07 July 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Zero! by Martin Caidin, Masatake Okumiya, Jiro Horikoshi

Zero!Zero! by Martin Caidin, Masatake Okumiya, Jiro Horikoshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the thrilling saga of war in the air in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II told from the Japanese point of view. It is the story of the men who created, led, and fought in the deadly Zero fighter plane. In their own words, Jiro Horikoshi (who designed the Zero), Masatake Okumiya (leader of many Zero squadrons) tell the inside story of developing the Zero and Japan's air force. They tell what it felt like to bomb American ships and to shoot down American airplanes — and then of their shock when the myth of invincibility was shattered by the new Lightning, Hellcat, and Corsair fighters. They tell of the fight against the growing strength of a remorseless American enemy; and how, in desperation the Japanese High Command ordered the creation of deadly suicide squadrons, the Kamikaze. And finally they reveal their reaction to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A very interesting book, told from the perspective of two Japanese men who were very closely involved with Japanese naval aviation. Not so much about the Zero fighter as about the whole Japanese WW2 war effort, specifically the war in the air waged over top of the huge naval battle groups amassed by both the Japanese and the Allies. After reading this book, one thing is abundantly clear and that is that the Japanese totally underestimated and were woefully unprepared for war against the USA and Britain and their allies. What we see is that they were so wrapped up in their own perceived superiority in morality, intelligence, discipline, training and technology to really notice how much of a chunk they'd bitten off. A few smart ones knew this, but the Japanese leaders persisted for years with their doomed agenda, bolstered by a few victories along the way. Ultimately, their backsides (and this unfortunately included the civilian population, not only the military) were well and truly kicked. The perfect example of this is the Zero, which was considered more than adequate for the job even as far better American designs began appearing. I guess I found myself becoming very frustrated with the overall Japanese attitude as I read this book, and as much as I feel ashamed to say it, they got what was coming to them, so to speak. To open hostilities with the USA by simultaneously bombing three military installations was to invite a huge backlash. It's a terrible, terrible shame that Japanese civilian collateral damage was so devastatingly high, but after reading this book I have to admit, once again, that we reap what we sow. The nation of Japan is one example. Overall, this book is a very good read, and a definite must-read for military history buffs. A very educational and sobering story with a solid lesson that came at a massive cost to all sides.

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