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Kamikaze: Japan's Last Bid for Victory
by Adrian Stewart
Pen & Sword Books, 2020, 209 pages

Over the years many general histories about Japan's kamikaze attacks have been published in English. Kamikaze: Japan's Last Bid for Victory retells in a piecework fashion the story of Japanese suicide attacks based on previously published works without adding any noticeable insights or contributions.

The chapters very roughly cover Japan's kamikaze operations chronologically, but many paragraphs jump forward or backward in time from the main narrative as if a patchwork from various sources. Much of this history does not deal specifically with kamikaze attacks that started in October 1944 and continued through the end of the Pacific War. Rather, it discusses related topics such as historical and cultural background, general Pacific War history, and unplanned and spontaneous attacks where pilots tried to ram their targets after their planes had been hit and were going down. Readers need to go through 33 pages before finally reaching the page that describes Vice Admiral Ōnishi's formation in October 1944 of the Navy's Special Attack Corps to carry out suicide attacks on Allied ships. Adrian Stewart, as a British author, focuses much attention on the British Pacific Fleet with a third of the chapter on the Battle of Okinawa about British ships in the Allied forces.

The book has a four-page bibliography, but these books mostly do not specifically deal with Japan's kamikaze operations. Most of Kamikaze: Japan's Last Bid for Victory's paragraphs do not indicate sources for the information. Although the book has several quotations and references to other authors, no page numbers are provided to allow verification of sources. This heavy reliance on previously published sources results in errors, especially when using books that include unreliable or outdated information. The author relies exclusively on English language secondary sources and does not use U.S. Navy primary sources. Japanese sources, other than the few translated to English in these secondary sources, were not utilized in the book's research.

The book's dependence on other secondary sources without independent verification results in several errors. For example, Stewart writes that "the Japanese army only resorted to planned suicide attacks a month or so" after January 29, 1945 (pp. 141-142), but the Japanese Army first formed suicide squadrons in October 1944 and carried out the first suicide attacks in the following month. Between November 1944 and January 1945, 283 Japanese Army airmen lost their lives in suicide attacks carried out in the Philippines [1]. Also, the author incorrectly states, "Atsugi, situated west of Yokohama and south-west of Tokyo, had been a major Kamikaze base and a very belligerent one" (p. 186). Actually, Atsugi had a large Navy air base near Tokyo, but it never served as either a training or sortie base for kamikaze squadrons. In another example, the book states that a Judy bomber was the second kamikaze plane to hit the carrier Bunker Hill on May 11, 1945 (p. 154), but this plane in fact was a Zero fighter [2]. In still another example, Stewart states, "As for the Kamikazes, Japanese records are apparently and understandably incomplete, but it has been calculated that in the Okinawa campaign from late March until 22 June when the island was officially declared secure, there were some 1,900 Kamikaze sorties." Such a statement is based on American records, since the Japanese Navy and Army kept detailed records of sorties and deaths by special (suicide) attack squadron members (see Navy Kamikaze Air Bases as example). In a further example, the Japanese word Tokubetsu gets incorrectly translated as "Special Units" even though this word only means "special" (pp. 113-114). In a final example, Stewart states that "American warships suffered no further Kamikaze attacks for almost three weeks" after November 5, 1944 (pp. 74-75), but then page 75 goes on to describe successful kamikaze attacks on American ships on November 12, 17, and 19.

Japanese names and words have incorrect spellings in this book as in the following examples: Susumu Kaijitsu (pp. 61, 65, 67), correct: Susumu Misoka; book: Nobii Morishita (p. 133), correct: Nobue Morishita; book: Tatsuo Nakatsuro (p. 185), correct: Tatsuo Nakatsuru; book: Ryunosuki Kusaka (p. 51), correct: Ryūnosuke Kusaka. Moreover, macrons for long vowels (ō, ū) in Japanese are used inconsistently in the book with some names having them and others not.

The author Adrian Stewart has written about 15 books on a variety of aspects of World War II, both in the European and Pacific Theaters, including The Battle of Leyte Gulf (1979), Guadalcanal: World War II's Fiercest Naval Campaign (1985), and The War With Hitler's Navy (2018).


1. Tokkōtai Senbotsusha 1990, 254-263.

2. Refer to Last Letter from Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa to His Parents for additional details.

Source Cited

Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai (Tokkōtai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990. Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai.