Pacific War Ghosts:
Travels to the South Pacific Battlefields of World War ll
By Tony Maxwell
Tony Maxwell, the author of this and another book on the Boer War has, I believe, missed his calling. He should be teaching at the College level, turning young people on to History. It is so obvious his passion, though he carries a camera and puts that to good use too.
Pacific War Ghosts, are the planes, tanks and guns left in the Pacific theatre of war when the combatants withdrew, or fell in battle. This book is an engaging trip through those battles of 70 years ago, when Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, then the Phillippines, Hong Kong and Malaya. The Australians, believing the Japanese were getting too close for comfort and, since their own forces were doing their duty with the allies in Europe, appealed to the United States for help.
The Americans, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur defeated the Japanese in the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, and made plans to build an airfield on the southeastern point of Papua New Guinea, at Buna. Now would be a good time to get your Atlas out, because by page 13 this author has you hooked and you need to know just where this is taking place.
The Kokoda Track is 60 miles long, heat and humidity are high, the “trail” is by turns mountainous or muddy swamps. Ticks and mosquitoes abound. This jungle path would be traversed by the Americans along with an (untrained) Australian militia numbering one hundred men. The Japanese force they met numbered 2,000. The allies fought bravely but were forced to withdraw at great cost.
The Battle of Milne Bay took place on the southeastern tip of Papua New Guinea; a very different sort of battle than that on the Kokoda Track. This engagement is told in exciting style as “modern” warfare was used on both sides. When the smoke cleared and the Japanese withdrew, their force of 2,800 was reduced to 1,318.
In alternate chapters the author visits these same sites many years later. He is armed with a camera and he’s on the lookout for the Ghosts of these battles. He camps out along the Kokoda trail, which has shown little improvement in seventy years!
There are over 65 photos throughout this book, some historical and those of the present day.
Many battles are covered here, all within the Pacific area. The first and second Battles of Guadalcanal Island are likely the most famous. The Battle of Edson’s Ridge, the Battle of Bloody Ridge and the Naval Battle of Tassafaronga (and others) are here. Always the battle sounds die as the author visits these sites in the present.
Tony Maxwell has discovered a winning formula in this format. His book Searching for the Queen’s Cowboys (about the Boer War) was told in this same style. This book is available from this local author at www.bratonmax.com or Amazon.ca
Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.