At War with the Wind: The Epic Struggle with Japan's World War II Suicide
by David Sears
Kensington, 2008, 502 pages
At War with the Wind strays far from the subject matter advertised in
its subtitle: The Epic Struggle with Japan's World War II Suicide Bombers.
The book's first third (Part 1 of 3) covers the Pacific War from Pearl Harbor
and describes the personalities of US military leaders, but it only has two
pages about Japan's aerial suicide special attack forces. In addition to Part 1,
other lengthy sections in the last two parts (e.g., Battle of Iwo Jima, typhoon
in December 1944) have no direct relationship to The Epic Struggle with
Japan's World War II Suicide Bombers. Sections that deal with Japan's
suicide bombers contain various inaccuracies, and they ignore key parts of
Japan's kamikaze operations.
David Sears, who also authored The Last Epic Naval Battle: Voices from
Leyte Gulf (2005), contacted numerous American WWII veterans who experienced
kamikaze attacks in order to include some of their accounts in this
history. Although these stories add interesting details and personal tidbits,
the sheer number of people mentioned and the brevity of individual accounts
lessen their effectiveness in capturing the emotions of battle. The inclusion of
some personal stories seems forced in which certain wartime accounts get added
based on the author's personal interview regardless of whether or not the
account relates to the book's main topic. In addition, the author often tells
several parallel stories of different US Navy ships or other topics in the same chapter,
which makes it very difficult to follow the account of a single topic from
beginning to end. For example, the 16 pages of Chapter 21 (A Perfect Day for
What Happened, 6 April 1945) include six separate narrative threads ,
including one that describes kamikaze attacks on destroyers Bush (DD-529)
and Colhoun (DD-801). This one story has four abrupt breaks to other
locations around Okinawa, and the other narrative threads have similar breaks.
In addition to personal stories of US veterans obtained through interviews,
the book includes bits and pieces of four published Japanese wartime
- Japanese Destroyer Captain by Tameichi Hara
- I Was a Kamikaze by Ryuji Nagatsuka
- Thunder Gods by Hatsuho Naito
- Part Two, "All Boys Dream of Flying" (about Toshio Yoshitake), in
Blossoms in the Wind by M.G. Sheftall
However, with these excerpts of four Japanese personal accounts spread
throughout the book, they lack the continuity and depth necessary to really
understand the experiences in comparison to reading the original sources. The
book lacks an in-depth discussion of Japanese military organization and
strategy that included extensive use of suicide attacks, and it instead focuses
on snippets from these four personal histories. The more than ten pages of
Sources and Acknowledgments make no mention of The Divine Wind: Japan's
Kamikaze Force in World War II (1958) by Captain Rikihei Inoguchi and
Commander Tadashi Nakajima and Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome
Ugaki, 1941-1945 translated by Masataka Chihaya. These two first-hand
accounts are indispensable references for any history of Japan's kamikaze
operations, since they reveal the thinking of the leaders.
Although the book contains hardly any overviews about Japan's kamikaze
special attack operations, its few summaries provide inaccurate information.
Sears states that nearly 4,000 Japanese Navy and Army air crewmen died in
tokkotai (Special Attack Corps) missions during the three-month Okinawan
campaign (p. 382), but actually this number represents the total deaths over ten
months from October 1944 to August 1945. The same type of error occurs when the
book indicates that Vice Admiral Ugaki, commander of the 5th Naval Air Fleet,
had presided over the deaths of upward of 2,500 IJN Special Attack fliers (p.
393). This total number is overstated, since it includes about 400 IJN deaths in
the Philippines and Taiwan from October 1944 to January 1945 (Ozawa 1983, 79),
prior to Ugaki's taking over command of the Navy's kamikaze operations in
February 1945. Page 382 states that 32 ships were sunk and nearly 400 more were
damaged by kamikaze attacks during the three-month Okinawan campaign, but in
fact only 25 ships were sunk and slightly over 250 were damaged by kamikaze
aircraft during this time period .
Besides mistakes in summary numbers related to Japan's kamikaze operations,
various information about the Japanese side contains errors.
For example, ōka means "cherry blossom," not "exploding cherry blossom" (p.
