By late 1944 the war in the Pacific had turned decisively against the Japanese, and overwhelming Allied forces began to close in on the home islands. At this point Japan unveiled a terrifying new tactic: the suicide attack, or Kamikaze, named after the 'Divine Wind' which had once before, in medieval times, saved Japan from invasion. Intentionally crashing bomb-laden aircraft into Allied warships, these piloted guided missiles at first seemed unstoppable, calling into question the naval strategy on which the whole war effort was based.This book looks at the origins of the campaign, at its strategic goals, the organization of the Japanese special attack forces, and the culture that made suicide not just acceptable, but honourable. Inevitably, much mythology has grown up around the subject, and the book attempts to sort the wheat from the chaff. One story that does stand up is the reported massive stock-piling of kamikaze aircraft for use against any Allied invasion of the home islands, if the atomic bombs had not forced Japan's surrender.However, its principal focus is on the experience of those in the Allied fleets on the receiving end of this peculiarly alien and unnerving weapon - how they learnt to endure and eventually counter a threat whose potential was over-estimated, by both sides.
In this respect, it has a very modern resonance.ROBERT C STERN has published more than twenty books on military and naval subjects including the bestselling Battle Beneath the Waves. His last book for Seaforth was Destroyer Battles published in 2008.