The Last Kamikaze: The Story of Admiral Matome Ugaki
by Edwin P. Hoyt
Praeger, 1993, 235 pages
Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, one of the Imperial Japanese
Navy's top leaders from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war, wrote a 15-volume
diary covering his wartime experiences. This detailed diary serves as a
valuable primary source to understand the thinking of Japan's military leaders.
Edwin P. Hoyt, a military historian who has authored several books on the
Pacific War, uses Ugaki's diary extensively in The Last Kamikaze. The
book's title refers to Ugaki's leading the last kamikaze attack against the
Allied fleet in Okinawa after he listened to the Emperor's surrender message on
Hoyt, who authored a book on Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in
1990, takes up more than half of the book telling the story of Ugaki and
Yamamoto from Pearl Harbor to April 1943, when Yamamoto perished and Ugaki
received serious wounds after American fighters ambushed their planes. This
book tells the story exclusively from the Japanese viewpoint, which provides
many interesting insights into the inner workings of the Imperial Japanese
Navy. Especially fascinating are the two leaders' negative opinions of other
Navy leaders who failed to act decisively at key points during the war. Ugaki's
comments also highlight the lack of cooperation and coordination between the
Japanese Navy and Army.
In 1991, the University of Pittsburgh Press published an
outstanding English-language translation of Ugaki's diary entitled Fading
Victory. Its length of over 700 pages may deter many readers, but its
excellent translation, annotations, and appendices make it far superior to The
Last Kamikaze. Hoyt's book seems to be little more than a condensed version
of the translated diary, with some additional information based on his previous
books on Yamamoto and The Kamikazes. Ugaki's diary makes little
mention of his wife who died in April 1940 and his two sons, and The Last
Kamikaze does not provide additional background on his family relationship
and his personal experiences prior to World War II.
Even though Hoyt used Fading Victory in putting
together Admiral Ugaki's story, he makes some careless mistakes in writing. For
example, he misspells several names key to the history of Japan's kamikaze
attacks, even though Fading Victory correctly translates the names .
Also, he writes that in the winter of 1945 Ugaki's "wife had died more
than three years earlier," but she had died more than four years before
(Ugaki 1991, 117). Although these errors may seem minor, a high-quality historical
work should not contain this many inaccuracies.
The last quarter of the book covers Ugaki's leadership of
the kamikaze attacks from Kyūshū against Allied ships near Okinawa. He took
command of the Fifth Air Fleet in February 1945 and made his headquarters at
the large naval air base in Kanoya, located in far southern Japan. From there
he ordered several mass kamikaze attacks against Allied ships, but ultimately
he could launch no more mass attacks due to lack of fuel, planes, and skilled
pilots. On August 2, he moved his headquarters to Oita City, and from there he
took off in the final kamikaze attack of the war together with ten other planes
under his command. After a final radio message on his way to Okinawa, nothing
more was heard from Ugaki and the planes in his kamikaze attack unit.
Although The Last Kamikaze makes a quite readable
history of the Japanese Navy and the personal story of Vice Admiral Ugaki, more
serious researchers should consider reading Ugaki's entire diary in Fading
Victory. Readers interested specifically in the history of Japan's
kamikazes should also consider other books, since only the final quarter of The
Last Kamikaze deals with Japan's kamikaze attacks. Also, this final part of
the book only talks about attacks in Okinawa, with no mention of the kamikaze
attacks that happened earlier in the Philippines.
1. Takejiro Ohnishi (p. 141) should be Takijiro (Ugaki
1991, 723). Masufuni Arima (p. 140) should be Masafumi (Ugaki 1991, 476). Azuza
Special Attack Unit (p.164) should be Azusa (Ugaki 1991, 547-8). Tachiari air
base (p. 184) should be Tachiarai. Tokuko ki (special attack plane) (p.
223) should be tokko ki.
Ugaki, Matome. 1991. Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome
Ugaki, 1941-1945. Translated by Masataka Chihaya. Edited by Donald M. Goldstein
and Katherine V. Dillon. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.