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Sunburst: … — book review

7 February 2011

Sunburst: the rise of Japanese … — book review

Sunburst: the rise of Japanese naval air power, 1909–1941, Mark R. Peattie, 2001, ISBN 978-1-59114-664-3, 364 pp.

Sunburst: the rise of Japanese naval air power, 1909–1941 by Mark R. Peattie

Sunburst: the rise of Japanese naval air power, 1909–1941 by Mark R. Peattie

This book is a prominent in my personal library since it addresses the equipment and the thinking that went into the building of Japan’s naval air force in the first half of the 20th Century — most importantly from the end of WW I to the beginning of WW II.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and their evolution of the aircraft carrier (Japan launched the first purpose built aircraft carrier, the

Hōshō 鳳翔) as well as the aircraft and the air groups.  The final ¼ of the book details the vessels, aircraft and aircraft engines — a significant portion is devoted to 47 persons who shaped the IJN’s airpower during this time.

The illustrations are original and wonderfully informative with no complications. The IJN’s air tactics are literally and graphically explained as is the Hineri-komi, a maneuver used with great success until the advent of more powerful U.S. Navy fighters like the Grumman F6F Hellcat. This dog fighting maneuver is interesting in that it involves skidding, usually avoided by flyers, and which points the nose of the aircraft differently from its flight path direction — one of the times when combat flying is made to not be pretty.

The rise and fall of the IJN’s air power is fully addressed with the pros and the cons equally covered. This is a comprehensive and objective book about WW II, how Japan came into it and why Japan ultimately lost.



This book should be read in tandem with Kaigun 海軍: strategy, tactics and technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941, David C. Evans and Mark R. Peattie, 1997, ISBN 0-87021-192-7, 661 pp. A review on this book was posted on January 17th and this book addresses all of the IJN’s formation, thinking and personages.

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