American Aces Against the Kamikaze

ISBN: 978 1 84908 745 2
Review Date:

Near the end of the war, as the Americans neared, the Japanese turned to organized suicide attacks, hoping that it would show the Japanese determination to defend their homeland. Known to the Japanese military as "special attack units" (tokkotai) or as the more poetic form shinpu and known to the Americans as kamikaze (an alternate pronunciation of shinpu), these self-sacrificing attacks were theoretically highly accurate, and indeed those that successfully made contact with enemy ships caused horrific damage. A high number, however, were shot down in the process by American pilots, and during this process granting many Americans ace status. Edward Young's American Aces Against the Kamikaze documented the aerial victories of some of these aces in the skies over the Philippines, Japan, and the waters in-between. As the title suggested, the author's viewpoint was that of the Americans, detailing many of the exciting aerial battles, whether intense dogfights or shooting fish in a barrel, in a play-by-play fashion. Although neither a comprehensive guide on the development of special attack tactics nor on the defense against the determination of would-be martyrs (nor did I imagine that the author intended this volume to be comprehensive), this book was nevertheless a great read for me. Recently finishing a biography of German ace Hans-Joachim Marseille, I was especially intrigued by the similarities and, more often than not, contrasts between these aerial battles; desperation was probably the term that I could use to distinguish these engagements, both reflecting the Japanese last ditch effort to stop the American juggernaut and the American attempts to stop these relatively small weapons from causing the massive amounts of damage that they could potentially cause. American Aces Against the Kamikaze would be a great addition to those interested in this topic; at its small size of fewer than 100 pages, it might be interesting to pick up from the library for those with passing interest as well.

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