Kamikaze: Japanese Special Attack Weapons 1944-1945

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Steven J. Zaloga, Illustrated by Ian Palmer
Other Publication Information
Paperback, June 2011; 48 pages
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Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Front cover

Any student of the Pacific War will be familiar with Japan’s use of thousands of conventional aircraft – fighters, bombers, trainers and nearly every other type flown by her Army and Naval Air Forces – into “Special Attack” weapons: the Kamikazes. What is less understood is Japan’s development and use of purposely designed suicide weapons. Author Steven Zaloga is well known for his extensive writing on the subject of military fighting vehicles. In this Osprey New Vanguard edition, he as done a superb job of highlighting all the various types of air, sea and land weapons used by the Japanese Army and Navy “Tokko” (special attack) units.

The opening pages set up the circumstances following the U.S. invasions of the Marianas and Philippine Islands that brought about the formation of the initially voluntary, and later designated, kamikaze units. The organization and stockpiling of conventional aircraft squadrons for kamikaze attacks was soon followed by each service’s design of purpose built suicide aircraft. The Navy first designed the rocket powered Ohka, to be carried to its target by the G4M Betty bomber. Successive variants included a smaller version carried by the P1Y1 Francis and a jet powered model carried by the G8N1 Rita, as well as a land launched version. Consideration was even given to using the Kikka jet aircraft under development as a suicide weapon. The Army converted its Ki-67 Peggy and Ki-49 Helen bombers into specialized Tokko weapons, while designing the simple Ki-115 Tsuragi for use by less skilled pilots. The Army also developed air units for specialized ramming attacks on B-29 bombers, and commandos for attacks on U.S. airfields in the Marianas and Okinawa.

The Navy’s use of Kaiten suicide submarines is well known, but the author has looked in detail into the development and operation of the various versions of the Kaiten, as well as other midget subs, suicide motor boats (Navy and Army) and mine carrying frogmen. The depths of Japan’s desperation is well illustrated when one tries to imagine the thousands (yes, thousands) of barely trained frogmen envisioned by Imperial Headquarters attempting to maneuver in the swirling, exploding waters beneath waves of Allied landing craft. How they were supposed to plunge their mine-tipped lances into the bottoms of these craft under those conditions almost defies imagination. The author even touches on the use of Army suicide weapons against American armor in the Philippines, Okinawa, and in planning for the defense of the Home Islands.

This is a very well written overview of a wide variety of weapons that Japan developed in the final year of the War. Author Zaloga has focused attention on those weapons that gained some operational use, and described many less well known alternatives under development. The illustrations are exceptional throughout the volume, and many of the photos have not been widely seen in print before now. Thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/UISA for providing this review sample.


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