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Double Diamonds: Australian commandos in the Pacific War, 1941-45

The faces of the men on the cover of this rendition of the Australian involvement in the jungles of Timor, New Guinea and Bougainville during the Second World War, simply tell a story of their own. Young men chosen because of the undoubted skills to carry out often clandestine, always challenging, missions in inhospitable country, many times spending days, weeks and occasionally months on their own, replying on a haphazard line of supply, growing older than their years, always wondering what, if any future, was there for them; learning to living each day as it was given.

Portraying life in the armed services in the jungles of the Pacific Theatre of War, this remarkable collection of pictures from the Australian War Memorials celebrated collection, many never published before, shows the reality of what life was like in the jungles of Kokoda, of Bougainville, of Timor and finally at Balikpapan during the final days of the war in the Pacific.

The words drawn from publications from the same source create a history of which all Australians can be proud; the pictures bring the story to life and hit home as the families and in some cases the men involved, shown so clearly, are still very much alive today.

This also details the story of the first steps in creating what is today the elite force known as the Special Air Services (SAS); a group of men who are carefully selected for their skills, to form a division of the Armed services respected not only by their fellow servicemen, but throughout the world for their levels of expertise in combat roles.

Tales of the war in the Pacific against the Japanese are legendary, some gaining stature as the years have rolled along and others seldom discussed, rarely even revisited, but in this day and age, perhaps need to be told more so than ever before.

Written and compiled by War Historian Karl James, the information gathered with the story is presented in a manner that is informative, entertaining, confrontational, sombre and reflective; bringing into sharp focus the price that was paid, the incredible undertaking required of the men and the mateship that was formed.

A second thread tells the story of the men in command of the Pacific Theatre, the occasional conflict with Allies, the sometimes puzzling decisions made in regard to the placement of the troops, who was to be trained and who was to be sent where, as well as the decision that was made and undertaken to create a team of elite men to carry out some of the most dangerous and difficult tasks required in this inhospitable terrain, in a deadly, vicious war raging throughout the Pacific region.

The men that formed the Fledgling ‘Double Diamonds’ did so knowing full well what was required of them; that this should be presented now, some 70 years on is fitting. Time has a habit of dulling the sharp edges of horror but also has the ability to allow the history of the past to be presented in such a way that it can be seen for what it was, what it is, allowing a new generation to understand why New Guinea, in particular Kokoda, is a place in Australian history that is now considered of such significance, many undertake a pilgrimage in reverence and respect for their family members or simply for all who served and gave of their lives, their youth and many, many, times their sanity, to fight a great injustice.

The most telling, the most poignant words in the entire story are those taken from the diaries of the men who served in the jungles, as they tell it like it was; portraying the stark reality that is war, although Corporal Peter Pinney, 2/8th Commando Squadron, Southern Bougainville, July 1945, definitely had a poetic way of describing the tropics at its worst when he wrote:

 ‘Rain has poured down day and night for a week…sloshing and splashing – hissing through the palms and spraying off high branches… rushing under huts and swirling across gunpits and flooding the latrines. The air is vaporous with fine mist and everything is damp.’


Lest we forget…………


AuthorKarl James
PublisherNew South Publishers
DistributorNew South Books
ReleasedAugust 2016