Kamikaze: The Story of the British Pacific Fleet
edited by Stuart Eadon
First published in 1991 by Square One Publications
Crécy Books, 1995, 831 pages
This tome of over 800 pages contains wartime
memories of over 220 men who served on 60 ships in the British Pacific Fleet,
sometimes called the "forgotten fleet" since even the British press
hardly mentioned its role during the Pacific War in 1945. The book's main title
of Kamikaze is somewhat misleading. Although the book has several eyewitness
accounts of kamikaze attacks and a 12-page summary of Japan's kamikaze
operations, most of the book has nothing to do with kamikazes. The subtitle
(The Story of the British Pacific Fleet) suggests that the book will be
an organized chronicle of the British Pacific Fleet's battle operations, but
instead it contains a jumbled collection of personal reminiscences and extended
excerpts from previously published books and magazines.
The editor Stuart Eadon served aboard the British aircraft carrier Indefatigable
during the Pacific War. He edited a 1988 book entitled Sakishima, named
for the numerous small islands between Taiwan and Okinawa. During the Battle of
Okinawa, the main responsibility of the British Pacific Fleet, designated as
Task Force 57, was to attack Japanese airfields on Sakishima and Taiwan. The
book Sakishima mainly covers the story of the carrier Indefatigable,
and Eadon's purpose in publishing Kamikaze is to provide a more complete
picture of the activities of the entire British Pacific Fleet.
Part 1, with three chapters and about 100 pages, covers the
Japanese side. This part's highlights include long accounts written by two
British POWs about their Japanese captors. Part 2, the heart of the book with
five chapters and 500 pages, includes assorted reminiscences and accounts about
the British Pacific Fleet's operations. After a short chapter covering the
period to the end of 1944, the next three chapters cover the British Pacific
Fleet's major 1945 operations in Sumatra, Okinawa, and off mainland Japan. The
final chapter in this section deals with the British Fleet Train, auxiliary
ships that supported the main fleet. Part 3's two chapters cover the period in
1945 after Japanese surrender and later postwar opinions about the Japanese and
the British Pacific Fleet.
Even though the editor organizes the material in roughly
chronological order, the chapters have much overlap in time periods. Topics
bounce around as authors change rapidly. As an example, a description of a
specific kamikaze attack by one veteran might be followed up many pages later
with another veteran's account of the same attack. The editor does not include
one clear summary anywhere in the book to describe the complete scope of the
British Pacific Fleet's operations. Although the book has a few excellent maps,
these are located at various places in the book rather than a more logical
location such as the beginning or end.
Edwin P. Hoyt wrote the 1983 history
and Eadon includes a 12-page edited excerpt in this book on the British Pacific
Fleet. Eadon's condensed version of Hoyt's book contains numerous
alterations and errors. In one of numerous examples, he changed Hoyt's phrase
"Japanese navy" (1983, 32) to "Japs" (p. 103). In another
example, Eadon (p. 105) states that the US fleet was attacked at Ulithi Atoll
on March 10, 1945, even though Hoyt (1983, 213-4) correctly states the attack
occurred on March 11. These examples of altering supposedly quoted text raises
questions as to the reliability of passages in the remainder of the book. In
addition, the use of Hoyt as a source is questionable since his book on kamikaze
history contains several inaccuracies.
The British aircraft carriers' steel decks, in contrast to
the vulnerable wooden decks of American carriers, protected them from
serious damage even when kamikaze planes hit. All five British carriers that
participated in operations off Sakishima during the Battle of Okinawa  were
hit by kamikazes at least once. The carrier flight decks returned to operation
within hours after being hit, and one veteran writes that one kamikaze plane
"literally bounced along the deck and
then slid off into the sea" (p. 266).
Although the book does not summarize British Pacific Fleet casualties
from kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa, an Australian newspaper
article published in July 1945 states that British aircraft carriers suffered
only 70 deaths and 34 seriously wounded in total from kamikaze attacks (p.
350). The first attack happened on April 1, 1945, and the last kamikaze hit
to a British carrier occurred on May 9. The book contains several eyewitness
accounts of kamikaze hits, but none of these really stands out since damage
and casualties from each attack were relatively minor.
This mistitled and overly long book lacks organization and
focus. Only veterans and true enthusiasts of the British Pacific Fleet will
recognize its appeal. Readers interested in the history of Japan's kamikaze
corps will find almost no relevant material in this book other than a few eyewitness accounts
of kamikaze attacks.
Cleaning up HMS Formidable's
flight deck after kamikaze hit
1. The five British aircraft carriers that
participated in battle action near Sakishima were Formidable, Illustrious,
Indefatigable, Indomitable, and Victorious. On April 14,
1945, Formidable replaced Illustrious, which suffered
minor damage when a kamikaze plane grazed the ship's island and exploded next to the ship.
Hoyt, Edwin P. 1983. The Kamikazes. Short Hills, NJ: