- Grifiths, Guy, AO, DSO, DSC, Rear Admiral, RAN (Rtd)
- Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities, WWII operations, History - WW2, Book reviews
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Title: Coast Watching in the Solomon Islands The Bougainville Reports December 1941-July 1943
Edited by: A. B. Feuer*
Publisher: Praeger Publishers, 1 Madison Avenue, New York USA 10010.
The diaries of the courageous coast watchers Jack Read and the late Paul Mason provide a fascinating report of the activities, hardships, and indeed the privations of the gallant band of coast watchers who chose to remain on Bougainville Island from December 1941-July 1943. The period which covered the Japanese thrust down the Solomon Island chain.
The whole story can only be regarded as a masterly understatement of the difficulties they encountered. From the basic problem of setting up the reporting network and endeavouring to alert plantation owners and missionaries of the threat to their personal security, to maintaining the loyalty of the various groups of islanders, and including their own life saving measures to evade the enemy.
The overall value of coast watcher intelligence, especially during 1942, has never been in doubt, but this series of reports from Jack Read and Paul Mason provide direct links between their messages and the Battle for Guadalcanal which halted the Japanese drive towards New Caledonia. Without their key reports that battle would have cost many more allied lives.
Each section gives details of the frequent movement of each coast watcher group with their heavy radio equipment. Moves which took them from north to south, and east to west across the mountainous and the mostly trackless jungle covered Bougainville. It is impossible for the reader to comprehend the conditions which they encountered, and the physical and mental stamina which was necessary to keep them going. The narrative emphasises the vital role of the loyal Bougainville natives, without whose help the coast watcher service could never have been set up and maintained.
In covering the Coast Watcher activities on Bougainville Island this book is a valuable addition to the history of that remarkable intelligence service and also a valuable addition to Australia’s history of WWII. It complements the writings of Eric Feldt in his book “The Coast Watchers” and provides further detailed background to the expertise and fortitude of Jack Read and Paul Mason.
Admiral Halsey considered that the intelligence signalled from Bougainville by these two coast watchers had saved Guadalcanal, and Guadalcanal had saved the Pacific.
*A.B. Feuer is a member of the Society, an American historian and freelance newspaper and magazine Journalist.