Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” Units Book Review

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

ISBN-10: ‎1472845048

ISBN-13: ‎978-1472845047

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.

Anatomy of The Ship The Battleship Scharnhorst Book Review

Anatomy of The Ship The Battleship Scharnhorst

By Stefan Draminski

Hardcover, 336 pages, bibliography

Published by Osprey Publishing, January, 2021

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎1472840232

ISBN-13: 978-1472840-23-3

Dimensions: ‎9.98 x 1.16 x 9.83 inches

A battlecruiser is a ship designed with heavy guns, light armor, and high speed.  Their intended niche is generally understood to be as a commerce raider, or as a “cruiser-killer” to counter commerce raiders.  The philosophy is be able to out-run battleships with heavier armament and to out-gun everything else.  Scharnhorst (and her sister Gneisenau) don’t fit neatly into this classification, being both fast and well-armored, but only having a main battery of nine 28 cm (11 inch) guns.  Long described as battlecruisers, it has more recently become common to refer to them as battleships.

Regardless of the semantics, Scharnhorst was a handsome ship, as is ably demonstrated by this book.  The opening chapter is a technical description of the design, which is followed by a chronology of her service history.  Both of these sections are well illustrated with photographs.  The remainder of the book is comprised of line drawings and full-color computer rendered perspectives of the ship and her component systems.  The cover indicates there over 600 drawings and 400 “colour 3D views”.  These are a treasure-trove for the modeler.  Given that several of the details are of equipment common to other Kriegsmarine vessels, they will be of use for anyone studying German surface combatants of the Second World War.

The sheer volume of the information makes these books a bargain, each page contains several line drawings and/or renders of specific details.  The renders are beautifully done and quite intricate.  The one criticism I would offer is more of the 3D views should have a full page to themselves – only a dozen are reproduced on their own pages.  A very nice touch is the artist has accounted for several of the various camouflage and marking schemes in the renders, so it is possible to see the paint evolve along with the equipment changes over time.

This book contains loads of detail and is presented well, in keeping with the standards of the Anatomy of the Ship series.  It is an indispensable reference for the ship modeler, a cornucopia of information for the naval enthusiast, and a great value considering the volume of content.  Recommended for any naval history collection.

B-25 Mitchell Units of the CBI Book Review

B-25 Mitchell Units of the CBI

By Edward M. Young, Illustrated by Jim Laurier

Series:  Osprey Combat Aircraft Number 126

Softcover, 96 pages, index, photographs, 30 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing, December 2018

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎1472820363

ISBN-13: ‎978-1472820365

Dimensions: ‎7.33 x 0.26 x 9.8 inches

The China-Burma-India theater is the forgotten front of the Second World War.  From the Allied perspective, it was always a backwater at the far end of an over-extended supply chain, and a priority lower than Europe or even the Pacific, which suffered from its own lack of material support early in the war.  For the Imperial Japanese Army it was the primary focus and the IJA enjoyed successes up until the last year of the war.  For the Imperial Japanese Navy the theater barely existed, and for the Chinese it was the only war.  In the West little of the Chinese wartime history is known, likely due to the language barrier and the historical revisions imposed by the Communist regime after the Chinese Civil War.

Despite the vast geographical area involved, there was only a limited commitment of airpower in the theater, the American medium bomber component being comprised of just three groups of B-25 Mitchells.  The Allies had no access to shipping ports through China, and a limited roadway from India was not established until late in the war.  All parts and supplies, including fuel and bombs, had to be flown in over the “Hump” by transport aircraft, a costly and time-consuming process.  In addition, the monsoon season prohibited operations of any kind for several months and made life miserable for both sides.  These factors resulted in reducing the number of sorties flown by an already small force.

Most of the missions assigned were of the same type flown by medium bombers in other theaters – the interdiction of supply lines.  In the CBI this took the form of bridges, rail lines, and shipping.  Bridges were particularly problematic as only a direct hit on the piers or spans would result in damage, and the Japanese proved adept at repairs.  Only after the 341st Bomb Group perfected a glide bombing technique did the attacks become effective.  The devastation was compounded as a dropped span resulted in congestion in rail marshaling yards, the concentrated locomotives and cars providing a lucrative target for B-25s configured as strafers. This title conforms to the quality and format expectations for Osprey subjects.  The profiles, as always are superb and the highlight of the volume.  Coverage of lesser-known Groups fighting in neglected campaigns is always welcome.  I was struck by the similarities in missions flown by the Mitchells in the CBI and medium bomber Groups fighting in the Italian Campaign.  A good book and welcome addition to the series, recommended.

