During 1944, Douglas MacArthur’s army fought its way from New Guinea to the Philippines. In New Guinea, discarding pre-war doctrine, Allied air commander George Kenney planned and ran an “air blitz” offensive. Kenney’s Fifth Air Force drove forward like a tank army, crash-landing in open country, seizing terrain, bulldozing new airfields, winning air control, and moving forward.
At airfields on the front line, First Lieutenant Roscoe A. Boyer – Rocky Boyer – kept the radios working for the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, a fighter-bomber unit. This book draws on his diary. Diaries were forbidden, but Rocky kept one – full of casualties, accidents, off-duty shenanigans, and rear-area snafus. He had friends killed when they shot it out with Japanese anti-aircraft gunners, or when their bombers vanished in bad weather. He wrote about wartime camp life – at Nadzab, New Guinea, the largest air base in the world, part Scout camp and part frontier boomtown. He knew characters worthy of Catch-22: combat flyers who played contract bridge, officers who played office politics, black quartermasters, and chaplains who stood up to colonels, when a promotion party ended with drunken gunplay and dynamite. His group stepped in against Japanese counterstrikes, sharp, sudden fights against enemy warships. • Off the island of Biak, in June 1944, the 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, flying B-25’s, attacked Japanese destroyers carrying enemy reinforcements. In 90 seconds, the squadron won 60 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 19 of them posthumous. • On the beachhead at Mindoro, south of Manila in December 1944, Rocky fought in what Kenney called “the wildest scramble of the war”: a grim evening when the airfield was hit by Japanese bombers and shelled by a Japanese war fleet. This is a narrative of the war as airmen lived it, not a day-by-day, blow-by-blow verbatim transcript of a wartime diary. Rocky’s experience of life on the front line gives from-the-bottom-up detail to the framework of Kenney’s air blitz.