“Yamato, Flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy”; by Daniel Knowles, Casemate, Fonthill Media, 224 pages, $49, 76 b & w images.
Publisher’s Summary: Named after the Yamato Province, Yamato was designed to counter the numerically superior fleet of the US Navy. Built amongst a shroud of secrecy and deception and commissioned shortly after the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, she was present a number of engagements including the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Despite having been designed to engage, and sink enemy surface vessels, the Yamato would only fire her unrivaled 18.1-inch guns at an enemy surface target on one occasion, in October, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In the final months of the war, as Kamikaze aircraft targeted the American landing fleet off Okinawa, the Yamato herself embarked on a one-way mission of sacrifice in a last desperate roll of the dice in an attempt to wreak havoc on the landing forces around Okinawa, the last steppingstone prior to an invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.
Reviewed by Don DeNevi
At 1423 on the afternoon of April 7, 1945, the “Queen of Japan’s Battlewagons”, the pride. Of the Japanese Navy, “. . . slid under completely”, followed by “the blast, rumble, and shock of compartments bursting from the pressure and exploding magazines already submerged.”
According to a Japanese officer, Ensign Yoshida, who witnessed the death of Yamato and her captain, Vice Admiral Selichi Ito, heard the Executive Officer say in a heartbroken voice, “Correction of list hopeless!” Admiral Ito ” . . . struggled to his feet. The staff still alive arose and saluted solemnly. A prolonged silence followed, he looked around, shook hands deliberately with each, then walked resolutely into his cabin to save the emperor’s portrait”.
At 1420, the deck was nearly vertical and Yamato’s battle flag was touching the billowing waves. Shells of the big 18.1-inch guns skidded and bumped across the deck of the ammunition room, crashing against the bulkhead, kindling a series of explosions. At that point, she was slowly on her way to the bottom of Sibuyan Sea with all but 23 officers and 246 men from a complement of between 1,767 and 3,300 men. Ten carrier-borne aircraft were shot down at a loss of 12 of our pilots Yamato had been issued only enough fuel for a one-way suicide mission off the shores of Okinawa. Up to her final seconds, she remained capable of outshooting any ship on earth.
Thus, a reader will follow with clarity every detail of the birth and death of the only warship capable of ruling the Pacific. In about as fine a narration can be, visibly, even passionately, the author offers the only definitive story, sparing no detail, of the intriguing chronology of operations and the consequences that followed of earth its events.
Readers should know that author Daniel Knowles is no lightweight in developing wartime naval photographic histories. His previous works includes “Tirpitz: The Life and Death of Germany’s Last Great Battleship”; “HMS Hood: Pride of the Royal Navy”, and “The Battle of the Denmark Strait: An Analysis of the Battle and The Loss of HMS Hood.”
In the last Japanese naval operation of the war, the sinking of the largest ship the world has ever known was considered analogous to the destruction of the entire Japanese Empire.
Incidentally, in recent months, the Naval Institute Press published an equally brilliant systematic, methodical presentation of the facts. And principles of the largest battleships Japan designed, engineered, and constructed, the Battleships Yamato and Musashi. This Japanese naval warship album was assembled from selected photos in the archives of the Kure Maritime Museum. It was written and edited by Kazushige Todaka and the Kure Museum staff. Naval Institute Press is placing its stamp of approval on the superb presentation by representing it in America.
And, for very serious WWII buffs, how do you resist Osprey’s “We killed Yamato – – The long – Range P-38 Assassination of the Man Behind Pearl Harbor, Bougainville, 1943”?
Readability – – 5 stars
Historical accuracy – – 5 stars
Overall rating – – 5 stars
Overall % rating – – 5 stars