After many books which present only the allied version of WW II theaters it is refreshing to review this book ‘The Empire Strikes South’ which describes both sides of the conflict. Having visited family close to Darwin and being confronted over there with the still vivid memory of the devastating Japanese bombardment on Februay 19th, 1942, I never expected to get a clear view of the Japanese side of this dramatic event.
Dr Lewis, with outstanding support from mr. Claringbould’s illustrations, changed that. For me this story presents for the first time names, photographs and stories of crewmembers of all participating parties. It provides an insight in the state of mind of the combattants of both sides. For a Japanese warrior being captured alive was a horror, he lost his honour and could never return to his family in Japan. And quite a few Japanese POWs tried to end their life by getting killed in escape attempts or committing suicide.
It also makes clear that the Japanese soldiers had little respect for allied prisoners, which were treated badly or even killed. When this became clear to the allied forces that triggered merciless behavior on their side as well. The greater picture of this struggle was not to conquer Australia but to deny the allies from attacking the main prize being targeted by Japan: the large landmass of New Guinea, and thereby to separate the Australian continent from America. That this plan ulitmately fails is outlined in another book where mr. Claringbould participates: South Pacific Air War.
If you are intrigued by war stories about the WW II South East Asia theatre, then this is certainly an interesting book. The recognition of the degree of detail in this book is a matter of individual appreciation. The fact that the Japanese warriors also get a name and sometimes even a face and a personality adds extra quality for me. The photographs and illustrations are already mentioned. They contribute substantially to the attraction of this book.