Books by Lex McAulay

Released: Aug. 19, 1991

Here, McAulay (Where the Buffalo Fight, 1987 paperback), a retired Australian officer, presents an arresting account of one of the decisive naval battles of WW II, and, despite somewhat awkward narration, does a good job of analyzing the human and strategic factors underlying this crucial Allied victory. By March 1943, defeats at Midway and Guadalcanal had checked the progress of the Japanese Imperial Navy after its dizzying victories over American, British, and Dutch naval forces in the early stages of the war. Nonetheless, the presence of Japanese forces in New Guinea stubbornly continued to threaten Australia. In particular, despite some reverses in New Guinea, the Imperial Army continued to hold Lae, a strategic position on the coast of northeast New Guinea, and planned to deliver a formidable armed force to Lae by convoy. As a result of American intercepts of Japanese coded messages (and inspired guesswork by American general George Kenney and Australian commander ``Blackjack'' Walker), the Allied air forces—a motley band of Australians and Americans flying a makeshift collection of aircraft—were able to attack and destroy the convoy without major losses. McAulay's narrative is largely a description of this destruction, from the point of view of both Allied fliers and Japanese soldiers and sailors (the author's extensive use of Japanese diaries is fascinating and effective). However, while McAulay's account is informative and forthright, his prose style becomes turgid at times; and he fails to discuss adequately the strategic importance of the battle (which represented the final defeat of the Japanese military in its drive toward Australia). Nonetheless, the inherent drama of the story makes for compelling reading about an important and oft-neglected naval engagement. (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >