With roots dating back to the air war over France in World War I, the 3rd Bomb Group would pioneer the low-level air attack strategy used in the Pacific Theatre in World War II. In 1939, the unit was split up: half the personnel would make up the new 27th Bomb Group that would help defend the Philippines, while the rest would remain in the U.S. for additional training. The two units would reunite in Australia in March 1942, after two dozen 27th pilots escaped the maelstrom of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Bolstered by three score new pilots, and later, RAAF co-pilots and gunners, their first major combat operation was the Royce Raid, a surprise attack against the Japanese in the heart of the Philippine Islands.
Forced to adapt to an unpredictable supply line, the 3rd Bomb Group flew A-24 dive-bombers, A-20 strafer-bombers they modified themselves and B-25 medium bombers acquired from the Dutch Air Force. Major Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn, a future legend of the 3rd Bomb Group, was instrumental in the development of the A-20 strafer model that changed the way air units attacked the Japanese. Throughout 1942, they bombed Japanese bases at Lae, Salamaua and Buna, often without available fighter cover. Pursued by the Tainan Kokutai, a Japanese fighter unit then at its peak prowess, airmen who survived after their planes were shot down over enemy territory had to cross the untamed jungles of New Guinea while dodging Japanese troops to reach Allied territory. Their stories are told to the full extent of what information is available.
Written by the author of Warpath Across the Pacific, working in tandem with distinguished historian Edward Rogers, the story of the 27th and 3rd Bomb Group in 1942 is a truly unparalleled tale of bravery, innovation and hardship. Accompanying the narrative are more than 700 photos, four comprehensive appendices, two spectacular colour paintings and 20 detailed colour profiles by aviation artist Jack Fellows. Harvest of the Grim Reapers, Vol. I serves as an important record of the early air war in the Pacific Theatre.