Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
The US Navy faces off Kamikazes at Okinawa
“Rain of Steel: Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ukagi’s Thunder Gods and the Kamikaze War off Okinawa,” by Stephen L. Moore, Naval Institute Press, 2020, 456 pages, $39.95 (Hardcover)
As the war turned against them in World War II, Japan tried a new tactic: the kamikaze. Pilots used their aircraft as one-way bombs against Allied warships and transports. The campaign started during the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944 and continued until the last day of the war.
“Rain of Steel: Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ukagi’s Thunder Gods and the Kamikaze War off Okinawa,” by Stephen L. Moore, examines the most intense phase of the kamikaze campaign, that fought during the Allied invasion of Okinawa.
Moore touches on the whole of the kamikaze effort. He looks at its origins, how the Japanese developed it, and their kamikaze attacks prior to and after the conquest of Okinawa. He also examines the US reaction to the campaign, including the tactics developed to counter the kamikazes. The meat of the book is the fighting off Okinawa, however.
Moore casts the fight as a duel between two leaders. Vice Admiral Ugaki Matome coordinated the Japanese effort at Okinawa, launching ten Kikusui aerial kamikaze offensives. Vice Admiral Marc “Pete” Mitscher commanded Task Force 58, the US Navy’s fast carrier force, during the Okinawa campaign. He simultaneously led the US aerial offensive against Okinawa and the counteroffensive against the kamikazes.
The book tells this story through the eyes of its participants, particularly Marine and Navy pilots manning the aircraft flying off Task Force 58 carriers. The book includes material culled through interviews of surviving pilots who participated in the campaign, as well as post-war memoirs and diaries of those no longer alive.
Moore also includes other participants – sailors aboard ships suffering under kamikaze attack, the Marines and US Army soldiers fighting ashore at Okinawa, and those at bases supporting the effort. He also examines the kamikazes, using their diaries and final letters to give readers a sense of their feelings.
All of this is combined into an account putting the kamikaze campaign into context. Moore examines its strengths and weaknesses. He shows the individuals who fought, showing their fears and hopes, while placing the events of the battle in a coherent framework.
“Rain of Steel” is a rare book. It offers a fresh look at a campaign now 75 years in the past. Combining contemporary records, declassified material, newly unearthed source material, and recent interviews, Moore brings the past into the present. He lets readers see the battle through the eyes of the participants.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.