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Book Review
American Aces
American Aces Against the Kamikaze
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

The clashes between US Navy, Marine Corps and USAAF units and the hastily created Special Attack kamikaze units of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) were some of the last large-scale aerial engagements of the Pacific War. Kamikaze strikes came to the fore during the Okinawa campaign in April-May 1945, when mass attacks were made. Japanese Special Attack units had first been introduced in response to the retaking of the Philippines by American forces in late 1944. Overall, Special Attack Units flew some 1900 suicide sorties, losing 900 aircraft in the process. During the course of the fighting, 67 US Navy, 21 Marine Corps and three USAAF pilots became aces, destroying at least five aircraft between March and June 1945. In many ways it was an uneven combat. While many regular JAAF and IJN aviators volunteered for the Special Attack units, a large number of the kamikaze pilots were inexperienced and only recently out of flying training. They also often flew obsolete aircraft. These less experienced aviators were no match for the Hellcat, Corsair, Wildcat, Lightning and Thunderbolt pilots who were at the peak of their game. **

**Quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications Ltd has released American Aces Against the Kamikaze as Number 109 in their Aircraft of the Aces series. It is a paperback book with 96 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions and an informational chart. It has a 2012 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-84908-745-2. As the titles states the book examines and discusses the American aces fight against the Japanese Kamikazes during World War II.

Chapter One: The Beginning
Chapter Two: Okinawa – Prelude To Invasion
Chapter Three: The April Battles
Chapter Four: The Final Battles
Chapter Five: Nightfighters And Near Aces
- Colour Plates Commentary
- Index

The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. Author Edward M Young covers the American Aces and their battles against the Japanese Kamikazes very well and goes into great detail. Anyone interested in American Aces in the Pacific, American Aircraft of the period, Japanese Kamikazes, WWII Naval actions, World War Two aviation will find this book very informative and interesting. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors as I read through the text. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.

There are a total of 84 black and white photographs throughout the book. As the title of the book suggests the majority of the photographs are of the American aces as well as American and Japanese World War II aircraft. The majority of the photographs are nice clear, centered and focused images, however there are a few that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark. I have seen several military photographs that have this look to them so maybe that is just typical. I do know that several military photographs are actually stills taken from video so that could be one reason. With that said the quality of the blurry photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book. The photographs will be of interest to the aviation and military aviation enthusiast as well as the military historian.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.

There are 8 pages of color aircraft illustrations by illustrator Mark Styling covering 32 aircraft and they are very well done. The color plates commentary at the back of the book provides detailed information about each aircraft shown. The front cover art was done by illustrator Mark Postlewaite. The scale aircraft modeler will find value in the color plates as they provide a visual reference to the various aircraft color schemes and markings that were used.

The color illustrations are of the following aircraft:
  • FM-2 Wildcat (BuNo unknown)/white 35 flown by Lt Ralph Elliot Jr, VC-27, USS Savo Island (CVE-78), January 1945
  • F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 17, VF-7, USS Hancock (CV-19, November 1944
  • F6F-5 (BuNo unknown) /white 47 flown by Lt Patrick Fleming, VF-80, USS Ticonderoga (CV-14), November 1944
  • P-38L-5 Lightning 44-25327/black 19 flown by Lt Fernley Damstrom, 7th FS/49th FG, Tacloban, Leyte, December 1944
  • F7F-5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 3 flown by Lt Eugene Valencia, VF-9, USS Yorktown (CV-10), April 1945
  • F6F-5N Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 4 flown by Ens John Orth, VF-9 USS Yoktown (CV-10), May 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 66 flown by Ens Alfred Lerch, VF-10, USS Intrepid (CV-11) April 1945
  • F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 66 of VF/VBF-12, USS Randolph (CV-15, April-May 1945
  • F6F-5 (BuNo unknown)/white 35 flown by Lt James Pearce, VF-17, USS Hornet (CV-12), 18-21 March 1945
  • F6F-5 BuNo 72748/white 33 flown by Lt(jg) Willis Hardy, VF-17, USS Hornet (CV-12), 6 April 1945
  • F6f_5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 10 of VF-30, USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24), April 1945
  • F6F-5 Hellcat BuNo 72522/blue 7 flown by Lt James Cain, VF-45, USS San Jacinto (CVL-30), 23 March 1945
  • F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/blue 16, VF-47, USS Bataan (CVL-29), April-May 1945
  • F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 74, VF-82, USS Bennington (CV-20), April-May 1945
  • F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 111 possibly flown by Lt Thaddeus Coleman, VF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), April-May 1945
  • F6F-5 Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/white 126 of VF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), April-May 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 185 of VBF-83, USS Essex (CV-9), April-May 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 133 flown by Lt Doris ‘Chico’ Freeman, VF-84, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), April-May 1945
  • FM-2 Wildcat (BuNo unknown)/white 18, VC-88, USS Saginaw Bay (CVE-82), April 1945
  • FM-2 Wildcat (BuNo unknown)/white 17 flown by Ens Robert Myers, VC-93, USS Petrof Bay (CVE-80), April 1945
  • FM-2 Wildcat (BuNo unknown)/white 11, VC-84, USS Makin Island (CVE-93), April 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 183 flown by 2Lt Dean Caswell,, VMF-221, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), 28 April 1945
  • F4U-1C Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 310 of VMF-311, Yontan airfield, Okinawa, June 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 530 of VMF-312, Yontan airfield, Okinawa, April-May 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 26 flown by 1Lt Jeremiah O’Keefe, VMF-323, Yontan airfield, Okinawa, April 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 5 of VMF-323, Yontan airfield, Okinawa, May-June 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 422 Palpitatin’ Pauli flown by Captain Floyd Kirkpatrick, VMF-441, Yontan airfield, Okinawa, 28 April 1945
  • F4U-1D Corsair (BuNo unknown)/white 141 flown by Maj Archie Donahue, VMF-451, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), 12 April 1945
  • F6F-5N Hellcat (BuNo unknown)/black F(N)4 flown by Capt Robert Baird, VMF(N)-533, Yontan airfield, Okinawa, June 1945
  • P-47N Thunderbolt, 44-87962/black 10 Bottom’s Up flown by 1Lt William Mathis, 19th FS/318th FG, Ie Shima, May-June 1945
  • P-47N Thunderbolt 44-87911/black 04 Drink’n Sister of Capt John Vogt, 19th FS/318th FG, Ie Shima, 28 May 1945
  • P-47N Thunderbolt 44-87959 flown by Capt Judge Wolfe, 333rd FS/318th FG, Ie Shima, May-June 1945