179). The author states that on June 22, 1945, only one of 14 mother planes (Betty bombers)
carrying ōka weapons returned to base (p. 381), but Naito (1989, 180-1)
that three of the total six mother planes returned to base. It appears that the
eight Zero fighters carrying bombs were added to the six Betty bomber mother
planes to arrive at the incorrect total of 14 mother planes. In regards to the
kamikaze attack on ships around Okinawa on February 21, 1945, the book states
that "opportunistic strikes staged through airstrips in the Bonins were still
feasible" (p. 279). The kamikaze aircraft on this date came from Hachijojima, part of the
Izu Islands, not the Bonin Islands (Warner 1982, 174). The author states that "Morrison
withstood close brushes by four kamikazes and a direct hit by a fifth" (p. 365),
but in reality this destroyer got hit by four kamikaze aircraft on May 4, 1945
. One statement exaggerates the frequency of kamikaze attacks, ". . . attacks
such as the one on Lindsey had been occurring daily for nearly seven
months . . ." (p. 10). The Lindsey attack happened on April 12, 1945, and the
first organized kamikaze attack took place on October 25, 1944, slightly more than
five and a half months before. During that period, there were many days in which
no attacks occurred. For the 61 days between January 16 and March 17, 1945,
suicide attacks in which kamikaze pilots lost their lives happened on only 7
days (Hara 2004, 172-8).
Pages 173-4 describe Captain Tameichi Hara's time at Oppama Naval Torpedo
School in Kanagawa Prefecture when the shinyō suicide motorboats were introduced
in October 1944, but actually Hara was stationed at the torpedo boat training
school at Kawatana in Nagasaki Prefecture from May to December 1944 (Hara 1961,
263-9). Typos of Japanese words appear in several places (e.g., Skatanbo instead
of Akatonbo (p. 89), Taitari instead of Taiatari (p. 257), Toshihko instead of
Toshihiko, Shigemitzu instead of Shigemitsu (p. 396), Guma instead of Gunma
(p. 399)). Page 235 erroneously uses the word kun'yomi (Japanese reading that
originates from Japanese language prior to introduction of kanji characters and
their Chinese readings from China) as if it is a synonym of kamikaze and
in the following sentence: "For Japan, whether called shinpu, kun'yomi,
or kamikaze, the 'god wind' or 'divine wind' phenomenon achieves . . . ."
On February 21, 1945, the carrier Saratoga (CV-3) and escort carrier
Bismarck Sea (CVE-95) got attacked by kamikaze aircraft near Iwo Jima (Fry
1996, 148; Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 131; Yasunobu 1972, 101), about 1,400 km east of Okinawa.
However, the book mistakenly places Saratoga "thirty-five miles
northwest of Okinawa" and Bismarck Sea "east of Okinawa" at
the time of the attacks (p. 279).
Kaoru Hasegawa, who flew on a kamikaze mission on May 25, 1945, went to the destroyer Callaghan
veterans' reunions in 1995 and 1997 (Hasegawa 1998, 20), but the book
incorrectly states that his first visit happened in 1999 (p.399). The author
indicates that Callaghan was sunk on July 29, 1945, by an "ancient
twin-float biplane" (p. 383-4). This biplane was not a floatplane but rather
a Type 93 Land-based Intermediate Trainer (Allied code name of Willow) (Yasunobu
1972, 161). The last seaplane kamikaze attacks took place on July 3, 1945 (Osuo
2005, 240). Fred Mitchell of the destroyer Drexler (DD-741) is described
mistakenly as "the sole survivor of a Drexler 40-mm mount" (p. 374).
However, Mitchell has known since a 1987 reunion that Duke Payne, Gunner's Mate on this quad
40-mm gun mount, also survived . Also, Mitchell served as lookout and radioman
for this gun mount, but he did not actually work on it.
The number of pages devoted to kamikaze attacks sometimes has little
relationship to their historical importance. The coverage seems to be based on
the number of personal interviews, since some significant events in the history
of Japan's kamikaze operations receive little or no coverage. For example, the
book does not mention the Navy's kamikaze operations from Formosa in January
1945. In a 14-page chapter on the Battle of Iwo Jima, less than one page gets
devoted to the long-range attack by 32 aircraft in the Kamikaze Special Attack
Corps 2nd Mitate Unit that sank one escort carrier and damaged five other ships.
