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Fire From The Sky (Hardback)

Surviving the Kamikaze Threat

Maritime > Seaforth Publishing > Seaforth: Iron & Steel WWII

By Robert C Stern
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 400
ISBN: 9781848320383
Published: 17th March 2010



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By late 1944 the war in the Pacific had turned decisively against the Japanese, and overwhelming Allied forces began to close in on the home islands. At this point Japan unveiled a terrifying new tactic: the suicide attack, or Kamikaze, named after the 'Divine Wind' which had once before, in medieval times, saved Japan from invasion. Intentionally crashing bomb-laden aircraft into Allied warships, these piloted guided missiles at first seemed unstoppable, calling into question the naval strategy on which the whole war effort was based.

This book looks at the origins of the campaign, at its strategic goals, the organization of the Japanese special attack forces, and the culture that made suicide not just acceptable, but honourable. Inevitably, much mythology has grown up around the subject, and the book attempts to sort the wheat from the chaff. One story that does stand up is the reported massive stock-piling of kamikaze aircraft for use against any Allied invasion of the home islands, if the atomic bombs had not forced Japan's surrender.
However, its principal focus is on the experience of those in the Allied fleets on the receiving end of this peculiarly alien and unnerving weapon – how they learnt to endure and eventually counter a threat whose potential was over-estimated, by both sides. In this respect, it has a very modern resonance.

ROBERT C STERN has published more than twenty books on military and naval subjects including the bestselling Battle Beneath the Waves. His last book for Seaforth was Destroyer Battles published in 2008.

This excellent book shines a new light on the Japanese Kamikaze attacks of late WW2. The author has painstakingly researched his subject and in some cases is able to actually say which Japanese pilot hit which ship, in the suicide attacks. The book also has many photographs that show attacks in sequence, from first dive to the resulting damage.
I found the information the author provided on why a Japanese pilot would carry out such an attack, extremely interesting as it looked into the customs and general understanding of the culture behind it. Thus even if an attack was futile in the over all sense of the war, there was a certain cultural logic involved. I have read many accounts and books covering this subject, but found this one to be a refreshingly new look, full of information on what sort of damage such attacks could do to a ship, but also the effect of such suicide attacks on the men on the receiving end. Highly recommended.

Malcolm Wright, Australian Maritime Artist & Author

An excellent and exciting overview.

Baird Maritime

It all makes fascinating reading and the text is supported by some stunning combat photographs.

Warships International Fleet Review

Very interesting book - worth getting just for the photographs!

Fly Navy, Nov 2010

Very interesting book - worth getting just for the photographs!

Fly Navy, Nov 2010
 Robert C Stern

About Robert C Stern

Robert C. Stern has been writing naval history for more than thirty years, during which time he has published four major works and numerous monographs for the history buff and modeler.

His major works include Type VII U-boats and The Lexington Class Carriers, both of which were technical analyses of important warship types, and Battle Beneath the Waves: The U-boat War, which was a collection of stories of of U-boat warfare from the two World Wars.

His most recent work is Destroyer Battles - Epics of Naval Close Combat accounts dramatic engagements in the history of destroyer warfare.

His other main interest is photography, which can be seen at www.stern-photography.com. He lives in Cupertino, CA, with his wife Beth and two uninterested cats.

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