Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War Book Review


Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War

By René J. Francillon, technical illustrations by J. B. Roberts

Hardcover in dustjacket, 570 pages, illustrated with photographs and drawings

Published by Putnam & Company 1979 (second edition), Naval Institute Press 2000 (seventh edition)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0370302516

ISBN-13: 978-0370302515

Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1.7 inches

This book has been in my library for four decades.  I consider it an indispensable reference, and it is generally the first place I look when researching Japanese aircraft.  It has seen at least seven printings from three different publishers and has not been surpassed as a definitive resource.  It is not hard to find on the secondary market at a reasonable price and it is well worth locating a copy if you haven’t already.

As preliminaries Francillon gives a series of brief histories to provide the reader with the necessary context for the work which follows.  He describes the Japanese aircraft industry through the end of the Pacific War, then the histories of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and Imperial Japanese Navy aviation.  The aircraft designation system is next, and there is a general history of the camouflage and marking systems and how they evolved.

The bulk of the book is devoted to describing each aircraft type produced or used by Japan during the Second World War, arranged by service, manufacturer, and specific type.  This is a technical and design history which shows the production and evolution of the aircraft and lays out the deployment of each.  There is at least one photograph and a three view line drawing per design and often there are several, followed by technical data and performance figures in both English and metric units.  Some of the more obscure and less important types only get a few pages, those with more central roles get more.  For example, the A6M series covers no less than sixteen pages.

Appendixes describe lesser types which were mainly conversions or designs which did not enter service (think of the “what if” fodder for the Nippon ’46 crowd) and foreign aircraft in Japanese service.  There are appendixes of armament and engines, and a listing of aircraft carrying vessels of both the Navy and the Army (the Imperial Japanese Army did in fact have its own aircraft carriers which it used for escort work).

This is the definitive technical reference for Japanese aircraft.  I doubt it will ever be surpassed, I’m not sure how it could be.  If you have an interest in Japanese aircraft and don’t already own a copy, do yourself a favor and pick one up, you will not regret it.