by Keith Mulligan
Published by the author and available from 117 Hillcrest Road North, Raumati Beach, 6010
Also from RNZAF Museums Christchurch and Ohakea and MOTAT Auckland. Price $26.00 plus $2.50 p&p
Reviewed by Geoffrey Bentley, MBE
This is the story of a young man who turned his back on the stable world of farming to go to war as a fighter pilot in the RNZAF. But it is much more than one man's personal experience. Keith Mulligan has skilfully blended his own exploits with those of his squadron buddies - and even with those of other squadrons - to present a vivid picture of the fighter war in the Pacific. Thus we get a fuller treatment of the subject, a worthy addition to the recorded history of the RNZAF.
It is a highly readable narrative, recording the drama, the danger, the tragedy and the occasional humour of life in the Solomon Islands in those uncertain days when the Allies were fighting for air supremacy against a potent enemy and, when Japanese opposition ebbed, sought to take the war to the enemy in its jungle fastnesses.
I was only at page 11 of the book when I knew that I was going to enjoy it. It evoked the war years from the start and I was transported back into the company of young, ebullient "fighter types" for whom aerial combat was an immense challenge. (I accompanied four New Zealand fighter squadrons on their separate tours of duty as an official war correspondent)
Kittyhawks and Coconuts is the story of airmen who were shot down, bailed out, struggled through alien territory and were finally rescued, or who were never rescued at all. Keith Mulligan's own dramatic ordeal over enemy-held Bougainville and his subsequent rescue is graphically told.
Anyone with an interest in the exploits and achievements of the RNZAF will enjoy this book; indeed, they won't want to put it down.
First published in 1995 by "New Zealand Wings", this printing (by Precise Print and Design) has additional illustrations and an improved presentation.