Book Review
P-40E Warhawk vs A6M2 Zero-Sen
P-40E Warhawk vs A6M2 Zero-Sen, East Indies and Darwin 1942
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Modelers and students of the early Pacific War air war will should be excited by this new study of the early American defense of Australia. Green pilots flying P-40Es miscast as interceptors challenged perhaps the best air superiority force in the world - Japanese Navy Zero-sens. Yet those P-40 squadrons demonstrated why the P-40 was christened “the best second-best fighter of WW2” by doing more damage with fewer losses than the Spitfire wing that replaced them the following year.

P-40E Warhawk vs A6M2 Zero-Sen, East Indies and Darwin 1942 is the long-awaited Duel title from Osprey Publishing LTD. This 102nd title of the series is authored by Australian air war authority Peter Ingman, who also authored Spitfire VC vs A6M2/3, Darwin 1943 (Duel No. 93). Artwork is by Gareth Hector and Jim Laurier. As with other Duel books, this softcover book is a total of 80 pages, and is also available in PDF and eBook formats. This softcover issue is catalogued with ISBN: 9781472840875 and Osprey’s short code DUE 103.

Describing this book, Osprey tells us:
    The P-40E Warhawk is often viewed as one of the less successful American fighter designs of World War II, but in 1942 the aircraft was all that was available to the USAAC in-theatre. Units equipped with the aircraft were duly forced into combat against the deadly A6M2 Zero-sen, which had already earned itself a near-mythical reputation following its exploits over China and Pearl Harbor. During an eight-month period in 1942, an extended air campaign was fought out between the two fighters for air superiority over the Javanese and then northern Australian skies. During this time, the P-40Es and the Zero-sens regularly clashed without interference from other fighter types. In respect to losses, the Japanese ‘won' these engagements, for many more P-40Es were shot down than Zero-sens. However, the American Warhawks provided a potent deterrent that forced the IJNAF to attack from high altitudes, where crews' bombing efficiency was much poorer.

    Fully illustrated throughout, and supported by rare and previously unpublished photographs, this book draws on both American and Japanese sources to tell the full story of the clashes between these iconic two fighters in Darwin and the East Indies.
More than any P-51, Spitfire, Messerschmidt, Zero or Yak, Curtiss' P-40 captures my attention and imagination. Subsequently dubbed “the best second-best fighter of WW2,” from Russian steppes to North African deserts, the P-40 was the preferred Allied fighter when more modern ones were not available.

P-40E Warhawk vs A6M2 Zero-Sen is brought to us via the standard 11 chapters and sections of Duel books, in 80 pages:
    Design and Development
    Technical Specifications
    The Strategic Situation
    The Combatants
    Statistics and Analysis
    Further Reading

Right off the author provides us with a paragraph of Japanese unit terminology and commentary thereof, including the list Japanese Rank Abbreviations. The author correctly uses the USAAC (United States Army Air Corps) designation in the book as most of the action occurred before an Army reorganization created the USAAF (United States Army Air Force).

Two pilots receive short biographies, 1Lt James B. Morehead and FPO3c Yoshiro Hashiguchi.

The first chapters of the book, specifically Design and Development and Technical Specifications, present the strengths and weaknesses of these two fighters, and their predecessors. While the P-40 was a good design competitive with the early Spitfire and Messerschmidt Bf 109, it was hobbled by Army Air Corps doctrine that focused on low altitude operations, plus lack of a suitable two-speed two-stage supercharger. An Osprey book about P-40s shows that of the single-engine fighters of the "Class of 1941", Curtiss' icon was the heaviest, while the only fighter lighter than the A6M was its Army rival, the Ki-43. The P-40 was not intended to be an interceptor while the Zero was intended to be a long-range air superiority fighter. Technical descriptions prepare the reader to understand why the aircraft flew as they did. It acquaints the reader to the hardships of trying to prepare a defense that was never contemplated.

The Strategic Situation and The Combatants present the dichotomy between Japan's attacking pilots and the defending American pilots. Japan's navy air power stunned the world with shocking technical and tactical excellence, executed with speed and surprise that left USAAC and Allied pilots struggling to react, forcing them to stand and fight, unprepared, where they could. We are introduced to the 17th Pursuit Squadron (Provisional), and Japan's 3rd Kokutai and Tainan Kokutai. Commanders and leaders also receive an overview.

