Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-1945 Book Review

Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-1945

Series:  Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 13

By Henry Sakaida, Illustrated by Grant Race

Softcover, 96 pages, appendices, 40 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing, April 1997

ISBN-10: ‎1855325292

ISBN-13: 978-1855325296

Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches

The Osprey Aircraft of the Aces currently numbers over 140 volumes and is still growing.  This volume on the JAAF is one of the early efforts in the series and was published twenty-five years ago.  It is noteworthy for two reasons; First, English language references on the Japanese military during World War Two are comparatively rare.  This is especially true of histories of individuals or even specific units.  Second, the format of this book deviates from most other books in the OAoA series.  The typical formula is a chronological narrative with anecdotes from pilots or official reports interspersed with a general history of the war.  In this book the text is comprised of individual biographies of the pilots, each approximately one page in length.  Photographs of the pilots and their aircraft accompany each subject.

In some ways author Henry Sakaida has provided us with a poor man’s version of Hata and Izawa’s Japanese Army Air Force Units and Their Aces, 1931–1945.  This is not entirely accurate, as Hata and Izawa offer a more comprehensive history, while Sakaida’s work is a more accessible introduction, and adds aircraft profiles which are of great interest to modelers.  Both works are valuable additions to a reference library and complement each other nicely.

Illustrator Grant Race has rendered forty excellent aircraft profiles, almost half of which depict the most common JAAF fighter type of the Pacific War, the Ki-43 Hayabusa “Oscar”.  These are particularly useful for modelers who are interested in building aircraft flown by ace pilots and are provided with captions with all the relevant details.  There are also six color renderings of JAAF pilots in a variety of uniforms and flight gear.

The book is still easy to find today, and often at very reasonable prices.  It represents an excellent value, especially considering the general lack of information on Japanese aircraft available to English readers.  Highly recommended for all JAAF enthusiasts.