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Commando! The M/Z Unit’s Secret War Against Japan
by A.B. Feuer, Praeger, Westport, Conn., 1996, $55.Commando! is a historical account of Australian commando actions by the so-called M/Z Units against Japanese forces in the Southwest Pacific in World War II. The M Units were the fairly well-known coastwatchers who reported on enemy ship and aircraft movements; the Z Units were the lesser-known commandos whose missions were on the offensive. Commando! is an eminently readable book that should be of interest to most students of World War II history, particularly to those interested in the war in the Pacific. It also gives some well-deserved recognition to Australians for their role in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

Feuer writes well and relies extensively on the written accounts of many of the participants in the various actions, a feature that lends authenticity and immediacy to the narrative. Many of the missions reported in the book ended in failure, reflecting the difficult conditions under which these operations were conducted. The numerous general references to the valuable work of the commandos, the number of Japanese troops they tied down merely by their presence, and the intelligence they provided tend to balance out accounts of missions gone wrong.

A bonus for American readers are the many accounts of combat actions of U.S. submarines operating in that area. Submarines were used extensively to insert commandos into enemy territory, as well as to retrieve and rescue teams. The many accounts of torpedo attacks and Japanese counterattacks are taken directly from ships’ logs and make fascinating reading. They also illuminate for the reader the dangers faced by submariners in those waters.

John I. Witmer