One of the many problems faced by the Japanese Navy after the initial period of Japanese success was their failure to replace the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Mitsubishi's attempt to produce a new carrier fighter failed, and the official project to develop a land based interceptor, which produced the Mitsubishi J2M Raiden, also failed to live up to expectations. Their most successful late interceptor was actually based on a floatplane, the Nakajima N1K Kyofu. The first land based version of this aircraft, the N1K1-J Shiden, was promising but had some flaws, but the second version, the improved N1K2-J Shiden-Kai, was a very capable fighter.
This book begins with a look at the development of these interceptors, followed by three chapters looking at their combat careers. The combat history really comes alive when we reach the second incarnation of the 343rd Kokutai, commanded by the famous Japanese aviator Genda Minoru. Genda seems to have been the first commander of a unit equipped with these late war interceptors to really thing about the best way to use them, and as a result his unit was by far the most successful of the ones covered here.
Several conclusions can be drawn from this book. First, a well organised and well unit equipped with the Shiden-Kai was a dangerous foe for the Americans, even in the last year of the war. Second, a single unit of that type couldn't hope to influence the overall cause of events. Third, the Japanese appear to have over-claimed victories to an even greater extent than most combatants (something also seen in many of the naval battles of the war). In this case examples of over-claiming by as much as four-to-one can be found, producing a misleading impression of success and making it hard to produce valid plans.
This is an interesting book that takes us inside the desperate last ditch defence of the Japanese Empire, under increasing pressure as the US Navy and Air Force got closer and closer to the Home Islands.
1 - The Need for Interceptors
2 - Kawanishi Fighters
3 - N1K1 Kyofu and J2M Raiden in Combat
4 - N1K1-J Shiden in Combat
5 - N1K2-J Shiden-Kai in Combat
Author: Yasuho Izawa with Tony Holmes