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  KAIS: A True Story of a Daring Rescue in the Swamps of New Guinea, Summer 1944 is a fascinating account of the crash of a B-25 bomber into...

KAIS by Bas Kreuger KAIS by Bas Kreuger

KAIS by Bas Kreuger

KAIS by Bas Kreuger

 KAIS: A true story of a daring rescue in the swamps of New Guinea, summer 1944 by [Bas Kreuger, Anneloes Bakker, Fred Warmer]

KAIS: A True Story of a Daring Rescue in the Swamps of New Guinea, Summer 1944 is a fascinating account of the crash of a B-25 bomber into the jungles of New Guine. It details both the efforts to find and rescue the crew immediately after, and the search to find and recover the aircraft 75 years later. The book takes its name from the Kais river, which both the rescue and research teams traveled on to reach the crash site. The author, Bas Kreuger, is a Dutch researcher who focuses on the history of the Dutch in the East Indies.

KAIS opens with a summarized account of the war in the Pacific on and around New Guinea. This was interesting in and of itself, as this fighting is not often discussed or depicted in media. New Guinea is an extremely harsh island covered in swamps, jungles, and rivers, with virtually no infrastructure across vast swathes of the landscape. This made merely existing on the island difficult for both the Japanese and Allied soldiers, never mind finding each other and fighting. As the war went on and the Allies gained the upper hand, it was decided that it would be easier to isolate and starve out most of the Japanese strongholds on the island, rather than destroying them directly. Most of the fighting then became about air superiority, and attacks against each side's airfields. If the Allies could control the skies, they could then easily destroy any Japanese cargo ships trying to resupply the soldiers in the brutal jungles and swamps. 

Enter the 418th Night Fighter Squadron. These men were brought in to crew, you guessed it, night fighters, but due to the realities of war in the far flung reaches of the Pacific, they didn't have any on hand for some time. So instead they found themselves operating a variety of aircraft, including the B-25 bombers being used in an anti-ship role. After an intense attack on some Japanese ships, the crew of the fateful B-25 realize that they aren't going to make it home due to damage sustained to the aircraft. Knowing that they are deep in Japanese controlled waters, they decide to fly inland and look for somewhere to put the plane down. 

After a mostly successful crash landing into a swamp, the crew is then at the mercy of the environment and fate. Fortunately for them, one of their fellow bombers was able to track them down quickly, and so their approximate location is known to the Allies. Unfortunately for them, reaching their location borders on the impossible. Any rescue attempt will have to brave miles river, jungle, and swamp filled with both hazardous wildlife and hostile Japanese soldiers. The rescue team, composed of Dutch, Indonesian, Australian, and American soldiers sets out on an expedition to find and rescue the crew, which ends up taking three weeks. The book details this entire endeavor, including direct combat with Japanese soldiers, meetings with local tribes, and all the misery of camping in the jungle.

I'll leave it to you to read the story of how all of that goes down, but I will say it is quite the adventure and would make an excellent movie. Every soldier and airman involved in the book is detailed as much as possible, with the author having tracked down family members, photographs, and even local Papua's who were connected to the event. His efforts are extremely impressive and reveal so much about this event that would otherwise have been forgotten. 

The latter third or so of the book details his modern day research efforts in pulling together all of this information, and the expedition he went on in 2019 to try and find the actual crash site in the swamp. The area is still as wild and undeveloped as it was at the time, with the expedition facing exactly the same environmental hazards that the rescue team dealt with. Initially, I thought this part of the book wouldn't be as interesting as the actual event, but in the end it was very enjoyable. It opened my eyes to what researchers do and had some shades of a real world Indiana Jones adventure, just with gentlemen a bit more out of their element than Dr. Jones ever was.

This book is a very easy one to recommend. The pages fly by and the story is quite thrilling all the way through. Like I said above, this event would make a great movie, and one could write the whole script simply based on Kreuger's account, as it is extremely detailed and vivid. 

KAIS is available on Amazon Kindle or paperback.

- Joe Beard