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Valor at Okinawa
by Lawrence Cortesi
Kensington Publishing, 1981, 290 pages

This forgotten paperback tells the story of mass kamikaze attacks against American ships around Okinawa. After two chapters on battle preparations by the American and Japanese sides, the remaining 13 chapters focus on the period from March 19 to April 12, 1945, when the Japanese carried out numerous kamikaze and conventional aerial attacks. This book also includes 30 pages of photos and several maps. Despite an extensive bibliography of four pages, this paperback contains numerous historical errors and other frequent mistakes such as misspellings of key names.

Valor at Okinawa has a couple of features not found in other Japanese kamikaze histories: use of extensive dialogue and integration of the stories of suicide aircraft with escort fighter planes, conventional bombers, and the Navy's surface fleet. Frequent dialogue makes this book easier to read, but some conversations sound quite stilted, and the author most certainly made up most of them. An American air group commander surely did not say the following over the radio after spotting enemy planes, "I think those Bettys are carrying those small suicide Bakas (Ohkas) that zoom like hell once they're released, and you can't catch them. If one of those Bakas hits a ship, it'll do a lot of damage" (p. 169). The book's scope includes all battle actions, not just kamikaze attacks, carried out by the Japanese Navy to stop the advance of the American fleet at Okinawa. The author includes details of kamikaze escorts and conventional bombers. In addition, the book tells the story of the suicide mission of the remaining Japanese fleet led by the battleship Yamato, which sunk on the way to Okinawa after attacks by American planes on April 7, 1945.

Historical inaccuracies abound in Valor at Okinawa. A few examples illustrate this. The author refers to explosive suicide motorboats as "kaiten" (pp. 23, 103, 110), even though kaiten were actually manned torpedoes launched from submarines. Although the book refers to Kagoshima Air Base as one of the sortie bases for kamikazes (pp. 71, 152-3), the actual base from which these kamikaze planes sortied was Kushira Air Base. The paperback states a kamikaze hit the carrier Yorktown on March 19, 1945 (p. 73), but actually a bomb hit this carrier on March 18 and the carrier's guns then shot down the plane (Ewing 1999, 48; Hoyt 1983, 228).  A Japanese bomber dropped two bombs on the carrier Franklin (Warner 1982, 179), but the author mistakenly reports that the plane carrying the two bombs also crashed into the ship (p. 86). As a final example, the book states the commander of kamikaze attacks at Okinawa, Vice Admiral Ugaki, was in Oita on March 19, 1945 (p. 48), but Ugaki (1991, 552, 560) writes in his diary that he was at Kanoya Air Base.

This error-filled paperback deserves to be forgotten.

Sources Cited

Ewing, Steve. 1999. Patriots Point in Remembrance. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing.

Hoyt, Edwin P. 1983. The Kamikazes. Short Hills, NJ: Burford Books.

Ugaki, Matome. 1991. Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941-1945. Translated by Masataka Chihaya. Edited by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Warner, Denis, Peggy Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.