The March 1945 suicide mission by the Azusa Special Attack Unit's 24 twin-engine
Ginga bombers, 11 which flew over ten hours from southern
Kyushu to Ulithi, gets no specific mention other than a couple of sentences saying
that the carrier Randolph was hit by a suicide aircraft that killed 25 persons (p.
Some stories of kamikaze attacks stop before a reader can find out what
happened. After providing background information in several places about the ōka rocket-powered
glider bombs, the book mentions the first ōka mission in which 15 ōka-carrying
bombers escorted by 32 fighters took off from Kanoya Air Base on March
21, 1945 (p. 289), but apparently the author forgot to finish the story, since
the rest of the book makes no mention of the fate of these aircraft. Page 379
describes the sinking of the destroyer Twiggs (DD-591) on June 16, 1945,
by a torpedo, but the section makes no mention that the plane then circled about
and dove into the ship (Parkin 1995, 325-6).
The viewpoints of American WWII veterans dominate this history. The Japanese
side generally gets presented objectively. However, the book's introductory
section associates the killing of 17 sailors aboard the USS Cole in 2000
by Al-Qaeda terrorists with the kamikaze crash into the destroyer Lindsey
in April 1945 that killed 57 sailors. This type of linking of kamikaze pilots
who fought the US Navy in wartime with Al-Qaeda terrorists who killed in times of peace
disturbs both family members of kamikaze pilots who gave their lives and surviving
kamikaze squadron members.
1. The six narrative threads in Chapter 21 are (1) Bush (DD-529) and
Colhoun (DD-801); (2) Rodman (DMS-21) and Emmons (DMS-22);
(3) Hyman (DD-732); (4) Howorth (DD-592); (5) Leutze
(DD-481) and Newcomb (DD-586); and (6) VF-17 fighter pilot off Hornet
2. 47 Ships Sunk by
Kamikaze Aircraft; Yasunobu 1972, 171.
3. 2007 USS Morrison (DD-560) Reunion
has the following description of the kamikaze aircraft that hit Morrison on May
On April 30, 1945, Morrison moved to Radar Picket Station No. 1 about
50 miles north of Okinawa and in the flight path of many kamikaze planes from
air bases in southern Kyushu. The destroyer Ingraham (DD-694) and four
smaller landing craft were at this same picket station when about 25 enemy
planes were sighted on radar at 7:15 a.m. on May 4. Although American CAP
fighters downed many planes, several Japanese planes got through to Picket
Station No. 1. One plane hit Morrison at 8:32, and another hit at 8:33.
Two floatplanes then hit the destroyer in quick succession at 8:35, and the ship
started to sink and went under by 8:40. The four kamikaze planes hit so rapidly
and the ship sank so quickly that most men below deck were lost.
The sources for the above account include the USS Ingraham (DD-694) Action Report
for period from April 29 through May 4, 1945 and the USS Morrison (DD-560) Action Report for
May 4, 1945.
Forever Grateful by Fred Mitchell;
Survival of Drexler Survivors
Fry, John. 1996. USS Saratoga CV-3. Atglen, PA: Schiffer
Hara, Katsuhiro. 2004. Shinsō kamikaze tokkō: Hisshi
hitchū no 300 nichi (Kamikaze special attack facts: 300 days of certain-death, sure-hit
attacks). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.
Hara, Tameichi, Fred Saito, and Roger Pineau. 1961.
Japanese Destroyer Captain. New York: Ballantine Books.
Hasegawa, Kaoru. No date. My Personal History: Two Lives.
Booklet of articles originally published in Nihon Keizai Shimbun from
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Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau.
1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Nagatsuka, Ryuji. 1973. I
Was a Kamikaze. Translated from the French by Nina Rootes. New York:
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Ozawa, Ikurō. 1983. Tsurai shinjitsu: kyokō no tokkō shinwa
(Hard truths: Fictitious special attack myths). Tōkyō: Dohsei Publishing Co.
Parkin, Robert Sinclair. 1995. Blood on the Sea: American
Destroyers Lost in World War II. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
Sheftall, M.G. 2005. Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of
the Kamikaze. New York: NAL Caliber.
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
Yasunobu, Takeo. 1972.
Kamikaze tokkōtai (Kamikaze
special attack corps). Edited by Kengo Tominaga. Tōkyō: Akita Shoten.