Thirty-three pages of Combat opens the main event of this book over Java, not Australia, and introduces us to the Dutch Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger (ML-KNIL; Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Military Air Service). Ill-prepared for intercepting Japanese air raids that showed up where nobody thought they could reach, the story of the Java disaster unfolds. The survivors became the cadre for the defense of northwest Australia. The author details Japanese raids and American interceptions. Dogfights are described, as are claims and actual loses. Detail includes the number of rounds expended by bomber gunners, and even some fighters. Individual pilots are identified allowing a personal touch and enhancing academic credibility. Individual narratives enrich the story;
    When attempting to get into position for another attack, I was surprised to be attacked by Zeros, who put 20mm "slugs" in my wing. I dived and pulled out at 10,000 feet. I couldn't pullout with the stick so I was forced to use the stabilizers. I was again attacked and received more hits. I went into another dive and pulled out at 300ft. They shot at me again and my plane caught fire. I opened my canopy and unfastened my seat belt and prepared to bail out...

These pages present a fascinating history of P-40Es in combat with Zero-sens.

Of course, Statistics and Analysis and Aftermath bring this Duel to a close. We learn the true number of losses for each side. Mr. Ingman discusses the outcomes as well as how USAAF P-40Es compared to the Commonwealth Spitfires which assumed the job of defending Darwin against the same Japanese units. How the superior Spitfire proved inferior over Darwin can be learned through the same author's book Spitfire VC vs A6M2/3 Zero-sen Darwin 1943, which can be accessed via Click here for additional images for this review at the end of this review.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Osprey populates this book with a good gallery of photographs to support the text. Most are black-and-white although there are color photos including the "Akutan Zero" resplendent in early-war USN colors. Most photos are of course wartime but there is a view of Zero wreckage at a museum. Quality runs the range from amateur 'grab shots' through studio quality exposures of personnel, aircraft, and scenery. Pilot "there-I-was" shots, aircraft on the ground and in the air, maintenance and wreckage scenes - any can pique one's desire to model it.


Jim Laurier created detailed color artwork supplementing views the photos missed.

1. P-40 "Star Dust", 9th PS, 49th PG of 2Lt Andy Reynolds: 3-view with commentary. (There is something out of the ordinary about this illustration but I'll leave it to you to discover it.)

2. A6M2 X-138, 3rd Kokutai: 3-view with commentary.

3. Cutaway P-40E Armament.

4. Cutaway A6M2 Model 21 Armament.

5. Map: northern Australia and Netherlands East Indies war zone, keyed to key airfields.

6. : eastern Java airfields.

7. Map: Darwin area airfields and the track of Japanese attacks.

8. P-40E Warhawk Cockpit keyed with 55 components.

9. A6M2 Zero-sen Cockpit keyed with 54 components.

10. Two-page action scene of P-40s under fire, having been bounced from the sun, while escorting A-24 dive-bombers.

11. P-40 four-aircraft formation.

12. Zero three-aircraft formation.

13. Engaging the Enemy: Pilot's-eye view of flaming a Zero during the final USAAF dogfight over Darwin.


Comparison of the P-40E to the A6M2 by:

This graphic support enhances and excites the text.

Just like the author's preceding volume about the Spitfire/Zero duel, P-40E Warhawk vs A6M2 Zero-Sen, East Indies and Darwin 1942 should be on a must-read list for modelers and historians of the Pacific air war, the Java Campaign, P-40s, Zero-sens, Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, and the 49th FG, to name a few subjects. This is a book I have been hoping for for decades. I have several books specifically about the P-40 as well as many with the P-40 having a prominent part - including two other P-40 Osprey Duel titles - but this one recounts three of my favorite subjects, P-40E or Zero-sen combat, and early 1942 combat.

I usually manage to read 10 pages a sitting and yet this is one of those books that I couldn't put down. Decades of questions fueled my appreciation for this amazing book and I finished it quickly.

The book features detailed erudite text, excellent artwork and photographic support, useful maps to orient the reader, and many other enticing characteristics. Modelers should be thrilled by the color photographs as well as the black-and-white ones. Quotes from pilots involved enhance the content.

My only knocks are an irregularity with the P-40 illustration, and that I reached the end of the book. I am very enthusiastic about this title and certainly recommend it.

Please remember to mention to Osprey that you saw this book here - on Aeroscale.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Detailed text, excellent artwork and photographs, useful maps. Modelers should be thrilled by the color photographs as well as the black-and-white ones. Quotes from pilots involved enhance the content.
Lows: The P-40 3-view illustration.
Verdict: This book should be on a must-read list for modelers and historians of the Pacific air war, the Java Campaign, P-40s, Zero-sens, Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, and the 49th FG.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: DUE 102, 9781472840875
  Related Link: Spitfire VC vs A6M2/3 Zero-sen Darwin 1943
  PUBLISHED: Sep 24, 2020
  NATIONALITY: Australia

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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