback lays out the events and engagements between the U.S. Navy air combat units and the Japanese air forces. Specifically during 1942, when the massive Japanese naval base and airfield at Rabaul, on the island of New Britain, were a fortress standing in the Allies’ path to Tokyo. Impossible to invade Rabaul, the United States began an innovative, hard-fought two-year air campaign avoiding a ground assault, allowing them to bypass the island completely. Their use of air power eliminated the need to occupy ground objectives in order to control them. As it turned out, the siege of Rabaul proved to be more just than a successful demonstration of air power—it provided the road map for conducting the rest of the war in the Pacific.
Lardas has been fascinated his entire life by things related to the sea and sky. From building models of ships and aircraft as a teen, his maritime interest led him to study naval architecture and marine engineering. But his interest in aviation led him to take a job with the space shuttle program, where for more than 30 years, he worked as a navigation engineer. Currently, he works developing commercial aircraft systems as a quality-assurance manager. He has written extensively about aircraft and warships and is the author of 25 books, all related to military, naval, or maritime history.—