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Book Review
Kamikaze Weapons
KAMIKAZE Japanese Special Attack Weapons 1944-45
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

KAMIKAZE Japanese Special Attack Weapons 1944-45
Series: New Vanguard 180
48 Pages
By Steven J. Zaloga
Illustrator: Ian Palmer
$17.95, 9.99 GBP
ISBN 978-1-84908-353-9

The single most effective air weapon developed by the Japanese was the suicide plane. So is the conclusion of the postwar American study on Japanese air power. Though the legend of Shimpu, better known as Kamikaze, the divine wind, is well known for the aerial attacks, Kamikaze was more. It was air, sea and land, employing suicide submarines, tanks, frogmen, and infantry charging at tanks with lunge mines.

With Japanese tactics and technology eroding into military ruin by 1944 the military began secret discussions about organized suicide attacks, known as “Tokko” (Tikubetsu kogeki: special attack). Tokko was not Jibaku, the occasional, intentional crashing of a plane into a ship or installation (Jibaku was neither organized nor ordered). Tokko developed from a cadre of volunteers with some modified aircraft.

The tactics and equipment ranged from sophisticated to sophomoric. And from the first “official” Tokko by Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima on October 15, 1944, Tokko created a terrifying fascination that persists to this day.

Steven J. Zaloga is regarded for his erudite work and this book is no exception. He brings us this synopsis of Kamikaze Tokko weapons through 48 pages organized in 10 sections:

-- Tokko Effectiveness
-- The Okha
-- Special Attack Aircraft – The Ki-115 Tsuragi
-- Kaiten Operations
-- Midget Submarines
-- Crash Boats
-- The Army Renraku-Tei Boats
-- Initial Boat Combat
-- Tokko Craft in the Final Defense Of Japan
-- Kamikaze Frogmen
-- Army Kamikaze Weapons

The text features information from little-known US Intelligence reports and photographs that are not widely published. Mr. Zaloga enhances the information with seven charts detailing the numbers and effectiveness of the weapons and tactics. Examples are:

• The effectiveness of Kamikazes hits on aircraft carriers compared to bombs, submarine torpedoes, and aerial torpedoes
• Kamikaze damage by ship type
• Kaiten attacks
• Kamikaze aircraft production projected through December 1945

Readers new to in-depth Kamikaze studies will be acquainted with the Japanese mindset from which Tokko sprang; by late 1943 Japanese air attacks were suffering 70% losses for little real damage. In particular, what Japan envisioned as the decisive battle to defeat America’s central Pacific offensive, the great Battle of the Philippine Sea in June of 1944, is better known as The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot; it was the death ride of Japan’s remaining carrier aviation.

Japanese commanders conducted tests that showed that trained crews could only effect about a 25% hit rate, whereas suicide pilots were almost certain to hit their target. It was reasoned that if Japan’s aircrews were to be lost anyway, their loss should not be futile. On land the Imperial Japanese Army really had no defense against America’s M-4 Sherman tank. Under the ocean the Navy’s submarines, like the air forces, were increasingly losing more for less gain. At the beachhead, mortars, machine guns and howitzers were not stopping the waves of Allied landing craft. Something needed to be done to stem the tide until Japan’s militarists could think of another way to deal with the whirlwind they had sown.

Photographs and Illustrations
Forty-two photographs enrich this work, several are in color. You will recognize many if you have read a few books on the Pacific war: horrific photographs of disintegrating aircraft moments from impact, billowing gasoline explosions rising off ships. Also several photos new to me such as the crash boats, Kaitens in dock, and Okha bombs to be rail-launched from caves.

Artist Ian Palmer has illustrated many titles for Osprey and his work here continues to please. He brings to this work specially commissioned artwork of Tokko weapons, including cutaways of the Kaiten suicide submarine, the MXY7 Okha piloted rocket bomb, Japanese Kamikaze planes, and the IJN Shinyo Type 1 Mod 4 crash boat. Also included are dramatic scenes of Okha aerial launches and prowling submarines equipped with Kaiten. Finally, there are illustrations of Kamikaze frogmen and infantry from US military manuals to round out the graphics.

Mr. Zaloga is known for his excellent work and this book is no exception. If you expect an in-depth tome of Kamikaze weapons and actions, this book is not it. This book is an appetite whetting work that does an effective job of introducing you to Tokko weapons. To me the graphics are worth acquiring the book for. I found only a single questionable typo, the caption of a still from a film about Kamikaze pilots dated November 1945. I highly recommend this book.

Please remember, when contacting manufacturers and sellers, to mention you saw this book here—on Aeroscale.
Highs: Authoritatively researched, documented, and presented. An excellent selection of illustrations and photographs.
Lows: A typo in a caption.
Verdict: Those of you interested in a basic overview of Kamikaze weapons should find this a useful work.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84908-353-9
  Suggested Retail: $17.95, 9.99 GBP
  PUBLISHED: Jun 17, 2011
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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