A Quick Look at B-29 Hunters of the JAAF


B-29 Hunters of the JAAF by Koji Takaki & Henry Sakaida is Osprey's most recent addition to their Aviation Elite series of books, and to this reviewer, is one of the most interesting. Standard format size, 128 pages, many black and white photos with 14 pages of color plates of fighter profiles and detail markings.

Aviation history enthusiasts have been blessed these last few years by more and more solid histories, most of them covering the air battles over Europe. However, only recently have those interested in the Pacific air campaign had English language histories of comparable quality and this volume is one such book. The bomber campaign against the home islands has had almost nothing generally available in English, and I can't think of any book that is written from the Japanese perspective until now.

This book covers as its subject the almost year and a half long campaign starting in April 1944 to defend the home islands from allied air attack. Facing the same type of threat as the Luftwaffe did a couple of years earlier, the JAAF responded in many of the same ways (oblique firing cannons, radar and visual early warning networks, modified twin engine bombers as interceptors, etc.) as the Germans did before them. Given the Japanese war fighting spirit, they approached the ramming or body slamming technique much earlier than the Germans did with their Sturmstaffel 1 combat doctrine.

This book shows how the move to ramming was a natural progression from an inability to successfully attack the B-29 using conventional gun attacks. For those who are familiar with how the Luftwaffe anti-bomber campaign evolved, this book will be all the more interesting for the similarities and differences found in the Japanese effort.

With many Japanese source photographs (airfield, combat action and crash scene type), the authors also attempt to show the B-29 crews and aircraft that did fall victim to Japanese efforts. This is the personalizing aspect of this history that I like the most. The telling of personal combat stories humanizes for the first time the Japanese pilots and their fear and frustration when facing the "gigantic B-29". Due to the inscrutable nature of  the Japanese language to most westerners, there are few such accounts in the English language, notable exceptions being two others books, both in the Osprey Aces series, also by author Henry Sakaida Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-45 and Imperial Japanese Navy Aces 1937-45.

This book does what anybody could ask from any book, to address the subject in a thorough, authoritative and interesting manner.

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