Only search Kamikaze Images

The Twilight Warriors
by Robert Gandt
Broadway Books, 2010, 385 pages

The battles of Carrier Air Group 10 pilots, assigned to the aircraft carrier Intrepid (CV-11), are the focus of this history about the Battle of Okinawa. The title of The Twilight Warriors never gets defined specifically but seems to refer to the Air Group's Tail End Charlies, named such since the newest pilots "flew at the tail end of formations, stood at the tail end of chow lines, and now were catching the tail end of the war."

The pilots in Air Group 10 flew F4U Corsairs and were divided into Fighting Squadron VF-10, nicknamed the Grim Reapers, and Bomber Fighting Squadron VBF-10. On March 18, 1945, the F4U Corsair pilots of Air Group 10 from Intrepid saw their first action in combat over the Japanese mainland. On April 16, 1945, a kamikaze Zero fighter carrying a 250-kg bomb went through the wooden flight deck into the hanger deck below where the bomb exploded. The attack killed 8 men and wounded 21, and 40 warplanes were destroyed. Intrepid had to go back to San Francisco for repairs and did not return to battle in the Pacific until early August.

The narrative is fast-paced with short paragraphs, and the focus is on personal stories told from the viewpoint of men who fought at Okinawa. Many of the book's 38 chapters cover individual missions of pilots with several describing how pilots lost their lives or had to ditch in the sea. The end of the book lists the 30 men from Carrier Air Group 10 who lost their lives during the Pacific War. Robert Gandt, author of six nonfiction books before this one, served as a naval officer and aviator, so he uses natural language to describe the air battles. There is a glossary that defines technical terms. Gandt also is co-author of the 2008 book titled Intrepid: The Epic Story of America's Most Legendary Warship, so The Twilight Warriors can be considered a follow-up book with more details and stories about Air Group10 aboard Intrepid. The book is very well-researched with end notes and six pages of references including a listing of over 15 veterans, most from Air Group 10, who were interviewed for this history. The center section contains eight pages of historical photos.

The exact scope or topic of the book never gets clarified in advance. Even after reading the book, its scope is difficult to summarize. In the Acknowledgments section at the end, the author writes that at the heart of this story are real-life heroes of Carrier Air Group 10, but the book contains many other stories not directly related to Intrepid or Air Group 10. For example in Chapter 31 on April 16, 1945, Intrepid gets knocked out of the war for four months when a kamikaze aircraft and its bomb crashes through the flight deck, but the book goes on for another seven chapters about various topics such as kamikaze attacks on various American ships during the Battle of Okinawa and the ground battle on the island of Okinawa that did not end until June 22. In another example of unclear scope of the book, several chapters cover the Japanese side of the suicide mission toward Okinawa of the giant battleship Yamato and nine escort ships, but it is not clear why this event gets so much coverage on the Japanese side although Corsairs from Intrepid did participate in Yamato's sinking.

Even though much information gets presented about Japan's kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa, the book focuses almost entirely on the thinking of Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, who led Japan's air attacks starting in February 1945, based on his diary rather than exploring the psychology of the kamikaze special attack pilots who carried out suicide missions. Even with the American pilots of Air Group 10, readers learn little about their personalities and feelings about their missions, partly due to the sheet number of pilots who are introduced.

Although not a comprehensive history of the Battle of Okinawa, this book describes key events in both the naval and land battles. The highlights of this history are the personal stories of missions and battles of Air Group 10 pilots, but much other information, most not directly related, must be gone through to get to these accounts.