The Coral Sea 1942 Book Review

The Coral Sea 1942: The first carrier battle

Osprey Campaign Series Book 214

By Marke Stille, Illustrated by John White

Softcover in dustjacket,  96 pages, profusely illustrated, index

Published by Osprey Publishing, November 2009

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1-84603-440-4

Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.2 x 9.5 inches

The Imperial Japanese Navy planned Operation Mo to seize Port Moresby on the southern coast of New Guinea for the purpose of isolating Australia and threating Allied air bases there.  This would help secure the southern frontier of their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and protect their bases at Rabaul.  Supporting the Japanese invasion fleet were the large aircraft carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku and the light carrier Shoho.  American and British signals intercepts warned Admiral Nimitz of the impending operation, and he decided to contest the invasion by sending all four of his available aircraft carriers, although Enterprise and Hornet did not arrive in time to participate in the battle.

The battle was the first naval engagement fought entirely by aircraft.  Although the opposing fleets were often in close proximity they never sighted each other.  The Americans lost the aircraft carrier Lexington, with Yorktown damaged, while the Japanese lost the light carrier Shoho, with Shokaku damaged.  With Zuikaku’s air group depleted the Japanese determined the landings at Port Moresby could not be supported and cancelled the invasion.

Both sides claimed victory.  On the Allied side, the threat to Australia was abated and the Japanese juggernaut was turned back for the first time in the war.  On the other hand, the Japanese thought they had sunk two American carriers.  Their own fleet carriers could be repaired and their air groups replenished, and the IJN would enjoy a two to one superiority in aircraft carriers in the meantime.  In reality, damage to the Yorktown was (quite heroically) repaired in time for her to participate in the Battle of Midway, while neither Zuikaku nor Shokaku were present.

Author Mark Stille has done an excellent job of documenting the events leading up to the Battle of the Coral Sea as well as the play-by-play of the battle itself.  Naval battles are complex affairs, but the graphics-intense format of the Osprey Campaign series shines in making a clear presentation of the ship and aircraft maneuvers.  The length of this work is just enough to present this engagement well.  This is one of the better volumes of this series and well worth picking up.

Sherman’s March to the Sea 1864 Book Review

Sherman’s March to the Sea 1864: Atlanta to Savannah

By David Smith, Illustrated by Richard Hook

Series: Osprey Campaign Series Number 179

Softcover, 96 pages, profusely illustrated, index

Published by Osprey, February 2007

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84603-035-8

ISBN-13: 978-1-84603-035-2

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches

Sherman’s March to the Sea is one of better-known campaigns of the American Civil War.  It has been described as an example of “scorched earth” or “total war”, but it did not see the intentional destruction of the civilian population or their personal property as a goal.  In fact, Sherman’s orders specifically protected the general population and prohibited destruction of houses and other property unless his army was itself opposed or impeded.

While civilians were not the direct target, destroying the economy of Georgia and removing the state’s ability to contribute to the war effort was the goal.  Sherman was operating deep in enemy territory, and instructed his armies to supply themselves by foraging.  Food, cattle, horses, and mules were to be appropriated where found.  Any government buildings or infrastructure necessary to the Confederate war effort was to be destroyed, including railroads and cotton gins.

The March began with the burning of Atlanta on November 15th, and ended with the surrender of Savanna on December 20th.  Sherman divided his armies into two columns which left a wide path of destruction in their wakes.  Confederate resistance was weak and sporadic, the only meaningful opposition being offered by Wheeler’s cavalry which was too badly outnumbered to do much more than conduct harassing attacks.

In the end, Sherman’s March was successful – the economic devastation of Georgia ended the state’s contribution to the Confederate war effort – in fact the effects would be felt for decades.  I was surprised to read of the political wrangling behind the scenes.  Lincoln faced re-election in November 1864, his Democratic opponent George McClellan was running on a platform of negotiating a peace with the South.  With the conduct of the war being the hot political issue, it was not until after the fall of Atlanta that Lincoln felt politically secure.  Sherman also made a political maneuver, offering Georgia’s Governor Joseph Brown to spare his state’s destruction if he would withdraw Georgia from the rebellion.  It is interesting to ponder the ramifications of a McClellan presidency with negotiated end to the war, as well as the cessation of Georgia from the Confederacy in 1864. This is a well-balanced volume in Osprey’s Campaign series, just enough to give a decent overview while brief enough to digest in an evening.  Recommended.

