News | Sept. 7, 2023

H6K “Mavis”/H8K “Emily” vs PB4Y-1/2 Liberator/Privateer, Pacific Theater 1943-45

By Edward M. Young, Osprey Publishing

No.126 in Osprey’s popular Duel series, this author’s new book puts two highly-successful types of aircraft against each other. Little known in most accounts of the Pacific War, the two flying boats of the Imperial Navy (IJN) roamed the Pacific from the beginning of the war. They were virtually unchallenged until America’s entry following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Emily actually having made a few occasional long-distance reconnaissance missions toward Pearl Harbor and Midway before detection and the subsequent attack and the four-day battle in June 1942, respectively, that resulted in the loss of four major Japanese aircraft carriers and many of their aircraft and combat-experienced crews.

Although not fighters, these aircraft did fight each other in several engagements that might be considered as such, resulting in the destruction of 15 Japanese flying boats without the loss of a single Liberator or Privateer. Actually, Navy and Air Force PB4Ys and B-24s shot down quite a few Japanese aircraft besides these specific flying boats, which is, after all, the particular focus of this new book.

More widely known for its role as a long-range heavy bomber in Europe and the less-publicized theaters such as the Aleutians and China-Burma-India (CBI), the Consolidated B-24 design competed for publicity with the better-known Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, which fought in all of these areas and enjoyed more public recognition, perhaps simply because of its more attractive design, even though the Liberator/Privateer was built in far greater numbers than the Flying Fortress.

Nevertheless, and not to take anything away from the courageous and skilled crews of either American design, the Japanese were hard at work producing several water-borne aircraft well before World War II and continued flying them into the present era, not surprising when one considers Japan’s existence as an island archipelago surrounded on all sides by the Pacific Ocean.

Supported by the usual display of photographs and unusual specifically-commissioned graphics, author Edward Young’s latest book for one of Osprey’s popular series describes how the crews of these large, unlikely opposing aircraft sometimes found themselves in lumbering, turning almost-dogfights with their crews either desperately trying to escape each other’s heavy machine-gun and cannon fire, or in turn, endeavoring to bring those same dangerous weapons to bear against the other aircraft and bring it down.

It would appear the navalized Liberator, and its more specifically modified variant, the single-tailed Privateer, had the edge over the parasol-winged Mavis and the more-traditionally designed Emily, which many consider the best flying boat of the war on either side.