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by Henry Sakaida
& Koji Takaki
Specialty Press 2003
Photos, Color Plates
Order now at amazon.com
343 Kokutai Japan's Squadron of Aces
World War II created many squadrons of experts. Many are familiar with the Luftwaffe's JV-44, but far fewer are aware of the Imperial Navy's equivalent, the 343rd Kokutai, commanded by Captain Minoru Genda.
Written with the cooperation of the veterans themselves, this book bears the mark of excellence by co-authors: Henry Sakaida and Koji Takaki's attention to detail, and talents as historians and researchers. For them, it the publication of this book fulfills their promise to the veterans of the 343rd to tell their story, and publish the definitive account of their wartime service.
Genda was the mastermind behind the raid on Pearl Harbor, but much had changed for the Imperial Japanese Navy since December 1941. With American forces in position to attach the home islands, the war became a desperate struggle for the remaining planes and pilots. The 343rd was formed as an elite squadron of handpicked pilots, armed with Japan's newest and most advanced fighter, the Shiden-Kai (George). This book documents the history of this remarkable unit, and the men who were part of this force of aviators.
The authors have spent years researching and interviewing former pilots of both the 343 Kokutai, to present one of the most comprehensive accounts of this unit ever written, and the only account in english. Each pilot is profiled, including their accomplishments before joining the 343rd. Also, the American side of the combat they flew are explored, in detailed interviews about their side of the same combat missions, losses and recollections. Additionally, oral history from others who witness their actions from the ground, including Japanese civilians. This type of research allows the reader to understand both sides of the combat, and provides a full account of each of the unit's combat mission.
The narrative is spiced with 300 remarkable photographs, most of which are published for the first time in an English language book. Accompanied by color artwork and written by acknowledged experts on Japanese military aviation, this book will be an essential requirement for any student of the Pacific air war.
Aside from the book's stunning historical content and photos, the book is lavishly illustrated with color plates, depicting the squadron's Shiden-Kai fighter markings and paint schemes. These color inserts make the book worthwhile for modelers and those interested in the 343rd's markings.
Finally, for those interested in wrecks, one of the book's final chapters deals with the 1978 discovery and recovery of one of the 343rd's George aircraft, from an underwater resting place, where it ditched off Jyoen Hisayoshi Bay during the war.
With few quality books available about Japanese Kokutai history in english, their book will make a valued addition to any Pacific War book library.
A seporate Japanese edition of the book, with expanded photos, illustrations was published in 2003: "Genda no Tsurugi" published by Neko Publishing, cover price Yen 4,300 + 5% tax. This edition also sold out soon after the initial printing.
Review by Justin Taylan
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