The book relates the part of the air war in Southeast Asia between the U.S. Army Air Forces and the Japanese fighter-interceptor squadrons. The author begins with an account of bomber development, with the emphasis on unescorted heavy bombers relying on heavy defensive armament and concentrated in close tactical formations. When the war began, it was discovered that this didn’t work too well against Luftwaffe fighters, and only slightly better against more lightly armed Japanese fighters. The Japanese Army, on the other hand, developed fighters whose prime attributes involved light weight and extreme maneuverability. This meant inadequate armament, and no protection for the pilot or vital aircraft systems. At least the Ki-43 had two .50 cal. guns, as opposed to the pair of .30 cal. guns on the earlier Ki-27.
When these aircraft clashed over Southeast Asia and China during 1942 and 1943, both sides had to develop tactics that addressed these issues. The author explains the methods the Japanese developed and American countermeasures. Eventually, the U.S. Army brought in escort fighters which solved the problem for them. The Japanese developed heavier fighters, which would have helped except that they were unable to produce enough of them to have any effect on the latter stages of the war, as they were running out of strategic resources.
The author provides a very interesting account of the events and the technological developments that led to their outcomes. The writer discusses the training programs that prepared the aircrews on both sides and how the combat units provided advanced instruction once crews were assigned to them. He analyzes the air battles and explains why they resulted in American or Japanese victories, and also provides excellent illustrations showing the aircraft involved, their cockpit arrangements, and some of the personnel. In addition, a “box score” is provided, along with an index and bibliography.
This book follows the same pattern as used in a number of other similar comparison books from the same publisher, and is very useful in giving the reader a better understanding of what happened and why. The comparison of the B-24 and Ki-43 is valid, since they were virtually alone against each other. If you have any interest in the Pacific air war, this book is definitely worth getting. It i