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Suicide Weapon
by A.J. Barker
Ballantine Books, 1971, 160 pages

A.J. Barker, author of Suicide Weapon, misappropriated information from recognized primary sources to create this basic history of Japan's use of suicide weapons in World War II. This photo-filled book devotes about equal space to the following three types of suicide attacks: land-based banzai charges, kamikaze aerial attacks, and kaiten manned torpedo missions.

When giving the history of Japan's kaiten, Barker uses extensive excerpts from the book Kamikaze Submarine by Yokota and Harrington published in 1962 [1]. Barker does not list this book in the Bibliography, and he does not mention elsewhere that his information comes directly from another book.

The chapter on "The human torpedoes" has three quotations from letters of kaiten pilots (p. 63). However, kaiten pilots never wrote these words. Instead, the author took these quotes from letters of kamikaze pilots as published in The Divine Wind by Inoguchi and Nakajima [2].

Japanese names and words have incorrect and inconsistent spellings in this book. Even when copying from another book, the author makes mistakes in spellings. This book contains other historical inaccuracies. For example, Barker alleges that when kaiten pilots were assigned to a mission, "women were theirs for the asking" (p. 63). However, the former kaiten pilot Yutaka Yokota (1962, 37) wrote that there were no women on the small island of Ōtsushima, where the kaiten base was located.

The overall history presented in this book is accurate, primarily because Barker took it from firsthand accounts published by Japanese authors. However, the book provides no references for the sources of specific statements, so readers cannot tell where history ends and speculation begins. The following three books cover much of the same ground as Barker in a more authoritative manner: Suicide Squads by O'Neill, The Divine Wind by Inoguchi and Nakajima, and Kamikaze Submarine by Yokota and Harrington.


[1] For example, the narrative on pages 99-101 is taken from pages 49-53 in Yokota and Harrington's book.

[2] The letter excerpts on page 63 of Suicide Weapon come from pages 198, 207, and 208 in Inoguchi and Nakajima's book.

Sources Cited

Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Yokota, Yutaka, with Joseph P. Harrington. 1962. Kamikaze Submarine (originally published as The Kaiten Weapon). New York: Nordon Publications.