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H6K “Mavis”/H8K “Emily” vs PB4Y-1/2 Liberator/Privateer: Pacific Theater 1943-1945

28 Jul 23


(Osprey Publishing – £15.99)

ISBN 9781472852502

80 pages

The subject of this book immediately appealed to your reviewer, both as an aviation nerd, but also with the resurgence of interest in flying boats, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, for its contemporary relevance (which I will return to). As the author explains, “During World War II, air combats between large, four-engined aircraft were a comparatively rare occurrence”, with a number of encounters occurring in the European theatre, but the majority taking place in the Pacific in the latter phases of the War. This book explores those encounters between Japanese flying boats and US Navy land-based long-range maritime patrol aircraft, namely the PB4Y-1/2 Liberator and the Privateer. Edward M Young, whilst formerly a banker and financial analyst by profession, has received an MA in the History of Warfare and PhD in History from King’s College London, and written widely on particularly aviation topics relating to the Second World War.

Following the standard Osprey format, H6K “Mavis”/H8K “Emily” vs PB4Y-1/2 Liberator/Privateer, explores across nine chapters, the context for, design and development, and operations of the respective Japanese and American aircraft (this is detailed yet accessible), with an overview of the strategic situation, and provides a concluding analysis. A short bibliography is included. The text is also accompanied by an excellent selection of photos, maps, and diagrams. The author highlights the differences in the US and Japanese approaches to training, which would be critical to the outcome of both the clashes between the opposing maritime patrol aircraft, and more broadly: “The IJNAF [Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force] made the decision to rely on an elite corps of exceptional pilots, which proved adequate for the short, victorious campaign in the early months of the Pacific War. However, this proved to be a fatal error in judgement once Japan entered a war of attrition with the United States”. Preparing for a short, victorious campaign yet being confronted by a war of attrition is of course an enduring feature of conflict.

Whilst only 80 pages, this book provides a detailed, concise, and fascinating account of Japanese long-range flying boat operations and the role of Liberators and Privateers in countering them. It will especially appeal to those with an interest in maritime warfare, the Pacific War, and aviation history, but also the lay reader. Given the growing interest in flying boats, highlighted by China’s development of the AG600, US interest in a floatplane variant of the C-130 Hercules and the Liberty Lifter, and Japan’s continued use of flying boats, this book provides valuable historical context. In February 2022, as the US considers options for amphibious aircraft, especially for use in the Indo-Pacific, Air Force personnel trained with Japanese US-2 flying boats as part of the Cope North 2022 exercise. As the author of this book details, the designer of the H8K Emily also designed the PS-1/US-1 operated by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force from the early 1970s to 2017, when it was replaced by the US-2.