by Edwin P. Hoyt
Burford Books, 1983, 333 pages
Inaccuracies and an unsuitable tone spoil this history of
Japan's kamikaze pilots. Wetherall (1986, 43) points out in a review of this
book that its "general reliability is marred by errors in historical names
and sloppiness in the romanisation of key Japanese words." Wetherall
considers The Sacred Warriors, a general history published in 1982, to
be "more inspired in every way" than The Kamikazes.
Edwin Hoyt is a military historian who has written numerous other books on World War II. Arbor House originally published The Kamikazes
in 1983, and this edition published by Burford Books contains a two-page
foreword by Hoyt dated April 1999. Even this new foreword contains several
factual errors, and the book's main part still has uncorrected errors from the
previous edition. The foreword has the "Russo Japanese War of 1903,"
even though this war occurred in 1904-5. Hoyt writes in the foreword that the
suicide attack as a military policy was invented on October 16, 1944, but two
naval officers there at the time indicate the date was October 19 (Inoguchi and
Nakajima 1958, 3, 14). The first name of "Takejiro Ohnishi" in the
foreword should read "Takijiro," and the main part of the book uses
"Onishi" rather than "Ohnishi."
Some statements in the foreword have little support. Hoyt
writes that "the suicide attack as a military policy was invented on the
spur of the moment by Admiral Ohnishi," but Warner and Warner (1982,
68-86) provide much evidence that the Japanese military supported suicide
attacks prior to this and that Ohnishi received orders to use suicide tactics
in the Philippines. The foreword says, "There is not much talk about
Kamikazes in Japan today." This seems to be an overstatement, since over
the past decade many books have been published and several commercial films
have been released on the topic. Although the book generally gives a correct
account of the events surrounding Japan's kamikaze operations, it contains many
more examples of incorrect and unsupported statements.
Hoyt generally provides a straightforward account of the
history of the kamikaze attacks, but at times he uses an unsuitable tone for a
historian. For example, he writes of the "sad little letters" that
squadron commanders wrote to families of missing fliers (p. 152). This may be
an attempt at sarcasm, but the use of "sad little" would probably
disturb family members who received such letters. The following unsupported
statement seems insulting, "Japanese people are by nature melancholy, or
at least mercurial" (p. 36). This is given as one of the reasons why
Japanese soldiers readily accepted the idea of owing their lives to country and
emperor. As a final example, Hoyt writes of staff officers of the Fourth Air
Army "abandoning their geisha friends" as they prepared to fight as
infantrymen in the Philippines due to lack of aircraft (p. 168). This side
comment about "geisha friends," even if it were true, seems totally
irrelevant to the historical narrative.
Anyone interested in an evenhanded history of Japan's
kamikaze pilots should skip this book and try The Sacred Warriors by
Denis and Peggy Warner or Kamikazes by Earle Rice Jr.
Inoguchi, Rikihei, Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau.
1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.
Warner, Denis, Peggy
Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide
Legions. New York: Van Nostrand
1986. Universal divine wind. Far Eastern Economic Review. 27 February, 43-44.