Imperial Japanese Navy

Imperial Japanese Navy

Carriers 1921-45 Mark Stille, illustrated by Tony Bryan Osprey/New Vanguard £8.99/$14.95 US Website: www. ospreypublishing. com

While the United States Navy was still fiddling around trying to decide the proper role of the carrier in modem warfare, the Imperial Japanese Navy answered the question for it in less than two horrendous hours one sunny Sunday morning in December 1941. The Japanese, as is ably pointed out in this excellent little monograph, were studying the question of the carrier’s purpose in warfare almost from the first day an aircraft took off from a converted collier off the East Coast of the US 20 years earlier. As a result, at the outset of World War II, the Japanese possessed the most formidable carrier force in the world, and had written the book on the tactics for using them. It was only the staggering defeat by the Americans at the Battle of Midway that slowed the UN carrier juggernaut. And this victory, which cost the Japanese four of their finest carriers, was accomplished, as so many things are in war, by dumb luck and the courage of individual aviators, rather than by any brilliance on the part of the US admirals. Still, as the book points out, contrary to popular belief, the UN carrier force was by no means doomed at Midway.
It was, the author believes, only the ultimate destruction of the last of the experienced air crews that finally rendered the UN carrier force ineffective. He points to Japanese carrier operations throughout the long, hellish campaign for Guadalcanal, in which the UN carriers played a major role, to illustrate this point.
In this wonderfully illustrated, 48-page book, we are treated not only to a history of the development of the aircraft carrier within the UN, but the publisher has also included a wealth of full-colour side and plan view profiles of the Japanese carriers of the period. Also included are excellent profiles (though a little small) of the major aircraft that operated from these ships early and late in the war.
One of the more interesting facts brought out in this short book is that the Japanese may not have built such a formidable carrier operation had they not had the complete cooperation and assistance of the Royal Navy in building this force in the 1920s. The US, of course, doesn’t get off either, since many licenses were sold to Japan to build US aircraft, engines and components, and technical assistance was given virtually without restriction. All this was being done while voices were shouting – but being ignored – warning that this carrier force would one day be turned on the West.
In addition to the basic strategic and tactical history of the UN carrier force, the book provides a fairly in-depth look at the ships themselves, including plenty of photographs, and instruction in the ingenious ways the Japanese took hulls intended for completely different roles and turned them into carriers. We are also shown the clever ways the UN got around tonnage-limitation treaties.
Overall, this is the best and most comprehensive introduction to this subject you are likely to find anywhere, especially at this price. I highly recommend it to those interested in the UN and its ships and aircraft.

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