Turning point by Michael Veitch
Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9780733640551.
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Recommended. Non-fiction. Michael Veitch has thoroughly researched the background to the battle for Milne Bay in 1942, a momentous battle in New Guinea, and the first land defeat of the powerful Japanese forces as they advanced towards Australia. Veitch asserts that it was at Milne Bay that the myth of Japanese invincibility was smashed forever. Australian infantry and air force, and American engineers and anti-aircraft gunners worked together in the most horrendous of conditions - mud, rain, mosquitoes and disease, not to mention the impenetrable jungle, all made life unbearable for the soldiers. The Allies had set up air strips, rolling out new steel matting for runways, only to continually battle mud that seeped up through holes in the matting to create a slippery mud sluice that plastered the aircraft. Nevertheless Milne Bay became a base for the Kittyhawks providing essential firepower and cover for the men on the ground.
Veitch includes the stories of the many larger than life personalities, Australians from all walks of life, who fought heroically and determinedly to prevent the advance of the Japanese. We also learn about 'silent Cyril', Major General Cyril Clowes, the calm and cautious strategic thinker determined not to make useless sacrifice of men, who ultimately led a successful campaign, but received little recognition in later years.
Milne Bay was also the scene of Japanese war crimes, the mutilation and killing of prisoners and helpless Papuan natives, leading to a hardening of attitude of the Australians towards their enemy.
In many ways a significant event in the history of Australia's participation in World War II, this book brings to life the people and the formidable situations they endured - making it a commendable resource for students of the history of the war in the Pacific, as well as an engrossing read for the general reader.