Pacific Skies: American Flyers in World War II
by Jerome Klinkowitz
University Press of Mississippi, 2004, 285 pages
Excerpts from accounts by flyers in the Pacific War make up the bulk of
Pacific Skies by Jerome Klinkowitz, Professor of English at the University of
Northern Iowa. Although the subtitle indicates that the book will be about
American flyers in World War II like Pappy Boyington and Joe Foss, the book also
contains many quotations from Japanese pilots who have written books about their
battle experiences such as Saburo Sakai in Samurai! and Masatake Okumiya in
Zero! Although generally chronological in its approach, the book jumps around
quite a bit to different times and places as passages from over 100 books get
In the last of the four major sections titled "Endgame: Kamikazes and the
Bombing of Japan" and in the conclusion subtitled "Dimensions Moral and More,"
Klinkowitz compares kamikaze attacks, Japan's ultimate form of warfare, to
dropping the atomic bombs, America's ultimate. Both sides did not understand the
other's methods to carry out war (pp. 251-2):
By the time the United States had learned the best uses of a carrier
strike force, its adversary had lost so many of its own carriers that a new
form of aerial attack would be needed: that of the kamikaze, another concept
so alien to western thinking that the enemy became even less comprehensible
than before. If anything, kamikaze actions convinced Americans that they had
been right about their adversaries from the start, just as some Japanese
believed the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed that their own
military leaders, so shrill in their characterization of the United States
as a country dead set against the emperor and his people, had been correct.
Although moral issues of conventional and atomic bombing get raised in
the book, the book Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the
WWII Bombings of Civilians in Germany and Japan (2006) by A. C. Grayling provides a
much more thorough examination of ethical issues surrounding the mass bombings
carried out by the Allies.
Klinkowitz's description of Japan's kamikaze operations contains several
errors. For example, he states that nearly half of the kamikaze attacks
successfully hit their targets (p. 181). However, Yasunobu (1972, 171), who
includes both direct hits and near misses by kamikaze aircraft, computes a much
lower success rate of 16.5%. Klinkowitz claims that service in the kamikaze
corps was strictly voluntary in the Navy and ostensibly so in the Army, but
there are many examples where men were ordered to join a kamikaze squadron. For
example, all Zero pilots in the 205th Air Group (over 100 men) were ordered by
Commander Tamai in early February 1945 at Taichu Air Base in Formosa to become
members of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps (Hisayama 2009, 230). At Genzan Air
Base in Korea during April and May 1945, orders assigning men to special attack
squadrons were announced almost every day with no consideration for volunteers
(Ozawa 1983, 132).
In relating the first kamikaze attack against American forces on October 15,
1944, Klinkowitz writes that "a plane piloted by Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima
plunged into the carrier Franklin off Luzon" (pp. 168, 186). The historical
reality was that Arima led a group of about 100 planes, and radar of the aircraft carrier
Franklin picked up about 20 to 30 of them. Only one plane, with an
unknown pilot, got anywhere near the carrier Franklin, and antiaircraft fire
shot it down. This plane splashed about 100 feet from ship, but a wing section
did end up on the flight deck . Pacific Skies also includes quotations from
Yasuo Kuwahara (pp. 185-6, 215-6), who claimed to be a kamikaze pilot with the
Army, but his biography titled Kamikaze (1957) has been shown to be fictional (see
Historical Discrepancies). The word ohka, a Japanese suicide glider bomb dropped from a Betty bomber,
is incorrectly translated as "exploding cherry blossom" (p. 187) rather than "cherry
1. Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 37; Warner and
Warner 1982, 84.
Hisayama, Shinobu. 2009. Aozora no kōseki: Moto zerosen
pairotto ga kataru kūsen to tokkō no kiroku (Flight path in blue sky:
Record of air battles and special attacks as told by former Zero fighter
pilot). Tokyo: Sankei Shinbun Shuppan.
Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau.
1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Ozawa, Ikuro. 1983. Tsurai shinjitsu: kyokō no tokkō shinwa
(Hard truths: Fictitious special attack myths). Tokyo: Dohsei Publishing Co.
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. Tokyo: Akita Shoten.