Coast Watching in World War II: Operations Against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, 1941-43
A. B. Feuer
Stackpole Books, 2006 - History - 218 pages
From their perches on islands such as Buka and Bougainville, coast watchers--for the most part, Australian civilians--monitored Japanese shipping and aircraft activity. They played a pivotal role during the battle for Guadalcanal in the fall of 1942, when their intelligence facilitated the interception and destruction of twelve Japanese transports. These reports from the participants themselves provide a fascinating account that will intrigue historians as well as World War II and espionage buffs.
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This Military Historian Records the Heroic Acts of Unheralded Heroes
Bud Feuer is a pretty prolific military historian, having written more than a dozen military history books. But what makes Feuer stand apart, in my opinion, is his histories of little known, unheralded, unusual military units. A case in point is the Australian coast watchers who performed heroic duty when the Japanese were advancing through the South Sea Islands during World War II.
In Feuer’s book Coast Watching in WWII: Operations Against the Japanese on the Solomon Islands 1941-43, the author details the activities of up to 400 coast watchers scattered along the coastal areas of the Solomon Islands. These units would hide away in the jungle/mountain areas, keep an eye on Japanese ship movements, and then radio reports to headquarters on what ships were moving into the area.
The Japanese most likely would never have been halted if they were able to maintain the element of surprise. But that was taken away, unknowingly to them, by the coast watchers. Feuer makes a good argument when he states that “coast watching alone was responsible for the success of the air war. During the early and uncertain days of the American struggle to wrest Guadalcanal from the Japanese, the reports and timely warnings from Stations JEF and STO on Bougainville were directly responsible for the enemy’s defeat.”
To perform their tasks, the coast watchers relied on “teleradios” which were relatively large, heavy and clunky radio communications equipment that had to be hauled from one hiding spot to another. The teleradio had a voice range of about 400 miles and had a range of an additional 200 miles if you used the telegraph key. Besides having to lug this heavy machine around, the men in the unit had to lug around the batteries, charging engine, and benzene fuel. It took several men to carry the teleradio from one site to another. Imagine what these guys could have accomplished today with micro-electronic technology?
Feuer points out why propaganda is so important in wartime, recording the successes of the coast watchers and failures of the Japanese who angered the natives by arresting men and women in the villages and using them as free laborers. The Japanese also knew little about mountains and were unskilled in tracking.
While I enjoy history, most of the time I am bored silly by voluminous military histories that fail to record the lives of the soldiers involved or capture the overall picture of what is taking place. Bud Feuer accomplishes what many military historians fail to do – Feuer writes a compelling, riveting history that grabs your attention early and keeps it. Bud Feuer is a great story teller and an accurate historian.
--- Emory Daniels
The Kieta Vicinity
Organizing the Coast Watching Operation
Northern Bougainville Island 2829
Coast Watching Activities Begin in Earnest
Setting Up the Southern Bougainville Coast Watching
East Central Bougainville Island
Air Battles at Guadalcanal
Guadalcanal Island and Vicinity
The Japanese Search for the Southern Bougainville
The Reorganization of the Coast Watching Operation
Heading North January 2April 30 1943
The Japanese Attack on Porapora and Other
The End of Attempts to Return to Southern
The Death of Admiral Yamamoto and the Ambush
Afterword by Noelle Mason
Missionary Work on Buka and Bougainville and