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American Aces Against the Kamikaze
by Edward M. Young
Osprey Publishing, 2012, 96 pages

An ace is a pilot who shoots down five or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. In battles against kamikaze aircraft and their escorts in the Philippines and Okinawa in the latter part of the Pacific War, American pilots flying superior fighters shot down a huge number of Japanese planes. During the Okinawa Campaign, 93 American pilots became aces, and 20 of these became aces in just one day. The American aces mainly flew F6F-5 Hellcats and F4U-1D Corsairs, and several aces piloted FM-2 Wildcats and P-47N Thunderbolts.

Edward M. Young has written a number of other books and articles on military aviation history. The book contains many historical photographs and color plates of the American fighters used by the pilots against the Japanese, although the author explains that the pilots who took off from aircraft carriers flew a number of different specific aircraft although of the same type. After an explanation of why the Japanese military decided on a strategy of suicide attacks, the history of American fighter aircraft against the Japanese kamikaze and their escorts proceeds chronologically from the Philippines starting in October 1944 to Okinawa ending in June 1945. The final chapter covers the success of carrier nightfighters against the Japanese. The sheer number of Japanese aircraft shot down makes it difficult to follow the kills of every pilot who is presented and feels at times like a slaughter with many enemy aircraft offering little serious challenge. For example, the following paragraph describes American success against a formation of 20 Val dive bombers on April 6, 1945 (p. 47):

Towards the end of the patrol VF-30 came across a formation of 20 aircraft (that were identified as 'Vals') coming in low over the water with no fighter escort. Each aeroplane was carrying a large bomb and had no rear gunner. The pilots again seemed to be inexperienced, never using evasive action – probably a confirmation that they were indeed from one of the Special Attack units, having received little training. As the Aircraft Action report said, 'these aircraft were gleefully assaulted by the fighters, and to their knowledge only one of them made it through to attack naval vessels'.

The author explains in a couple of places the difficulties in linking an individual ace's victories to a specific kamikaze attack and in determining with certainty whether a pilot shot down aircraft on a kamikaze or conventional mission.

There are several mistakes in English translations of Japanese special attack units such as the following examples: Shirotora (White Tiger) should be Byakko, Umehana (plum blossom) should be Baika, and Kingotai should be Kongōtai.