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The Kamikaze Campaign 1944-45
by Mark Lardas
Illustrated by Adam Tooby
Osprey Publishing, 2022, 96 pages

This brief history of Japan's Special Attack Corps, which carried out aerial suicide attacks late in the Pacific War, features maps and color illustrations in addition to typical historical photos found in other books. The historical narrative gets presented from the Allied viewpoint based on numerous English-language sources. The chapters focus on strategy, tactics, and equipment with no detailed descriptions of individuals who were involved and with only short descriptions of attacks on selected individual ships.

The author Mark Lardas has written over 40 books, most related to military, naval, or maritime history. He explains how he performed his research for this history (p. 94):

As with most of these books, assembling the information to write it was like solving a jigsaw puzzle. No one source has everything, and often I pulled only a few bits of critical information from the several hundred sources I used. Additionally, many of the popular histories of the kamikaze campaign focus on the tactical aspects  ̶  the pilots and the aircraft. This is understandable, as they offer a compelling story, while the strategic aspects are often confusing.

While this short book provides a generally accurate history of the kamikaze campaign, it contains quite a few errors on specifics. As a few examples, the book states that Zero fighters carried 250-kg bombs in kamikaze attacks (p. 10), but numerous later-model Zero fighters carried 500-kg bombs on suicide missions from Kanoya Air Base during the Battle of Okinawa. The Chronology section indicates that the Japanese Army began kamikaze attacks in the Philippines on November 11, 1944 (p. 7), but the Army carried out prior suicide attacks on November 5 and 7 (Hara 2004, 139, 144). Lardas asserts, "Throughout mid-November, kamikazes were an all-Navy show" (p. 45), but Army Type 4 Heavy Bombers carried out suicide attacks on November 13 and 15, 1944 (1 on each date), and an Army Type 99 Light Bomber executed a suicide attack on November 15 (Hara 2004, 145-6). The author writes that Operation Tan No. 2, which resulted in a Ginga bomber crashing into the aircraft carrier USS Randolph at Ulithi, took place on March 10, 1945 (pp. 7, 68), but the actual date was March 11. There are also several misspellings such as USS Callahan (p. 8) (should be Callaghan), Tokubetiu Kogeki (p. 5) (should be Tokubetsu Kogeki), and Kerama Rhetto (p. 70) (should be Retto).

 The book's most confusing section relates to the 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadron's attack off Iwo Jima on February 21, 1945, which sunk the escort carrier Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), heavily damaged the carrier Saratoga (CV-3), and damaged four other ships. The section starts as follows (p. 65):

To oppose the Allies, Japan initially launched conventional airstrikes from Honshu. The aircraft took off from the IJN's Hatori airfield near Yokosuka, refueling at Hachijo Jima's airfields midway between Honshu and Iwo Jima. The first attacks were made during the night of February 20/21. The US counted 13 separate attacks comprising a total of 18-20 aircraft. These attacks yielded no hits. The escort carriers lacked night-operations equipped fighters, so the Saratoga was sent to protect the escort carrier group; along with the Enterprise, it was one of the two night operations aircraft carriers.

On February 21, a new tokko, the Mitate unit, was organized and sent to strike the Fifth Fleet. The first wave of these kamikazes arrived in the afternoon

There are several errors in the short excerpt above. There was no Hatori Airfield. Probably this should have been written as Katori Airfield, but it not near Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture but rather located in Chiba Prefecture. The 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadron took off from Katori on February 21, 1945, and there is no reference in any known sources of a separate attack on the night of February 20/21. The author does not provide specific references throughout the book, so it cannot be determined where such erroneous information was obtained. To make the above explanation even more confusing, the book's Chronology (p. 7) states that February 21-22 were the dates of Japanese kamikaze attacks at Iwo Jima. The following web pages provide a brief history of the 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadron: Katori Air Base Monument and Iwo Jima 1st and 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadrons Monument.

With the number of errors in this summary history, it is best to steer clear of it and stick with more reliable kamikaze history books such as Robin Rielly's Kamikaze Attacks of World War II: A Complete History of Japanese Suicide Strikes on American Ships, by Aircraft and Other Means (2010).

Source Cited

Hara, Katsuhiro. 2004. Shinsō kamikaze tokkō: Hisshi hitchū no 300 nichi (Kamikaze special attack facts: 300 days of certain-death, sure-hit attacks). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.