The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Imperial Naval Air Service, Peter J. Edwards

The Rise and Fall of the Japanese Imperial Naval Air Service, Peter J. Edwards

This book traces the development of Japanese naval aviation from the very earliest steps in 1909, through its early tentative years, to the dramatic rise to dominance of the Japanese Imperial Naval Air Service, its early triumphs in 1941-42 and its eventually decline and destruction at the hands of the Americans. The author, Peter Edwards, served in the RAF from 1945, before developing an interest in military history. Sadly he died in 1992, before this book could be published, and the project was completed by his son.

I must admit I don’t quite know what to make of this book. The earlier chapters contain a few minor errors (in one case aircraft are reported as entering service in the wrong order, in another the production figures for one aircraft are incorrect).  A section on the possible fate of Amelia Earhart is also rather peculiar. The writing style is unusual - rather breathless in places, and with a strong Japanese tinge in others (this can be rather effective, as in the use of translations of some Japanese names, an idea that gives a better idea of the lyrical feel of many of these names than is often the case).

The book has two main strengths. First is the author's great knowledge of the individuals behind most developments in the Japanese Imperial Air Service, from the policy makers to the technicians and engineers who designed the aircraft. We thus get a rather more human view of events than is often the case. The second comes in the second half of the war, as the Americans begin to close in on Japan. Here the rather breathless writing style comes into its own, and we get a feel of a scene of panic and impending doom as new aircraft designs fail to live up to expectations, and the unreal atmosphere in which aircraft projects that couldn't produce any results before 1946 or 1947 are approved as the Americans close in on the Home Islands.

Chapters
1 - In the Beginning
2 - The Spreading Wings
3 - To the Misty Lagoon
4 - The Heavenly Castle
5 - Training and Developments
6 - Bringing the Eight Corners of the Earth Under One Roof
7 - Escalating the Shanghai Intervention
8 - Welding of the Weapons
9 - The Chinese Incidents
10 - The Mysterious Islands
11 - The Zero in Conceived
12 - A Dream is Realised
13 - On the Brink
14 - Charge!
15 - The Glorious Seventh
16 - War Amongst the Southern Islands
17 - Flying High
18 - The Fall of the Cherry Blossom
19 - The Final Sortie

Appendices
1 - An Analysis of Imperial Military Aviation Organisation
2 - Purchases by the Imperial Naval Air Service

Author: Peter J. Edwards
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 346
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2010


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