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Book Review
Zero Aces 1940-42
A6M Zero-sen Aces 1940-42
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]


_ORGINPUB:
AeroScale

Foreword
Many historians agree that the IJNAF Zero pilots of 1942 were the most formidable air superiority force in the world. The legendary A6M Zero-sen fighter has been extensively covered since the Second World War but with the exception of the book Samurai, the story of the Zero pilots has been lacking. This new book recounts their exploits with fascinating stories, often with their own words.

Zero’s performance was a factor in Imperial Japan’s decision to expanded its war of conquest. Zeros were manned by a cadre of superbly trained warriors. Those fighter pilots probably were the most thoroughly screened and tested pilots in history, assigned to an air unit only after a viciously rigorous training regiment unconscionable to Western societies. The survivors then learned on-the-job against the Chinese. Some IJNAF aviators arrived over Pearl Harbor with hundreds of hours of combat flying behind them.

Modelers should appreciate the presented technical research and colorful artwork, and be inspired by the combat stories.

Introduction
A6M Zero-sen Aces 1940-42 is a new title from Opsrey Publishing LTD. It is the 137th book in the series Aircraft of the Aces. Extensively researched and written by Imperial Japanese aviation authority Nicholas Millman, it presents incredible stories of the pilots who wrote this iconic fighter's legend. Supporting the text is color artwork by illustrator Ronnie Olsthoorn. This book is catalogued with the Osprey short code ACE 137 and ISBN 9781472821447.

This 96-page book is available in softcover, ePub, and PDF. Here is Osprey's description of the book:
    The Mitsubishi A6M Zero-sen was Japan's Spitfire. In continuous development and operational service from the time of the Sino-Japanese war in 1940 to the end of the Pacific War in 1945, it is held in almost mythical awe, similar to Britain's legendary fighter aircraft.

    At the time of its operational debut the fighter's design features offered the revolutionary combination of an all-round vision canopy, cannon armament and a jettisonable drop tank giving it phenomenal range. Together with the flying and tactical proficiency of superbly trained pilots, this made the Zero-sen a true strategic fighter, spearheading Japan's offensive in the Pacific. It was also the mount of a plethora of successful and flamboyant naval aces engaged in both sea and land campaigns.

    This volume covers the use of the A6M2 variant from its debut in China to the Solomons Campaign.

Iconic of World War Two’s Pacific War and one of the best known fighter planes in history, Imperial Japan’s Mitsubishi A6M Zero earned such a reputation that the moniker Zero became synonymous with Japanese WW2 warplanes; the great fighter is an icon in Japan today, so much so that the JSDF F-2A version of the F-16 is known as the Viper-Zero.

Zero’s performance was a factor in Imperial Japan’s decision to expanded its war of conquest. Zeros were manned by a cadre of superbly trained warriors. Those fighter pilots probably were the most thoroughly screened and tested pilots in history, assigned to an air unit only after a viciously rigorous training regiment unconscionable to Western societies. The survivors then learned on-the-job against the Chinese. Some IJNAF aviators arrived over Pearl Harbor with hundreds of hours of combat flying behind them. Many historians agree that the IJNAF Zero pilots of 1942 were the most formidable air superiority force in the world.

Content
A6M Zero-sen Aces 1940-42 is presented through 96 pages of six chapters, and supporting sections, including at least 30 original illustrations and supporting appendices:
    Introduction
    Chapter 1 - Forging the Blade
    Chapter 2 - Wielding the Blade - China 1940-41
    Chapter 3 - Thrusting the Blade - The Carrier Aces
    Chapter 4 - Slashing Blade - Across the Islands
    Chapter 5 - Parrying Blade - 4th Kokutai
    Chapter 6 - Relentless Blade - Tainan Kokutai
    Appendices
Visitors to the Osprey site who read these reviews will notice that the website contents are often different from the published book, usually simply the wording of chapter titles. This book is no exception except for one great mistake - the website titles chapter 6 The Floatplane Fighter: 'The story of the A6M2-N "Rufe" floatplane fighter aces.' There is no mention of the A6M2-N in this book.

Japan's Zero-sen is a true legendary iconic fighter that has been undermined by bias and savage post-war scrutiny. The author addresses this fact in the introduction, and also discusses terminology. He also acknowledges a forthcoming second volume. (Perhaps it will host 'The story of the A6M2-N "Rufe" floatplane fighter aces?')

Mr. Millman is deeply involved in researching the Pacific air war and his research provides detailed information lacking in so many previous publications. An amazing part of this book is identification of specific pilots and aircraft. When known, the names of Japaneses and Allied pilots are used in the narratives, as are the serial numbers and unit markings of the involved aircraft; one pilot's story recounts his victory claim for a specific Allied bomber which actually made it back to base, only to be actually destroyed by that very pilot a few days later! The fate of downed pilots, known and unknown, are side stories in themselves.

Personal accounts enrich the text, like this one from a P-39 pilot:
    I still had a good bit of speed and was running wide open when the Zero started his usual vertical climb so that I was able to go up a good distance with him. I started firing short bursts. I realized my speed was getting low, but I was too bus to be concerned. Most fortunately, I saw what I think to be one of my 20 mm shells explode in front of the cockpit...
A Zero-sen pilot related his experience with the P-39's 37 mm cannon:
    The P-39 was equipped with a 37 mm gun. Once you got shot by that gun you became a fireball. All my men became fireballs and exploded.

