Before World War Two, light twin-engined bombers had been a vital part of almost every nation's air force. By the end of the war they had almost disappeared. There were a few startling performers, curiously most were of American origin, such as the Douglas A-20 Boston/Havoc, the North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell and the Douglas A-26 Invader. The rest fell victim to faster, heavily armed interceptor/fighters and the development of the concept of area or "pattern" bombing which propelled heavy bomber design. The light bomber had always been a tactical theatre concept, that is, it was used tactically against targets or for interdiction within the theatre of operations along the battlefront. The heavy bomber which had the range, endurance and payload the light bomber lacked, became the strategic weapon we know today. Along the way, the light bomber began to evolve into the concept of the attack aircraft.
The Douglas Aircraft Company submitted their 7A design in the 1938 competition run by the US Army for a twin-engined medium bomber. The aircraft's designers, Jack Northrop and Edward Heinemann had not being fully aware of the Army's required specifications, yet they had won a contract for a prototype from a reluctant Army. It was in fact Jack Northrop who had conceived the design for this aircraft before he left Douglas to form his own company. It was Edward Heinemann who greatly improved the design, which was to serve as the forerunner for all of the successful American light bombers that followed. The A-20 was fast, manoeuvrable and light; its two-man crew operated a powerful weapons platform. During the six years of production, the aircraft's weight nearly doubled from 15,000 to 27,000 lbs. At the same time its speed increased from 304 mph to 330 mph. Additionally, the bombload doubled in the same period, combat radius increased from 300 to 500 miles and armament rose from five light machine-guns to nine heavy weapons. Armour protection was increased and most importantly, the original engines were replaced in early production models by the superior Wright R-2600 Cyclones. These continuing refinements ensured that the performance of the original design was enhanced.
The prototype was powered by two Pratt & Whittney R-1830C engines of 1,100 hp and made its first flight on 26 October 1938. The aircraft gave little hint of the type's potential as it was destroyed in a fatal crash on 23 January 1939. The French, however, were impressed enough to order 37 of the type but when France fell, the aircraft, as yet undelivered, were taken over by Britain. By then, the British were interested in the aircraft and the US Army had placed an order for 168 aircraft. The British involvement began in February 1940 with a contract for 150 aircraft, soon raised to 300 and eventually totaling 781. These became the DB-7B Boston MkIII in RAF service to distinguish them from the 200 French and 18 Belgian DB-7 Boston MkIs and 249 DB-7A Boston MkIIs diverted to the UK after the fall of France.
Australia's association with the Boston began when the Japanese overran the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) and several Dutch ships carrying aircraft for the beleaguered NEI forces were diverted to Australia. Aboard three ships, the Mapia, Tabian and Weltervreden were 11 Douglas A-20 light bombers and seven Brewster fighters. The Bostons were off-loaded and towed by road to RAAF Richmond, west of Sydney, where they were assembled. Thirty-one Dutch Bostons were put into service by the RAAF and a further 38 aircraft were delivered from the United States. Only one squadron, Number 22 Squadron, operated the Boston. The squadron had been originally formed at Richmond in April 1936 and received its first A-20 Boston in April 1942. The squadron operated the type to great effect against Japanese targets during the Papuan and New Guinean campaigns. They were later used against the Japanese in the NEI and the Philippines until a Japanese air raid on the Australian air base on Morotai in November 1944 saw the squadron destroyed. Number 22 Squadron was then re-equipped with Beaufighters and continued to operate in the strike role. The only Victoria Cross awarded to a RAAF pilot in the Pacific War was awarded posthumously to a Boston pilot, Flight Lieutenant William Ellis Newton in March 1943, for his tenacious low level attacks against the Japanese in Salamaua and Lae.
Some 7,500 Bostons were built by Douglas between 1939 and 1944. For Australia, the Boston was a significant aircraft because it was the first light bomber that the RAAF could employ in the ground attack tactical role and thus carry the war to the enemy. With this aircraft, Australia could now hit back. The Bostons were loved and trusted by their Australian crews. The raids by 22 Squadron became legendary, eventually becoming know as "Boston Tea Parties". During the Papuan and New Guinean campaign, downed Boston crews were aided by natives who guided them back through occupied territory to the safety of the Allied lines. One such hero was a paramount chief named Golpak who had helped Wing Commander (later Air Vice Marshall) Bill Townsend and Flying Officer David McClymont to safety, declaring himself to be a "frend bilong Australia tru". So too was the Douglas A-20 Boston.
This book covers the RAAF's Bostons in great detail, exploring camouflage and markings to a depth not seen before, squadron history, aircraft structure, development and operation. There are six pages of full colour profile drawings and six pages of colours photographs, plus scale drawings to aid the modeller.