Osprey's US Navy Ships vs Kamikazes


Mark Stille


Osprey Publishing


$20.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1273-5

Osprey's Duel series has turned into one that is quite popular as we now have the 76th title. This one does not compare two like adversaries, but two that are quite dissimilar. Yet they confronted each other in the last year of the Pacific War. To understand the 'why' of the kamikaze, one has to understand the national psyche of the Japanese prior to the events. First of all, up until WWII, Japan had never lost a war. This included the rather modern war against the Russians at the turn of the 20th century. They had come out second best in conflicts, but nothing major. Secondly, much of society was militarized. There are still remnants of that today in the schools where one wears a school uniform. Back in the 1930s and 1940s it was even more prevasive.

So you have a nation where doing all for the sake of family and the nation is paramount. The need to protect one's home overshadows the need to protect oneself. Soldiers and sailors are trained to die in glorious battle rather than to surrender. Surrender means losing honor that that must never happen. Those few Japanese who were captured alive led very difficult post war lives. Kamikazes were never ordered into battle, they had enough fuel to return if they couldn't find a target and there were more volunteers than available aircraft.

This sets the stage for this book. You have a nation that is getting desperate. One whose navy has been all but decimated. Against that an overwhelming US force. In the past there were instances of Japanese pilots crashing their heavily damaged aircraft into ships, but now it was taken to a higher level. Initial attacks in the Philippines were a major shock to US forces and the kamikazes were relatively successful. Some of the reasons were the experience of the pilots who were able to maneuver around defenses. Another was the lack of any sort of US defense. Sure, all the ships had 20mm and 40mm guns, but these were most effective in standard attacks where the pilot wants to survive. Against one willing to die, they were sorely ineffective.

In the end, the kamikaze caused grievous damage to the US Navy in terms of ships sunk, damaged so heavily as to be irrepairable or knocked out of the war for repairs. They also exacted a heavy loss of life and high casualty rates even if the ship was not sunk. However, it was a failed plan as it did not stop the US juggernaut. It took the atomic bomb to end the war, and a good thing for the US as Japan had stockpiled thousands of kamikaze-ready planes.

This book looks at the background of the war until the initial use of the kamikaze, the reason for developing this means, and the training of the crews. Tactics changed on both sides during these months and the book covers the differences as the Japanese learned a more effective way of delivering their bombs. While the US tried all they could, it was impossible for the measures of the time to completely protect the fleet. Each of the major assaults is covered and this includes types used and damage caused. In all, it makes for a fascinating read, especially if one has never really thought all that much about the issue. Highly recommended.

November 2016

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