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Battleship Yamato: Why She Matters Today
by W. Frederick Zimmerman
Nimble Books, 2008, 36 pages

This curious book, better termed a booklet based on its few pages, contains musings on how battleship Yamato provides valuable lessons today for the United States and its military. Yamato, the world's largest battleship, was commissioned in December 1941 and sank during a suicide mission toward Okinawa when hit by torpedoes and bombs dropped by American warplanes in April 1945. Although few will agree with the applicability of many of the author's arguments, at least the book attempts in a personal way to apply history's lessons.

Some analogies to current events and politics seem shaky. For example, the caption under a photograph (see bottom of page) of Yamato hit by a bomb in the Sibuyan Sea on October 24, 1944, reads (p. 21):

Bombs did little damage against Yamato's armored decks. In air-to-sea combat in World War II, torpedoes were usually the ship-killers: something the U.S. Navy seems to have forgotten with its modern focus on stopping missiles.

The global military environment has changed completely since World War II, so vague generalizations like the one above serve little purpose.

Historical photos, most with detailed captions, make up about half of this book. There is no bibliography and only a handful of footnotes that provide sources. The chapters are ordered chronologically with observations throughout on why Yamato matters today. Yamato's war history is only briefly described with emphasis on lessons for the present. A few spelling and other errors (e.g., Yakasuni rather than Yasukuni Shrine) indicate the need for a more thorough editing.

The last section on "Why Yamato's Specifications Matter Today" gives six lessons:

  • Size matters.
  • Speed matters.
  • Competition matters.
  • Sometimes a lot is too much.
  • Sometimes too much is not enough.
  • Obsolescence happens.

The simplistic explanation under "Sometimes too much is not enough" is only the following sentence: "Despite her unmatched armor protection, Yamato only had a service life of three and a half years."

The last page changes gears completely and includes the following excerpt from the touching farewell letter that Vice Admiral Seiichi Ito, Commander of the Second Fleet led by Yamato, wrote to his wife Chitose before departure of the giant battleship toward Okinawa:

". . . I must take this opportunity to say that the life we have shared was full of happiness. But the time has now come for me, as a naval officer, to meet my end.

. . . I know that you will have difficult and lonely times but to make it easier for you, understand that I believe in what I am doing and that in my last moments I shall be happy.

From the deepest part of my heart I am praying for your happiness. My dearest Chitose.

Yamato hit by bomb in Sibuyan Sea
(October 24, 1944)