REPLICA IN SCALE - Review of 14 April 2013

The below review was published at link The website is managed by modellor and aviation buff Phillip Friddell, who is fastidious about the accuracy of aircraft markings and their associated history.


If we had to guess, we'd guess that almost every one of you has read Samurai at one time or another. It's a seminal work on the air war in the Pacific and it's been mandatory reading for students of that portion of the Second World War since its first publication back in the mid-1950s. As a history it's somewhat flawed, and it raises more questions than it answers, but for a great many years it's been one of the two or three things available to us in English regarding the Tainan Kokutai, which was one of Japan's most elite and successful fighter units during the first 18 months or so of the Pacific War. We've been sadly lacking in any sort of definitive history of the unit, at least until now.

Eagles of the Southern Sky; the Tainan Air Group in WWII Volume I: New Guinea, Luca Ruffato and Michael J. Claringbould, Tainan Research and Publishing, 2012, 352 pp, Illustrated, is the history we've all been waiting for regarding the Tainan Ku, lengthy title notwithstanding. It covers the "classic" period of the Tainan's pre-Guadalcanal days at length, and details the unit from its inception until the beginning of the end for the group over the Solomon Islands.

Taken as a reference the book is somewhat amazing; it covers not only Japanese operations but, to a great extent, those of the various Allied units opposing the Tainan Ku as well and, for perhaps the first time in the United States, discusses the significant contributions of the RAAF's 75 and 76 squadrons in their hand-me-down P-40Es. The book is well illustrated with period photography and includes a great many images not previously seen in the West. It also includes a large number of full-color profiles as well as several indices. It's well-researched and will probably be the definitive resource on this unit for a number of years to come.

We did find one somewhat irritating issue with the book, although we honestly put it in the realm of nitpicking. The basic presentation of the publication is softcover and printed on a fairly poor grade of paper, which allows print and images from the opposite side of the pages to occasionally bleed through to the side the reader is looking at. We suspect this is the unfortunate result of economics and, quite frankly, are delight to have the resource available to us in any format. Our personal preference would have been for hard covers and heavier, coated stock, simply because we suspect the book will be heavily used by most of the people who purchase it. That said, we hope the book receives the success it so soundly deserves and that the publishers will someday do a 2nd edition in a more permanent presentation.

Still, few people will purchase this book to criticize its current presentation, and the documentation that has gone into its creation is very nearly beyond reproach. The simple fact that the authors were able to obtain the services of Steve Birdsall, Lawrence Hickey, Ed Dekiep, and Gordon Birkett, speaks volumes for the credibility of Ruffato and Claringbould, who are to be commended for creating what is obviously a labor of love for them. This book is an absolute must-have if your interests run towards the war in the Pacific, and we anxiously await the publication of the second volume of the set.