World War II US Cavalry Units Book Review

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World War II US Cavalry Units: Pacific Theater

Osprey Elite Series Book 175

By Gordon L. Rottman, illustrated by Peter Dennis

Softcover, 64 pages, bibliography, and index

Published by Osprey Publishing October 2009

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84603-451-0

ISBN-13: 978-1-84603-451-0

Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.9 inches

A minor bit of trivia is that most nations still had horse-mounted cavalry units at the beginning of the Second World War, a few nations retaining them until the end.  For the U.S. Army, the Louisiana Maneuvers in 1941 demonstrated that the cavalry could not keep pace with mechanized units and even the most die-hard officers realized the era of the horse was near an end.  Still, the last combat actions of the U.S. cavalry were in the defense of the Philippines – the last U.S. cavalry charge was on 16JAN42 when a platoon from the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) charged a vastly superior Japanese force crossing the river at Morong and held until reinforced.  They continued to fight as cavalry until starvation of the troops at Bataan forced them to slaughter their mounts for food in March.  Thereafter they fought as infantry, many forming the nuclei of guerrilla groups rather than surrender.

Most U.S. cavalry regiments gave up their horses and transitioned into infantry regiments during the war.  The 112th Regiment was noteworthy in deploying to New Caledonia and equipping with Australian horses.  It was soon found that the horses were not well suited for the jungle terrain and that they did not find sufficient nourishment in the local vegetation, compelling the 112th to return their mounts and reorganize as infantry in March 1943.  A peculiarity of the horseless cavalry units is they maintained their traditions, keeping uniform articles such as specialized boots and their organizational structure.  Compared to standard infantry regiments a cavalry regiment was half the strength and lacked many of the heavier supporting weapons.  The cavalry was also organized with two rifle troops per squadron, while the infantry had three rifle companies plus a weapons company per battalion.  This made the horseless cavalry regiments weaker and less tactically flexible than standard infantry regiments.

Given the unusual subject, I found this book fascinating.  It is a standard-format Osprey Elite volume, brief but well-illustrated.  It is of the “facts and figures” style, listing the component elements of the units described and their actions, but this gives the reader a firm understanding of organization and composition of these unusual formations.  Recommended for those nostalgic for the cavalry or curious about their transition from the horse.

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The Battleship USS Iowa Anatomy of the Ship Book Review

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The Battleship USS Iowa Anatomy of The Ship

By Stefan Draminski

Hardcover, 352 pages, line drawings and 3-D renderings throughout

Published by Osprey Publishing, January 2020

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472827295

ISBN-13: 978-1472827296

Dimensions: 10.2 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches

Most modelers and military history buffs are familiar with the Anatomy of the Ship series.  The majority of these books were published during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and are mainly devoted to detailed line drawings of the subject vessel and her fittings.  The publishing history is convoluted – they were published by Conway Maritime Press in Great Britain, along with both Phoenix and the U.S. Naval Institute in the United States.  After a long hiatus the series is again being produced with updated volumes on previous subjects along with new titles.

The current iterations have featured red covers up to this point.  Conway published an updated volume on the Yamato and Musashi, the next volume is published by Osprey and the subject is the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61).  The new series retains the line drawing format of the original, but adds a striking new element in the form of full-color computer rendered perspective views.  These are consistent with the style of Kagero’s Super Drawings in 3D series.  Most page spreads contain a mix of the standard line drawings and color perspective views, this proves quite effective in conveying the appearance of the specific detail.  The result is a book with two to three times the content of the original. One thing I feel is under appreciated about books such as this is that much of the equipment was standardized and was common to ships of other classes, so the drawings will be of interest even if researching an entirely different ship which utilizes the same items of equipment.

In the case of Iowa, the author has constructed nine individual computer models to present the ship during different periods.  The Iowa was frequently refitted, and her appearance changed after each shipyard availability, sometimes drastically.  The reader can follow these modifications chronologically with the turn of a page.  The renderings show many of the interior spaces of the ship, some as cut-aways, others as expanded layers.  I did my service aboard the Iowa’s sistership Missouri (BB-63) from 1985-89, so it was interesting for me to find many very familiar details.  Others were different, either due to era or the inevitable differences in construction between sisters.  There were a few strange omissions.  The main battery turrets and their interiors are covered well, but only the exteriors of the 5”/38 mounts are shown.  The interior of the bridge is absent, and only the basic layouts of Engineering spaces are represented.  Having said that, what is there is spectacular, and I’m sure I’ll be studying this book for hours.  I was a fan of the series before the addition of the color perspective renderings, given the amount and quality of the content these new books are bargains.  Highly recommended.

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Yangtze River Gunboats Book Review

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Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49

Osprey New Vanguard Series Book 181

By Angus Konstam, illustrated by Tony Bryan

Softcover, 48 pages, index, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing, June 2011

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84908-408-4

ISBN-13: 978-1-84908-408-6

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.6 x 9.8 inches

Foreign trade with China was opened in 1858 with the treaty of Tientsin.  While nominally one country, there was no real central authority, actual power being vested in local warlords with their own interests.  The treaty gave foreign powers the right to trade along the Yangtze River on very favorable terms, and allowed for the protection of foreign nationals and interests by their own military forces.  Along with troops in the various ports, the Yangtze saw the presence of fleets of small, heavily-armed vessels whose Captains were charged with protecting their nation’s citizens and had broad discretion to do so.  The peak period of what became known as “gunboat diplomacy” lasted from the Boxer Rebellion in 1901 to the beginning of the Second World War.

