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
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
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
The last section on "Why Yamato's Specifications Matter Today" gives
- 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
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
Yamato hit by bomb in Sibuyan Sea
(October 24, 1944)