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by Matome Ugaki
Translated Masataka Chihaya
edited by Katherine V. Dill
and Donald M. Goldstein
Naval Institute Press 2008
Cover Price: $59.95
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The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki 1941-1945
This book is the Sensoroku (personal diary) of Imperial Japanese Navy Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki who was a key participant in the Pacific War. Fading Victory was originally published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 1991 with an orange cover and reprinted by Naval Institute Press in 2008 with a gray cover with his photo.
One of the most historically important aspects of the Ugaki diary are his recollections of the April 18, 1943 "Yamamoto Mission" (pages 222-223, 330-332, 350-360 plus footnotes). That morning, Ugaki was a passenger aboard G4M1 Betty Tail 326 while Admiral Yamamoto was a passenger aboard G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323. Over southern Bougainville, both bombers were shot down. Ugaki was one of two survivors from his plane.
Afterwards, Ugaki was sent to Japan to convalesce and it was not until a year later on April 18, 1944 when his recollections were dictated Ensign Kenzo Ebima. Arguably, these recollections may not have been remember accurately, or influenced by the events that transpired. But, Ugaki felt this was the day he could have and should have died, writing "Contrary to my determination to sacrifice myself for the commander in chief [Yamamoto], instead I lost him and survived. It was a completely unexpected event. I should be resigned to my fate, deeming it God's will, and do my best to live and serve to repay God by carrying out revenge."
Of interest, the diary's introduction notes describe that Ugaki did maintain his diary during his hospitalization in Japan, but his son Hirosmitsu refused permission to publish the entries claiming they were "personal and of no historical interest". After he passed away, his widow was asked but also declined to share them, citing her husband's wishes. Whatever might be written in those "personal" entires is unknown.
What is also interesting is that none of his diary entries related to this mission reveal he suspected that the U. S. had broken Japanese Naval codes to intercept them, rather it was just good luck on their part. Another interesting revelation is that according to Watanabe, Ugaki felt he was responsible for Yamamoto's death. Although his diary gives no reason, it was likely because Ugaki felt it was his eagerness to visit the front line influenced Yamamoto to make the inspection and resulted in his death on April 18, 1943.
Review by Justin Taylan
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