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Phalanx Against the Divine Wind: Protecting the Fast Carrier Task Force During World War 2
by Martin Irons
Merriam Press, 2017, 514 pages

This long book tells the World War II history of the destroyer Haynsworth (DD-700) along with her eight sister destroyers in Destroyer Squadron 62. During the largest mass kamikaze attack of the war on April 6, 1945, a Suisei (Judy) dive bomber hit Haynsworth and killed 12 crewmen. The damaged ship went back to the States for repairs and never returned to battle against Japan. The destroyer was commissioned in June 1944 and entered the battle when she arrived in the waters off Luzon and Formosa at the end of December 1944. Before being knocked out of the war, Haynsworth rescued several downed airmen from the sea, destroyed three picket boats and took 12 Japanese prisoners when off the coast near Tokyo, and shot down an attacking kamikaze Zero fighter.

The author's father-in-law, John McAllister, served as a radioman aboard the destroyer Haynsworth but was not on the ship when hit by the kamikaze aircraft. As evidenced by the 12-page bibliography, Martin Irons did an immense amount of research to write this book. The research included personal interviews and correspondence with about 15 Haynsworth WWII veterans, which is quite a feat after so many years have passed since the war, and with numerous other family members of Haynsworth veterans. A few short quotations from these veterans are spread throughout the book, but the lack of longer stories from them make the history in places rather removed from the actual events. The book contains numerous photographs, but many do not have sufficient captions for readers to realize easily the connection between them and the narrative where they are placed.

Phalanx Against the Divine Wind provides an immense amount of general background information on the war and stories about other destroyers in Destroyer Squadron 62 to the point of making it very difficult to follow the main storyline about the destroyer Haynsworth. Even the history of Haynsworth becomes hard to track with the number of names and details presented with no focus on a particular theme, group, or person. For example, the book has a four-page section on the battle off Samar Island in the Philippines that took place on October 25, 1944, but Haynsworth was in Pearl Harbor at the time. Then the narrative jumps back in time to September 1944. The book, including relevant photographs, could be edited down to less than 200 pages to make it much more readable.

The Judy dive bomber that hit Haynsworth dropped its bomb about 1,000 yards from the ship and aimed at the destroyer's superstructure. The aircraft crashed behind the bridge into one of the 40mm mounts with the following result (p. 332):

Tremendous gasoline fireball flashed instantly, searing through the Main Radio, across the 40mm gun platform, igniting the flag bags and pyrotechnic lockers, gutting the transmitter room and Radio Central sending a fireball through the CIC [Combat Information Center] and into the plot and starting roaring persistent fires in Main Radio, Radio, and Radar Transmitter Room as well as lesser fires on 40mm platforms, after end of bridge, and in the galley. Complete destruction of radio equipment is apparent.

The author does not identify the source of the above quotation, although it sounds like something from the damage report written by one of the ship's officers. Sometimes quotations are not introduced in the book, and its method of referencing makes it very difficult to find the source. Instead of putting page numbers or some other numbering convention on the end notes, they only contain the first part of the quotation and then the source. Moreover, several quotations do not show up in the end notes.

The following paragraph is one of the most interesting stories in the book, although no source is mentioned (p. 366):

The cadaver's uniform is adorned by bright red leather boots. When the footwear begins to attract the attention of the sailors, the bridge decides it is time to dispose of the kamikaze's remains. Initially, the corpse was not to be moved or touched for fear it was booby trapped. Carpenters Mate Second Class Eddie Mital is ordered to prepare the kamikaze pilot's body for burial. Instead he throws the corpse into the sea, unweighted. Mital ends up losing a stripe for his actions.

The Suisei (Judy) dive bomber that hit Haynsworth shortly before 1300 on April 6, 1945, was one of seven originally from the 210th Air Group that took off from Kokubu No. 1 Air Base at 1020 (Osuo 2005, 212-3). Although the book correctly identifies where the planes originated, it will leave most readers confused. Early in the book it is mentioned that the 210th Air Group was formed at Meiji Air Base on September 15, 1944, but there is no clue as to how this might relate to Haynsworth's history (p. 88). Much later in the book but before the kamikaze attack on Haynsworth there is a short paragraph that states that the 210th Air Group's Judy dive bombers moved to Kokubo [sic] No. 1 Air Base in southern Kyūshū, again without explanation as to why this specific fact is presented (p. 291). The final mention of these Judy dive bombers has them taking off from Kokubu (p. 316), but the book never specifically indicates that the Judy dive bomber that hit Haynsworth was from the 210th Air Group and took off from Kokubu.

The book has several errors related to the Kamikaze Corps. For example, the author incorrectly explains (p. 96), "By summer of 1944, a Special Attack Corps or Tokubetsu Kōgeki tai was formed. Known as Kamikazes, translated as 'Divine Wind,' these units started as a volunteer group of IJA officer pilot trainees." Actually, the first Kamikaze Special Attack Unit was formed on the night of October 19-20, 1944, at Mabalacat Airfield in the Philippines by experienced Navy Zero fighter pilots. The section on the mass kamikaze attacks called Kikusui erroneously implies that all ten attacks were planned beforehand, whereas these were planned one at a time based on available resources and results of prior attacks.

Source Cited

Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Path of kamikaze plane that hit destroyer Haynsworth