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Broken Wings of the Samurai: the Destruction of the Japanese Airforce

31 July 2022

Broken Wings of the Samurai: the Destruction of the Japanese Airforce, Robert C. Mikesh, 1993, ISBN 1-55750-083-5, 199 pp.

Robert Mikesh was expert (after a rich life he passed away February 2022, aged 94) in Japan’s aviation history—along with being curator for the National Air & Space Museum (NASM) and superb custom model builder. Broken Wings of the Samurai is his epic summation of the military aircraft and aircraft wrecks which were in Japan shortly after the end of World War II (WW II). Except for remarkable aircraft types, almost all of Japan’s army and naval aircraft were sent to the salvager with little to no regard for history or museum display potential. 

Readers are fortunate, though, that Mikesh produced this book since it records the aircraft types used by the Imperial Japanese Forces most of which have few to no surviving examples. Readers of Broken Wings may marvel at the more than a handful of aircraft types little known outside of Japan, or those with expertise in the field, much less remembered (with descriptions and images) by Mikesh’s skillful researching. Some of these aircraft are:

  • Nakajima E8N2 “Dave”
  • Mitsubishi Ki-46 “Dinah”
  • Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu 屠龍 “Nick”
  • Tachikawa Ki-9 “Spruce”
  • Nakajima J1N1 Gekko 月光 “Irving”
  • Shōwa L2D3 “Tabby”
  • Tachikawa SS-1 (no codename as it unknown to the Allies)
  • Nakajima G8N Renzan 連山 “Rita” (Japan’s are land based four engine long range bomber)
  • Nakajima Kikka 中島 橘花 (Japan’s take on the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet powered fighter)
  • Mitsubishi J8M Shūsui 修生 (Japan’s take on the Messerschmitt Me 163 Comet rocket powered fighter)
  • Aichi M6A1 Seiran 晴嵐 (the world’s sole purpose-built submarine based attack aircraft, no codename as it was unknown to the Allies)

…believe it or not there are many more!

Broken Wings also presents readers with images and information of the less rare as well as exceptional aircraft, such as:

  • a captured P-40 at a training school 
  • Kawanishi H8K “Emily” (WW II’s best flying boat design)
  • Nakajima A6M2-N “Rufe”
  • Mitsubishi F1M “Pete”
  • Aichi E16A Zuiun 瑞雲 “Paul”
  • Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” or “Zero”
  • Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa 隼 “Oscar”
  • Yokosuka D4Y 彗星 “Judy” (WW II’s highest performing dive bombing aircraft)
  • Nakajima B6N2 Tenzan 天山 “Jill”
  • Kawanishi N1K Kyōfū 強風 “George

…and many, many more!

Readers will enjoy more aircraft than those itemized in the incomplete lists given above. Broken Wings is not only a requiem of Imperial Japan’s military aviation designs it also encapsulates WW II Japan’s naval as well as army aviation achievements whether it was leading edge or yeoman in nature. Mikesh’s knowledge abounds as does his passion for aviation history in this well produced and regarded book. Broken Wings is the book to have on WW II Japan’s aircraft—bar none—since it is dense with information, full of context, clear table and excellent images—some images are remarkable and some are heartbreaking (destroyed to prevent capture or purposely wrecked prizes).

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