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Kamikazes
by Earle Rice Jr.
Lucent Books, 2000, 128 pages

Lucent Books' American War Library targets young readers from upper elementary grades to high school. However, adults also will find this American War Library volume on Kamikazes to be extremely valuable as an introduction to the history of Japan's kamikaze operations near the end of World War II. This short history relies heavily on other sources, but the author skillfully uses these references to provide an accurate and evenhanded account of Japan's kamikazes.

Earl Rice Jr. has written more than thirty books for young adults, including adaptations of classic novels. His skill and experience as a writer show on each page of this well-organized and absorbing history of Japan's kamikaze pilots.

The book contains carefully selected historical photographs and maps to assist readers trying to understand the history of the kamikazes. Although the author does not use Japanese-language references, he consulted numerous English-language sources in preparation of this book. This includes English translations of firsthand accounts of Japanese authors such as Inoguchi and Nakajima (The Divine Wind), and Nagatsuka (I Was a Kamikaze). Rice includes long quotes from these authors to give readers an understanding of the thinking of the Japanese military leaders and kamikaze pilots.

Rice provides a balanced presentation between American and Japanese views of kamikaze attacks. He accurately states, "Most kamikaze pilots were not motivated by religious fanaticism, but rather by a personal sense of obligation to their families and country" (p. 28). One of the book's sidebars contains excerpts of several last letters written by kamikaze pilots, which will provide readers insights into their feelings as they faced death. On the American side, several veterans describe their feelings as kamikaze planes approached their ships, and the book also has a frontline dispatch by a correspondent about a kamikaze attack.

The excellent documentation in this book includes over 100 notes providing sources, a thorough annotated bibliography, glossary, event chronology, picture credits, and index. This documentation will assist anyone interested in further research on kamikaze history.

Although this book may be in the juvenile literature section of your local library, the quality of its narrative, photos, and documentation exceeds other "adult" books you may find.