Mori Juzo's THE MIRACULOUS TORPEDO SQUADRON
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
Translated by Nicholas Voge from the original Japanese, this memoir tells the story of one Japanese naval pilot from the time he earns his wings to his combat experience in China, Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Guadalcanal.
Most of the story takes place at military bases, on aircraft carriers, and in the air. The author does an excellent job of communicating the boredom of military life, the rigors of training, and the terrors and excitement of combat. In the process we get some insight into the mindset of one Japanese participant in World War II but very little in the way of politics or views of the justice of the Japanese causes either in China or in the run-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The US was basically seen as the overbearing antagonist with the attack on Pearl Harbor an attempt to accomplish a swift major victory. What then becomes clear from the author’s writing is how quickly elation from the initial string of Japanese victories turned to a realization that the Allies’ resources were massive and impossible to overcome no matter how brave or “just” the Japanese cause.
The battle of Midway was a real eye-opener for the author due to massive Japanese losses. Then at Guadalcanal he and his aircrew crash land offshore and are rescued by starving Japanese soldiers who spent the next 18 days scrounging food from dead comrades and dodging American naval and air attacks.
Also at Guadalcanal the author loses his right hand in aerial combat. This effectively ends his career as a pilot. This crushes his spirit but he overcomes this and, unlike so many of his colleagues, he survives the war.
My only real criticism of this book is that the translation into English is very conversational and colloquial. There’s no real attempt to reproduce the formalisms associated with Japanese conversations. Instead we get a mix of very conversational and informal English that makes for very easy reading for a modern reader but which doesn’t seem entirely appropriate to the places and times that are being addressed. On the other hand the Kindle edition I read is interspersed with photographs of aircraft and ships referenced by the author in the text.
Having read several books about the Pacific War I enjoyed this book and the unique personal perspective it provides. It doesn’t focus on the “big picture” and instead gives a personal view of one participant’s involvement in what we now view as momentous events.
Read from this point in history, you realize how difficult it would have been for so many Japanese to imagine how so many of their cities would become smoking ruins.
- Kerri Sakomoto’s ONE HUNDRED MILLION HEARTS
- Josh Barkan’s BEFORE HIROSHIMA: THE CONFESSION OF MURAYAMA KAZUO (Short Story)
- Thomas B. Allen and Norman Polmar’s CODE-NAME DOWNFALL: THE SECRET PLAN TO INVADE JAPAN AND WHY TRUMAN DROPPED THE BOMB
- Peter Webber’s EMPEROR
- Max Hastings’ RETRIBUTION: THE BATTLE FOR JAPAN, 1944-45
- JAPAN’s LONGEST DAY
- Alexander Sokurov’s THE SUN
- Barrett Tillman’s WHIRLWIND: THE AIR WAR AGAINST JAPAN, 1942-1945
- Robert F. Dorr’s MISSION TO TOKYO: The American Airmen Who Took the War to the Heart of Japan
Review copyright (c) 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald