This 104-page soft cover book is the fourth title in Casemate’s AIR COLLECTION series about Japanese military aircraft. Like its predecessors, it is an English translation of a Spanish title originally published in Spain in 2008. The book includes 170 full-color aircraft profiles, beginning with a twin-seat 1913 Nieuport NG and continuing up to such naval aircraft in service at the end of the war as the Yokosuka D4Y2 Judy and Model 11 Koo Nakajima J1N1-Sa Gekko. It is obvious the author/illustrator has a great knowledge of the subject and the artistic talent to present it visually. Sixty-nine different aircraft types are represented and the nicely rendered illustrations display the variety of color schemes and national markings that were used by the Imperial Japanese Navy during the period. There are no photographs, but they are not necessary.
Although the title and the multitude of full-color profiles clearly identify aircraft as the subject of this book, the author/artist begins his extensive narrative by presenting a well-researched study of Japanese naval warfare that was originally awakened to the “Culture of Western Warfare” when Admiral Perry sailed a fleet of modern US warships into Tokyo harbor in 1853. In fact, the first mention of naval aviation does not occur until aircraft carriers are mentioned on page 20. From there on, in chronological order, the subject is fully covered in detail.
At first, it seemed a bit curious that such an extensive multi-national political/military history preceded covering the subject of Japanese Naval aircraft. But, this reviewer found the first 20 pages to be of value in developing an understanding of how decades of escalating military conflicts between Japan and neighboring China, Russia and Korea both fostered the growth of IJN aviation and contributed to WW II (and may help explain some worldwide tensions that continue to this day).
From that point on, the text describes the history of Japanese naval aviation that lead up to WW II and then carefully explains, in chronological order, the establishment and evolution of fighter, bomber, torpedo, reconnaissance and training units as the war continued. The author documents the years of victories and expansion, and the subsequent reversals that saw the ascendant aggressor become the desperate defender. Cea proves he knows much about the subject and has thoroughly researched it. In some instances, he describes combat operations in considerable detail, including kills claimed by both sides and the exact date of the occurrence.
Unlike Cea’s books on the aircraft of the IJA, this book about IJN aircraft does not devote extensive test to descriptions of tail codes and markings. That is accomplished in a series of brief highlighted text blocks placed adjacent to aircraft illustrations throughout the book (as shown in the example page below). They are adequate, but sometimes might require a bit of ‘translating’ on the reader’s part. Take for example, Mrs. Hopwood’s translation of Mr. Cea’s original Spanish text on page 61 describing tail identification codes painted on Tokoh Kaigun Kokutai aircraft:
“To Ko – In katakana, in both sights of the tail unit, labelled in white in camouflaged aircraft. O – In white or black in both sights of the tail unit. The colour depended if the aircraft was camouflaged or it was not. This indicative was used indistinctly with the previous.”
Putting aside the minor translation challenges, those interested in Japanese military aircraft will find this book to be of value. Those who build models of Japanese Naval aircraft will find much within its pages to guide them. Those who have purchased Cea’s previous titles will, no doubt, want to add this one to their growing collection. It is recommended.
My thanks to Casemate Publishing and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this book.
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