Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No 22:

Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-45 by Henry Sakaida

reviewed by Paul Mahoney


The amount of information on World War 2 era Japanese aircraft (and their aces) is considerably smaller than that available for most of the other major combatants, with the exception of Russia. Because of this, to me, almost any decent resource on the subject is welcomed. Perhaps a symptom of this situation is apparent in the title of this book -- Imperial Japanese Navy Aces. Volumes in this series dealing with US, British, and Luftwaffe Aces are broken down by aircraft type (at times even subtypes!), or a few aircraft types. Japan gets one volume for their entire Naval Aviation fleet. There is another in the series devoted to the Japanese Army Air Force.

Nonetheless, I was happy to find this title included in the Osprey series. As with the other volumes, it is softbound, has a fairly comprehensive text, and several pages of well-done color profiles. Appendices provide a listing of the organization of the JNAF's operational structure, a list of all of Japan's Naval Air Groups (when established and where operated), and finally, a table listing the aces and their tallies (along with a brief discussion on the methods used for claiming victories).

The book is broken down into some basic phases of the War, beginning with Japan's involvement in China, and culminating in the defense of the Home Islands. In each chapter there is a brief discussion of the applicable history, followed by several paragraphs (each) on individual pilots. Quotes from pilots themselves are used considerably, which I always find a fascinating read. Photos are primarily of the pilots, rather than the aircraft shots a modeler would look for, but then the book is titled ACES, not AIRCRAFT! This book provides an interesting glimpse into the actions of individuals that flew, and each of the stories provides a dramatic and personalized view of the aerial war.

The modeler will obviously be very interested in the color plates provided with this book. There are 11 pages of profiles, and 2 more illustrating the various uniforms of the JNAF. The drawings feature the main aircraft used by the JNAF, including the A5M, F1M, various models of the A6M (including the Rufe floatplane), J2M, N1K, and J1N. These profiles were done by Tom Tullis, and the detail is superb. Like all others in the series, a brief description is provided below each side-view, and a full paragraph on each aircraft (and it's
pilot) is located in a table at the end of the book. I would like to have seen a bit more discussion of the markings in this section. The drawings are obviously well-researched, but lacking a more detailed description of the individual markings. Perhaps a nitpick, but something of great value to a modeler. This is an issue I have with all the books in the series -- it can be frustrating to have superb artwork 'dangled' in front of you, and not be able to fully utilize it due to incomplete descriptions. As one step in the research process, however, these are well worthwhile.

Bottom line: a concise summary of JNAF pilots and operations. Information on a subject that is not available in huge quantities. Interesting stories and photos of the men that actually flew the aircraft we endeavor to model. Somewhat useful profiles for the modeler. Definitely a good value at around $16 or so.


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