The pilot histories begin with Forging the Blade, which details the concept, specification, design, and testing of the A6M. The author addresses legends of the aeroplane's design and construction, and presents some unique aspects of the aircraft. He also briefly discusses the weapons that gave the Zero-sen its viscous bite. Delivering that bite came from tactics and they are presented. Most interestingly, Mr. Millman describes and explains the Zero-sen's trademark maneuver, the Hineri-Komi, a climbing stall-turn, and the pilot who conceived it.

Wielding the Blade begins the war story of the Zero-sen pilots with six planes landing in Hankow, China, and the lead up to the first combat over Chungking. While many other interesting combats are documented, the chapter ends with several paragraphs revealing the intelligence failures of America and Britain to accept the Zero-sen was a threat.

Thrusting the Blade - The Carrier Aces is very interesting as it begins over Pearl Harbor and recounts dogfights with USAAF P-36s in detail. Next we learn how Zeros fared against Britain's famous Hawker Hurricane over Ceylon in a comprehensive six pages. The first carrier battle of Coral Sea and the incredible Battle of Midway receive five pages of detailed actions. The author chose to detail lesser known dogfights between USN pilots instead of well known combats, such as with Lt Cdr James Flatley and Lt Cdr Thach.

Slashing Blade - Across the Islands details the pilots who fought across Malaya, the Philippines and East Indies, and Dutch East Indies. The famous Tainan Kokutai is introduced. Parrying Blade - 4th Kokutai begins with the capture of Rabaul and bases on New Guinea, and subsequent with American and Australian forces over Port Moresby and Australia.

Relentless Blade - Tainan Kokutai begins in April 1942 and follows the pilots of this famous kokutai as they fought P-39s, P-40s, A-24s, B-17s, B-25s, B-26s, and other aircraft.

The chapter and book end with the introduction and description of the A6M3 Model 32 "Hamp," and the news of the Allied landing on Guadalcanal.

With the abundance of names and exploits - of both sides - this book has been a thrill to read. I am ready for the next volume!

Photographs, Art, Graphics
Almost every page features at least one photograph. The book is about the pilots of the Zero so they are about half content. Readers will find some commonly used images and yet there are many I have not seen before. These included several air-to-air shots of Zero-sen formations in flight. Quality varies from amateur "grab shots" to professional portraits. Modelers will be interested in aircraft and uniform details.

Artist Ronnie Olsthoorn created 33 color profiles and four planforms of the aces' Zeros. A combat scene graces the cover of the book. Each of the profiles features an accompanying caption, and a commentary in the appendices. The author is an illustrator as well as a researcher, and presents an explanation of the camouflage used on these A6Ms, the controversial 'ameiro.' He also comments on the colors of the units and flight colors that adorned the fighters. Early Zeros could be colorful and many modelers love them, and these profiles should be exciting to modelers. (I've been inspired to pull an A6M2 kit off the shelf for building.) This artwork enhances the excellent text.

Illustrations
    1. Hineri-komi maneuver: color 3D illustration of a Zero turning the table on a pursuing enemy by employing the Hineri-komi maneuver, keyed to six phases.

Graphics
    1. Rank Abbreviations for IJNAF flying ranks.
    2. Zero-sen Aces 1940-42: list of dozens of aces by name, total kills, units or carriers assigned to.

I often believe that the artwork in these Osprey title is worth acquiring the book for. This book is certainly worth it.

Conclusion
Admittedly I am enthralled with Mitsubishi's Zero-sen and thus with A6M Zero-sen Aces 1940-42. I've been fascinated with Far Eastern air wars since reading The Ragged Rugged Warriors decades ago. Accounts of Zero-sen pilots outside of Saburō Sakai's account there are relatively few pages about the Zero-sen pilots. Thanks to Mr. Millman and Osprey we now have a fuller history of them.

While the limited size of Aircraft of the Aces formats constrain the amount of known information that can be packed within, I believe that this is an exceptionally well written and presented book. Personal quotes and first-hand accounts of the pilots who fought with or against the Zero aces are exceptionally appreciated, as is the wonderful research and documentation, including translations and definitions of IJNAF terms. Excellent artwork and graphics support and enhance the text.

The clarity and ease of reading this comprehensive book makes it highly enjoyable. I appreciate the depth of this story, whether familiar from previous books, new information, or even ‘setting the record straight.’ Whether you seek “There I was” dogfight stories, academic qualification, historical education, modeling and artistic inspiration, this book should satisfy you. The quality and scope of the photographs and artwork alone should sell this book.

This book should be a 'must have' for modelers and students of the Zero-sen pilots in the year before and after Pearl Harbor. I have no meaningful complaint about this book and highly recommend it.
SUMMARY
Highs: Personal quotes and first-hand accounts, wonderful research and documentation. Excellent artwork and graphics.
Lows: No meaningful complaint.
Verdict: An exceptionally well written and presented book. It should be a 'must have' for modelers and students of the Zero-sen pilots in the year before and after Pearl Harbor.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ACE 137
  Related Link: A6M Zero
  PUBLISHED: Jun 25, 2019
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 87.03%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.23%

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)
FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2019 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.



Comments

Great review, Fred! I like the description of the book and how it lays the details out. Looks to be worth getting.
JUN 25, 2019 - 04:01 AM
   

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