Academic journal article Military Review

Kaiten: Japan's Secret Manned Suicide Submarine and the First American Ship It Sank in WWII

Academic journal article Military Review

Kaiten: Japan's Secret Manned Suicide Submarine and the First American Ship It Sank in WWII

Article excerpt

KAITEN: Japan's Secret Manned Suicide Submarine and the First American Ship It Sank in WWII Michael Mair and Joy Waldron, Berkley Publishing Group, New York, 2014, 363 pages

Historians have written a great deal about kamikaze aircraft in World War II. The fanatical pilots used their aircraft as missiles in an attempt to destroy as many American ships and to kill as many American service members as possible. Yet, despite public fascination with these suicide weapons, historians have, for the most part, neglected the Imperial Japanese Navy's employment of suicide submarines. Michael Mair and Joy Waldron's Kaiten: Japan's Secret Manned Suicide Submarine and the First American Ship It Sank in WWII addresses this void.

The book serves as a dual history of the kaiten (heaven shaker) suicide submarine program in Japan and the career of USS Mississinewa, a Navy oiler. The narrative shifts between the two stories, culminating at Ulithi Harbor on 20 November 1944, when the first kaiten suicide submarine--actually a manned torpedo--struck and destroyed the "Mighty Miss" Michael Mair's father, John, served aboard the Mississinewa at the time, and before passing away, he motivated his son to chronicle these events.

Mair and Waldron weave numerous interviews with both American and Japanese participants, as well as action reports and deck logs, into a very compelling narrative. The authors chronicle the twenty-month-long development of the Japanese kaiten program, which involved adapting the famed Long Lance torpedo and recruiting and training pilots for manned operations. Mair and Waldron also painstakingly identify which kaiten and pilot from the Kikusui mission--the first Japanese manned torpedo mission of World War II--corresponded with which documented explosions in and around Ulithi on 20 November 1944. …

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