Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Author: Henry Sakaida
43 Meticulously accurate and beautiful
scale drawing profiles by Mark Styling.
A third generation Japanese American (Sansei) Henry Sakaida has spent much of his life researching the shadowy history of the Japanese fighter pilot. His eye for detail, and exhaustive research, has led him to being given access to much archive material by former aces who have remained silent since the end of the war.

The illustration above is color plate # 33. J2M3 - RAIDEN 21 of the 352nd AG, flown by LT. (JG) Yoshihiro Aoki, Omura Airfield, March 1945.

The outcome of the Pacific War was heavily influenced by the results of the naval battles between the Imperial Japanese Fleet and the U.S. Navy. One of the key elements was Japan's large fighter component, which had gained experience over Manchuria, China and Mongolia in the late 1930s. Flying A5Ms, at least 21 pilots achieved Acedom securing air superiority for the invaders. Manufacturer Mitsubishi derived much from these campaigns, producing one of the best fighters of the war, the A6M Zero - sen. Navy pilots proved to be highly skilled when engaged by the Allied Forces in the Pacific. Pilots like Nishizawa, Sagita, and Sakai scoring more than 60 kills each. This book contains comprehensive histories of the elite fighter pilots and the aircraft that they flew.

It was inevitable that Japan and China would eventually go to war. By 1937 relations between the two nations had deteriorated to armed conflict. Chinese pilots were poorly trained. They dropped bombs on the Shanghai City Center, accidentally killing more than 1700 civilians and wounding another 1800. Also the Japanese fighters easily outperformed the Chinese planes. In 1940 the JNAF introduced the new Zero. The JNAF was now experienced in combat and pilots were extremely confident in the new Zero. They were now a dangerous opponent heading into 1941.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor it utilized the most modern aircraft and highly skilled pilots in its history. The Japanese force was comprised of 23 warships, including 6 aircraft carriers, and over 350 aircraft. Only 9 Zeros were lost. Coinciding with the Pearl Harbor strike, Japanese forces launched an all-out attack in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and the Dutch East Indies. The lightning strikes were highly successful.

The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the Pacific War, as the JNAF lost four carriers and more than ten percent of its veteran fighter pilots. To make up for their losses, Japan began mass training of pilots, but with entrance requirements lowered, and flight training shortened, The JNAF would pay dearly for Midway.

In order to isolate Australia from the U.S. it was necessary for Japan to capture Port Moresby. The Japanese invading force was turned back during the Battle of the Coral Sea. American equipment continued to pour into the area, taking Guadalcanal and most important Rabaul. By mid 1944 the fate of Japan's war effort was sealed. After several violent Sea Battles, called the "Marianas Turkey Shoot", the Japanese lost 3 carriers, two more suffered major damage. Also lost were over 300 aircraft and veteran pilots. It would be Japan's worst military disaster. Next was Iwo Jima. The only chance for Japan was to increase their Kamikaze attacks. It was not to be for the JNAF, as the loss of Iwo Jima spelled the end of Japanese resistance, and B-29s by the hundreds pounded all of Japan with incendiaries.

This book is a first class publication full of photos and a large number of interesting personal accounts of veteran Japanese pilots. I was fascinated by the intricate details into the daily lives and experiences of Japan's finest aviators.

Readers will find this book a remarkable account not published previously, I recommend it highly.

Book report written by Wayland Mayo, Website Historian

Index - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9
Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Photos A - Photos B - Photos C

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