HMS Fencer (D64) was a Bogue-class escort carrier transferred to the Royal Navy under Lend-Lease, where they were known as the Attacker class. Fencer operated in the Atlantic in the convoy escort role, typically carrying a composite airgroup of Wildcats and Avengers. This is a Wildcat V of 842 NAS which operated aboard Fencer during the Summer of 1944. The aircraft is camouflaged in the Temperate Sea scheme, decals are from Xtradecal sheet X72-141.
Anatomy of The Ship The Aircraft Carrier Hiryū
By Stefan Draminski
Hardcover, 336 pages, bibliography
Published by Osprey, July 2022
Dimensions: 10.3 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
The Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryū 飛龍 (Flying Dragon) was built to a modified Sōryū design. While the two ships are often referred to as near-sisters, the Hiryu incorporated a number of revisions intended to strengthen her structurally, improve seakeeping, and reduce top weight. The most obvious visual difference is that her island was located on the port side of the ship. Only one other aircraft carrier, Akaki, was fitted with a port-side island. At the time of her commissioning, Hiryū was the fastest aircraft carrier ever built.
Hiryū was commissioned on 05JUL39 and led a very active service life. She supported the Japanese invasion of Indochina and the blockade of China. Then she was one of the six aircraft carriers of the Kido Butai which attacked the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor. She and Sōryū were then detached to bolster the attack on Wake Island. After rejoining the Fleet in Japan, they next supported the invasion of the Duch East Indies, and then attacked Darwin and Java. The Kido Butai then raided the Indian Ocean, sinking several Royal Navy ships including the aircraft carrier Hermes. She was one of the four Japanese fleet carriers sent to support the invasion of Midway. After U.S. Navy dive bombers hit the Akagi, Kaga, and Sōryū, Hiryū remained unscathed and was able to launch two strikes against the USS Yorktown (CV-5) which took her out of the fight. Her reprieve was not to last long, as she was in turn hit by dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown which led to her sinking.
Imperial Japanese Navy warships are fascinating, and any new additions to the published works are welcome, particularly in English. For this book author Stefan Draminski was able to access surviving copies of shipyard drawings from Hiryū’s construction. He has used these to produce detailed line drawings and 3D renders of the ship’s hull and fittings. Several of these are useful for modelers working on other IJN subjects as many pieces of equipment were common to other ships as well. The cover lists 600 drawings and 400 3D renders. I didn’t count them, but that sounds about right. Several of the drawings are sections of the ship which reveal the internal structures. There are also several full-page renders which show the aircraft spotted on deck for each wave of the Pearl Harbor strike.
Overall, a beautiful book on an interesting ship. For the sheer volume of information it is quite a bargain. It is easy to get lost in this book and spend hours going through the pages. Highly recommended for all Imperial Japanese Navy fans.
Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” Units
Series: Osprey Combat Aircraft 140
By Mark Chambers, Illustrated by Jim Laurier
Softcover, 96 pages, index, 30 color profiles
Published by Osprey Publishing, September 2021
Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches
The D4Y Suisei (Comet) was a Japanese carrier-based dive bomber, designed to replace the Aichi D3A “Val”. It was initially powered by a license-built Daimler-Benz DB 601 twelve-cylinder inline engine which gave it an impressive speed and sleek profile. Later versions were powered by a Mitsubishi Kinsei 42 fourteen-cylinder radial engine due to reliability and maintenance issues with the inlines. The type suffered from an unusually long developmental period while various bugs were worked out, which delayed its service introduction until the middle of the Pacific War. By then Japan had suffered numerous setbacks, and the general decline in pilot training and loss of aircraft carriers reduced the potential impact of the design.
The book covers the Judy’s design history and operational service, along with reconnaissance, dive bombing, nightfighter, and Kamikaze variants. The type was first used operationally when a developmental aircraft was used for reconnaissance, flying from Soryu during the Battle of Midway. Similarly, the fourth prototype operated from Shokaku during the Battle of Santa Cruz in October 1942. Notable successes were the sinking of USS Princeton (CVL-23) by a Judy Kamikaze, and the near-sinking of the USS Franklin (CV-13) by conventional dive-bombing attack. Kamikaze operations are covered in detail, with a number of pages devoted to the tactics and procedures which they employed. The final section is devoted to the use of the Judy as a nightfighter.
Like the rest of the Osprey Combat Aircraft series the highlight of the book is the full-color profiles. These are well-rendered and thoroughly researched. However, like most Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft, the camouflage was limited to the green over gray scheme with only some variation in the standard markings so there is not much variety. The earliest profiles are of 1943 machines, so if you’re looking for the Midway or Santa Cruz Judys you’ll need to keep looking. Despite that the book is well-researched and enlightening, and any book on Japanese aircraft (particularly in English) is most welcome. Recommended.
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
By Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully
Hardcover in dustjacket, 640 pages, appendices, notes, and index
Published by Potomac Books, November 2005
Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.8 x 10.0 inches
The Battle of Midway is regarded by many historians as the turning point of the war in the Pacific. Many articles and books have been written about the battle. Most of them are wrong.
Shattered Sword examines primary source material to tell the story of the Battle of Midway from the Japanese perspective. Furthermore, the analysis does not just start with the battle, but examines the Japanese plans from a strategic perspective and shows the effect of the Imperial Navy’s doctrine on the conduct of the battle. The internal competition with the Imperial Army had a much larger role in Japanese naval operations than is generally realized, and this had huge implications in both the campaign planning and distribution of forces.
The authors also take a deep dive into the design and equipment of the four Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway and how these factors affected the operation and employment of the air groups. By determining what was possible for the ships and crews to do, they have ruled out several persistent myths about what the Japanese did do and have set the record straight. Doctrine also plays a huge role in the decisions which are made in any engagement, as navies fight as they train. An Admiral decides what to do when, doctrine determines how those orders are to be executed. Here again the authors have been able to show why the Japanese fought as they did.
The surviving records have provided several details which are not present in other works on the subject. The authors have been able to pin down the times of launch for individual aircraft as well as the names of aircrew. From this they have been able to determine the number of Zeros over the Japanese fleet at any given time during the morning of 04JUN42. This also conclusively dispels the myth that the Japanese were launching their own strikes against the American carriers when the Dauntless’ dives began. There are also a few surprising facts revealed in these records, such as the ineffectiveness of the Japanese anti-aircraft fire, which only accounted for two American aircraft.
I am confident that this book will be the definitive history of the Battle of Midway from the Japanese perspective for the foreseeable future, at least in the English language. There is room for the story to be told from the American viewpoint with the same scholarly rigor and level of detail, but that history is more readily available to the reader even if it is not compiled in one volume. This is not a quick read, but well worth the time for anyone wanting to understand the Battle of Midway. Recommended without reservation.