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.

There are no maps provided in this volume.

There is 1 informational chart provided in this volume and it details:
-Aces of the Okinawa Campaign (Lists 93 United States Aces and their total claims)

As with the text, the captions are well written and are very detailed and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations well. They provide information such as the aircrafts location, variations shown, aircraft markings, pilots and key individuals and other such valuable information. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors as I read through the captions. As I stated before, grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.

This is a very nice reference book that contains many useful photographs and illustrations as well as detailed captions. It details the American aces fight against the Japanese Kamikazes during World War II very well. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

American Warplanes, by Bill Gunston, Crescent Books

You can take a look inside of the book on the Amazon website.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Well written and detailed text and captions Nice photographs and useful artwork
Lows: Some of the photographs are of poor quality
Verdict: An excellent reference book that details the American aces fight against the Japanese Kamikazes during World War II very well.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84908-745-2
  Suggested Retail: US $22.95
  PUBLISHED: Jan 01, 2013
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. 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.


Nice job, Randy. This is a very interesting title. It reminds me that after the war the Pentagon released a finding that the aerial Kamikaze was the most effective offensive weapon the Japanese fielded. Two things struck me, one contemporary, the other post-war in the analysis of aces and kills. One is Jimmy Thatch stating that the Kamikaze was the world's only guided missile. In reality, the US had been operating a guided missile, the TDR-1, in the Solomons before the first Kamikaze attacks. The Germans had Fritz X. The other is the debate about huge Luftwaffe pilot scores on the Eastern Front. I think our pilots against the Kamikaze shows that had they fought day in and day out for months, against a Japan with the industrial capacity of the Soviets, that we would have had pilots with 100s of individual kills.
JAN 02, 2013 - 04:30 AM
Thank you Fred, I appreciate the kind words as always. That really shows a person's dedication to his country and to the Emperor. It would have taken a lot of nerve to do what they did. Thanks, Randy
JAN 07, 2013 - 04:14 PM
Couple of things: I interviewed Ted Crosby who was an "ace in a day" (and later head of Fighter Aces as I recall) and he was a little apologetic that his kills were "only Kamikazes." I told him that US sailors off Guadalcanal would have disagreed. There were two reasons the LW had such astronomic kill levels beyond over-counting which was done by every country. First, their tactical system had the wingman serving as cover for the lead pilot - lead was supposed to do the killing. It was rarely this tidy in a big engagement but there were plenty of LW pilots that never scored. More importantly, they were living in a "target rich" environment. There were very few periods in the war when a LW unit did not have an opportunity to pick a fight. The Western allies rotated their pilots and for most of the war had a big edge in numbers - pickings were simply fewer. But some of our aces that were in the extremely intense battles over the Reich picked up 20+ kills in very short order. (And if they got shot down it was a trip to the Stalag. Erich Hartmann was downed six times - and I'd guess every German "experten" was on the ground at least once but they got back into their planes. Joe Foss got 26 kills at Guadalcanal in about six weeks. That was a target rich environment to put it mildly and if a pilot had kept up that rate of kills they would have been the war's greatest ace in four years. (And Foss was flying over friendly territory. He had a dead stick landing once: that would have been trouble over Rabaul.) In his second tour flying off Emiru - he didn't see a Japanese plane. So, yes, the LW had some uber-aces but if you look at a list of their top 100 pilots and very number were KIA. By mid-44 LW rookies were dogmeat for the infinitely better trained US and RAF pilots.
JAN 08, 2013 - 03:37 PM

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