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by Osamu Tagaya
Osprey Publishing 2001
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|Osprey Combat Aircraft 22
Mitsubishi Type 1 Rikko 'Betty' Units of WWII
If the "Zero" is the best known Japanese fighter of WWII, it is the "Betty" that gets that distinction in the bomber category. Despite this fame, little is published in english about the stories of the aircrews and missions they preformed. Readers learn about its design, operations, and stories of its crews, from the first days of the Pacific war, until the very end of the Japanese empire.
Revolutionary in its design, the Betty fulfilled Imperial Japanese Naval requirements for a bomber that could operate from land bases, and fly incredible distances to attack enemy ships far out at sea, or distant bases, and deliver torpedoes and bombs. Its range and performance were unbelievable, compared to other aircraft designs at the time, and the Allies greatly underestimated this bomber's abilities in the first months of the war.
Author Tagaya tells the history of this famous bomber. At the start of the war, the bomber changed the course of history off the Malay peninsula in particular, Bettys were instrumental in the sinking the British battleships Repulse and Prince of Whales. Like the dive bombers and torpedo bombers at Pearl Harbor, the Betty's success sunk the reign of the battleship.
As the war progress, the Betty was the spearhead of Japanese bombing raids, serving over New Guinea, and northern Australia. Following the Marine landings on Guadalcanal, Bettys made daily appearances over the island to harass the Americans, and attempt to bomb Henderson Field into submission.
Fighting continuously, the Kokutai (units) of Betty bombers began to feel the effects of war, and the drawbacks off their bomber exploited by the Americans - particularly their lack of armor plating or protected fuel tanks. As the war dragged on, more and more Betty crews perished.
After American forces went on the offensive, the Betty's role became more desperate and successes fewer . To counter their weaknesses, Bettys crews often attempted smaller 'hit and run' raids at dusk or night, and finally, in the role of a kamikaze. Gone was the glory of early operations, and the sounds of their tied engines were often dubbed "washing machine charlie" by Americans on the ground.
For anyone interested in greater detail into the Japanese side of the Betty bomber story, and details on its crews and operations through WWII, this book is sure to impress and inform.
Interview with author Osamu Tagaya
Review by Justin Taylan
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