Book Review

World War II B-24 "Snoopers"
Low Level Anti-Shipping Radar
Night Bombers in the Pacific Theater

By Anthony Buccino

The harrowing life and death of these operations is served well in recounting the 19 days at sea spent following a sea crash. The crew could not rendezvous with a submarine as they had to ditch before they could send out their location. The crew survived on rations – including "a piece of candy and a gulp or two of water each day."


A book review

by Anthony Buccino

World War II B-24 "Snoopers" Low Level Anti-Shipping Radar Night Bombers in the Pacific Theater, or simply the ‘Snoopers’ book put together by Stephen M. Perrone is a thorough accounting of a little-known tactic the U.S. used during WWII by employing low level bombers equipped with radar against enemy shipping.

Personal and official accounts of the low-level bombing runs and the long flights do provide the realistic view of being there with the 63rd and 868th squadrons as they scoured the broad ocean for targets of opportunity.

Their targets included Japanese supply and troop ships in the war zone and on the peripherals.

The book is based on Air Corps reports, crew recollections and witnesses.

These men shortened the war by damaging and cutting into enemy supply lines.

You do sense the euphoria the crews feel when an enemy ship goes down with its cargo of supplies or troops. Not to mention their frustration when they fly and fly and fly some more and never find their target. Their bombs are dropped harmlessly to the ocean depths.

In my own book Belleville Sons Honor Roll, a young man named Clatie Cunningham from Tennessee trains in Newark, N.J., and marries a local gal. The young man leaves his pregnant wife behind and ends up on a Snooper in the 868th Squadron in the South Pacific.

On a low-level bombing run over a ship and two barges in the Mekong River in French Indochina, the bomb concussion damaged the plane. The crew – all ten of them – bail out into the open sea. Three survivors were rescued over the next week. Cunningham left behind twin sons who were less than two months old when he perished. Through Clatie's tale, which is not in this book, I was made aware of this book about "Snoopers."

"Snoopers" could have been well served with a jargon dictionary. What are AK and DD? What’s a Sugar Dog, and who is FEAF? What does this sentence mean: "Checked visually 3 Fox Tare Charlie’s, 3 DD’s, 3 Tare Uncle’s and 1 Fox Able"?

While providing a valuable insight in to a nearly lost story of an "almost forgotten adventure of the Pacific War Theater" it may be far too technical and repetitive for all but the most determined reader.

Folks with air force background will likely gobble up this book as they recount missions of 13 hours of flight! This book could have delved more into the physical discomfort of the flight crews. Was it cold in the sky in those planes over the South Pacific?

The harrowing life and death of these operations is served well in recounting the 19 days at sea spent following a sea crash. The crew could not rendezvous with a submarine as they had to ditch before they could send out their location. The crew survived on rations – including "a piece of candy and a gulp or two of water each day."

Fortunately after weeks adrift in an unforgiving ocean the crew four times before their rescue "sighted navy Dumbos." Then, while watching the sky, "Suddenly the Catalina’s starboard wing dipped and immediately we knew we had been sighted."

All in all, this book is a fascinating look at a nearly unrecorded part of our military history. It should be on the shelf of everyone who portends to know our air corps history. Because no matter what you already know, you will learn a few things from "Snoopers."


Copyright ©  2015 by Anthony Buccino, All Rights Reserved

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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards. The Pushcart Prize-nominated writer has been called ' “New Jersey’s ‘Garrison Keillor” or something to that effect.’

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