Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II Book Review


Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II

By Ikuhiko Hata and Yasuho Izawa, Translated by Don Cyril Gorham

Hardcover in dustjacket, 432 pages, appendices, and index.  Illustrated with photographs throughout.

Published by Naval Institute Press November 1989

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0-87021-3156

ISBN-13: 978-0-87021-3151

Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.4 x 10.3 inches

Even today, it is comparatively difficult to find detailed information about Japanese military units in the Second World War.  The Pacific Theater was vast, the ocean or jungles swallowed up entire units with their ultimate fates being inferred only after the war by comparison with Allied records.  Most original wartime records and photographs were ordered destroyed by the Japanese government, whether officially held or in private collections.  This periodically results in the re-discovery of some lost detail of interest of historians and modelers, such as the recent revelation of the shape of the stern of the battleship Yamato as revealed by photographs of her wreck.

This work is the result of years of research by the authors, who originally published their findings in Japan in 1975 as Nihon Kaigun Sentoki-tai.  Translator Don Gorham removed another major obstacle for the Western reader by translating their work into English.  What results is a unique insight into the fighter arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy, and is likely to be the definitive reference on the subject for some time to come.

The book is divided into two major sections.  The first is comprised of histories of all the IJN fighter groups whether assigned to aircraft carriers or ashore.  These are supplemented by portraits of the pilots and aircraft where available, and artwork consisting of line drawings illustrating the markings carried by the aircraft.  The second section is biographies of the aces, what is known of their combat records, and their photographs.  These are rarely more than a single page but there are many names here which are virtually unknown in the West.

Historians researching American, German, or British have several volumes detailing the history of aviation units and multiple biographies of notable figures.  Those interested in Japanese aviation have only a few print references to rely upon.  This book fills a major informational void and is a valuable addition to a reference library.  Recommended.