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.