Several European nations, along with the United States and Japan, sent gunboats to the Yangtze, the local commanders often cooperating to support each other and achieve common goals.  The book describes several ship designs and military incidents, focusing mainly on the vessels of the United States and Great Britain due to space constraints.  Of these, two actions stand out for me, both of which involve Royal Navy ships.  HMS Cockchafer (illustrated on the cover) was instrumental in the rescue of two British steamers and their crews seized by a local warlord in 1926, supported by HMS Widgeon and a boarding party aboard SS Kiawo.  The second incident centered around the Black Swan-class sloop HMS Amythyst (F116), which effectively brought an end to the Yangtze Patrol in 1949.  With the Chinese Communists in power, she was engaged by shore batteries, damaged, and trapped in the river with her Captain killed.  Over the next ten weeks major diplomatic standoff ensued, which was resolved when Amethyst made a daring nighttime dash down one hundred miles of river, running the Communist gauntlet to rejoin the Royal Navy fleet at Woosung.

Like all the books in the Osprey New Vanguard series, space limitations preclude anything more than a brief overview of the topic presented.  For those interested in learning more about the Amythyst, there are several newsreels available online as well as the 1957 feature film Yangtse Incident: The Story of HMS Amethyst.  An excellent depiction events from the U.S. perspective is the 1966 film The Sand Pebbles starring Steve McQueen.  This is a fictionalized account set in 1926 which draws on several historical incidents to tell its story.

A valuable introduction to an interesting topic, I can recommend this volume.  It is well illustrated with period photographs and quality artwork specifically commissioned for this book.  While not the most attractive ships, several of the gunboats represented would make for fascinating large-scale models.

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Stryker Combat Vehicles Book Review

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Stryker Combat Vehicles

By Gordon L. Rottman, illustrated by Hugh Johnson

Series: Osprey New Vanguard 121

Softcover, 48 pages, index, well-illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing July 2006

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84176-930-4

ISBN-13: 978-1-84176-930-1

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.1 x 9.8 inches

The Stryker family of armored vehicles is one of the most common types in U.S. inventory with more than 4,400 having been purchased.  The standard configuration is the armored personnel carrier which carries a crew of two and nine infantrymen.  Other versions include a reconnaissance version, a mobile gun system with an unmanned 105 mm gun turret, a mortar carrier, command vehicle, and various supporting functions such as engineering, ambulance, and forward observation.

While the U.S. Army has purchased the Stryker in large numbers, it still remains controversial.  It is only nominally deployable using the USAF C-130, as it is a tight fit and so near the maximum permissible weight that the crew and combat load must be transported separately – up-armored versions cannot be loaded at all.  The recoil of the mobile gun system commonly overturned the vehicle in tests and so has not been fielded.  It is not amphibious like the Marines’ LAV-25; there are no firing ports or vision blocks provided for the infantrymen like the Army’s Bradly IFV.  Perhaps most inexplicable is the cost – at $4.9 Million per vehicle the Army could purchase either four Bradlys or five LAV-25s for the same price, and both of the other vehicles were better armed and already in production.

This book is in the format familiar to readers of the Osprey New Vanguard Series.  The descriptions are brief but adequate, the artwork and photographs are superb.  It is an enjoyable and informative read.  I was not familiar with the Stryker and picked up this volume in an attempt to figure out why it was purchased in such great numbers when there were some obviously superior alternatives already in service.  Now that I am more familiar with the Stryker, I am even more mystified.

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Hasegawa Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero of Takeo Okumura in 1/72 Scale

The fifth leading Imperial Japanese Navy ace was Takeo Okumura with 54 victories.  The model represents WI-108, an A6M3 Type 22 assigned to the 201 Kokutai at Buin in September 1943.  The only profile I was able to locate of this aircraft was in Osprey Aces 22, IJN Aces 1937-45, which was depicted in a badly chipped paint job.  Most photographs of operational Zeros show little or no chipping, so mine is rendered similarly. Okumura was credited with four Chinese aircraft prior to the start of the Pacific War.  He was assigned to the aircraft carrier Ryujo during the Guadalcanal Campaign and was transferred to the Tainan Air Group at Rabaul.  When operating from Buin in September 1943, he was credited with nine victories and one shared over five sorties, a record for the Pacific War.  He was lost at the end of the month attacking a convoy off Cape Cretin, New Guinea.

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More Zero aces completed models here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/04/15/tamiya-mitsubishi-a6m2-zero-of-saburo-sakai-in-1-72-scale/