Kamikaze: Japanese Special Attack Weapons 1944-45
by Steven J. Zaloga
Osprey Publishing, 2011, 48 pages
The Japanese military developed a wide variety of suicide weapons in 1944 and
1945 in a desperate attempt to stop the Allied advance toward the home islands.
This well-researched and well-organized book covers these weapons developed by
the Navy and Army for use in suicide missions, euphemistically called special
attacks (tokkō) in Japanese. Although limited in number of pages, this
publication imparts a great deal of valuable information through its crisp
narrative, summary data tables, historical photos, and well-drawn
illustrations of weapons.
Steven Zaloga has written many books on military technology and history, such
as Defense of Japan 1945 (2010) and Japanese Tanks 1939-45 (2007).
His experience and thoroughness as an historian are reflected in his thoughtful
comments about different special attack weapons, including ōka rocket-powered
glider bombs, kaiten human torpedoes, and explosive motorboats. The two pages of
Further Reading at the end list numerous sources Zaloga used in the book's
preparation. This short book presents few new findings, and many details can be
found in Robin Rielly's much longer history, Kamikaze Attacks of World War II
(2010). However, this volume that is #180 in the New Vanguard series by Osprey
Publishing effectively meets the series' goal of presenting the "design,
development, operation and history of the machinery of warfare through the ages"
in concise, focused books.
The Introduction states that the book's focus will be on weapons designed
specifically for special attacks. However, the narrative in the book's front
section has quite a few pages on the general history of Japan's WWII aerial suicide
attacks, most which were carried out by various types of conventional aircraft
with minor modifications. While most likely outside the stated scope of this
book, an in-depth analysis of how these different aircraft were converted for
special attacks would provide valuable information more relevant to the majority
of suicide missions carried out by the Japanese Navy and Army. Although conventional aircraft modifications
generally do not get covered in the book, it does
provide some details on the conversions of the Army's Ki-67 Hiryū (Peggy) and
Ki-49 Donryū (Helen) bombers into special attack aircraft by arming them
with large warheads. Many weapons discussed in the book were designed for
special attacks but never made it into testing, production, or battle before the
end of the war.
The title of Kamikaze does not exactly reflect the book's
contents, since the Japanese used the name of Kamikaze (or Shinpū) only for the
Japanese Navy's aerial special attack units. The Japanese Army also carried out many
aerial special attacks but used other names (mainly Shinbu during the Battle of
Okinawa), and both the Navy and Army had a variety of other special attack
weapons not named Kamikaze. Unlike many other sources on Japan's WWII military
operations, this book
provides very detailed explanations and background information in the captions
for the many historical photos and illustrations.
The paragraph on the Navy's two-man Model 5 Shinyō motorboat does not
completely describe its use during the war. Zaloga writes (p. 38), "The only
other major type built during the war was the Shinyō Type 5, which was intended
to serve as a detachment leader's boat and so it was fitted with two engines and
carried a 13mm heavy machine gun. The idea was that this boat would lead the
attack, and provide covering fire for the rest of the detachment." The subject
then abruptly shifts to the Army's explosive motorboats with no mention that
starting in January 1945 many entire shinyō squadrons were formed with only two-man Model
5 boats. Each of these 47 squadrons had 25 two-man Model 5 boats. A shinyō
squadron with one-man Model 1 Shinyō motorboats had about 50 Model 1 boats and four two-man
Model 5 motorboats for the squadron's officers .
1. Kimata 1998, 200-1, 348-9.
Kimata, Jiro. 1998. Nihon tokkōtei senshi (History of
Japan's special attack boats). Tōkyō: Kojinsha.