Zero Fighter by Akira Yoshimura

Posted on Nov 19, 2020

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The Blurb (from the back of the book)

Zero Fighter by Akira Yoshimura (picture courtesy of Goodreads.com

“This techno-history, a genre invented by the author Akira Yoshimura, is the history of the production, and use of, the famous Zero Fighter; the finest dogfighter in the air for much of World War II.

Superbly written with an offer eye for detail and to the poignant and resonant moment, this poetic, highly charged narrative presents World War II from the Japanese point of view.

Ultimately, more than the history of an aeroplane (though the Zero is presented with the grandeur due it), this book is an extremely astute presentation of the Japanese character and world view.”

The Review

Having been lent this book over a month ago now, or so, I was, and always have been interested in how the other side lived and fought against the allies. Not just in WWII, but in all wars. I’ve long been fascinated by how the “enemy” view those they fight against, so being lent this book about the infamous Zero plane that was a menace of the air for a few short years, grabbed my interest, especially in its use by the equally infamous Kamikaze pilots.

Written in 1993 by Akira Yoshimura, a well-respected writer in Japan of fiction and non-fiction alike; this book reads in an almost poetic way, whilst having the feel of a novel in places, especially with any dialogue with the central people in development and to do with the Zero directly or otherwise.

The technology side of things is relatively easy to grasp, but some of it went over my head. Engines have always bored me. A car is just a car to me. Nothing special.

Anyway, what I found interesting, was the fact that the engineers of the planes prior to the Japanese involvement in WWII, were under great pressure to design a plane better than Britain, Germany and America. To add to this that they were fighting China at the time (and had a dalliance with the Russians too), and sided with Germany, whilst staying neutral in the war, you can imagine what they were up against.

Much is made of this throughout the book; the people involved often said to be in tears at times, due to the frustrations or joy of the process of building the Zero and other designs.

It was obviously trying to show the humanity of the ordinary people under exceptional circumstances, and yet didn’t much show remorse in what was done to the people of China, nor mentioned at all about the prisoners of war and the atrocities committed against the allies, especially the British and Australians; but this was about Japan and its people, not to mention the Zero of course, which this book was ultimately about.

I did find it fascinating, especially how they got the planes from the factory to the airfields. This was done by ox and cart, although other ways were tried. Their tenacity and sheer determination to get the job done was to be admired, especially during war time.

As for the Kamikaze, their mention was brief but shocking for it, in that none turned away from their duties in this. Some simply thought about it, and agreed unanimously that it was the only option they had due to the Americans greater numbers and firepower. Some of the commanders felt guilty afterwards, sacrificing so many young to the slaughter, but in the face of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they felt that there was little they could do against such a weapon.

The book’s ending is quite strange, and yet poignant, and you feel that from that moment, they had learned a terrible lesson, one I feel, others have not.

All in all, this is an interesting read. Bear in mind it was written by one author, but two others contributed to it in its history and translation, then you will understand it’s strange style, especially the biased American parts, like two authors crossing swords.

The WWII Zero fighter takes to the skies once again courtesy of
freemalaysiatoday.com

It’s out of print now (I tried to find a copy, the one’s available going for £50-150 per copy), but if you can find one, I highly recommend that you get it and read it.

Now I want to read more from the Japanese side, especially the soldiers; Akira Yoshimura wrote a novel called One Man’s Justice, about a soldier after the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as another to do with the Battleship Musashi: The Making And Sinking Of The World’s Biggest Battleship; the latter heavily mentioned in Zero. Both are available on Amazon, as well as others by him.

As I’ve said, it’s a thoroughly interesting read and well worth delving in to.

As ever, support your local library, and please buy from book shops, especially independent ones if you can, otherwise this is available from all good retailers everywhere.

Buy, Read and Enjoy

Posted in: Books, History