In early 1942, while the American military was still in disarray from the devastating attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, a single U.S. Army squadron advanced to the far side of the world to face America's new enemy.
Based in Australia with inadequate supplies and no ground support, the squadron's pilots and combat crew endured tropical diseases while confronting numerically superior Japanese forces. Yet the outfit, dubbed the Kangaroo Squadron, proved remarkably resilient and successful, conducting long-range bombing raids, carrying out armed reconnaissance missions, and rescuing General MacArthur and his staff from the Philippines.
Before now, the story of their courage and determination in the face of overwhelming odds has largely been untold. Using eyewitness accounts from diaries, letters, interviews, and memoirs, as well as Japanese sources, historian Bruce Gamble brings to vivid life this dramatic true account.
But the Kangaroo Squadron's story doesn't end in World War II. One of the squadron's B-17 bombers, which crash-landed on its first mission, was recovered from New Guinea after almost seventy years in a jungle swamp. The intertwined stories of the Kangaroo Squadron and the "Swamp Ghost" are filled with thrilling accounts of aerial combat, an epic survival story, and the powerful mystique of an invaluable war relic.
Military historian Gamble (Target Rabaul) delivers an inspiring and impeccably researched tale of the Australia-based 38th Reconnaissance Squadron's air combat against the Japanese from December 1941 through September 1942. Unlike the later bombing campaigns, these early actions were small and somewhat ad hoc, but they were strategically vital, Gamble writes. The Kangaroo Squadron faced unusually steep challenges; in addition to bad weather, extremely challenging over-ocean navigation, and flight distances that stressed their planes' fuel endurance, no ground personnel were available for two months, so the crews did all the maintenance and repairs on their B-17E bombers in addition to flying eight- to 12-hour-long missions. Nevertheless, they contributed to some of the major actions of the war: they flew into the middle of the attack on Pearl Harbor; carried out several daring missions to the Philippines, including the rescue of General MacArthur and his family; and played an important role in U.S. victories at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the battle for Guadalcanal. Both the air war expert and the general reader will enjoy and learn something from this well-crafted work.