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by Tameichi Hara
with Fred Saito, Roger Pineau
Naval Institute Press 1984
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|Japanese Destroyer Captain
Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway The Great Naval Battles of the Pacific Seen Through Japanese Eyes
There are only a handful of accounts by Japanese Navy warship veterans published in English. This book is one of them and additionally is an outstanding autobiography about destroyer service in World War II. The book tells the story of Naval action in the Pacific, prior to Pearl Harbor until the end of the Pacific War. Originally published in Japan in 1958, the book begins with a frank introduction, stating how the author, Captain Hara sought to not only write about his own experiences, but also to write objectively about merits and faults of both himself, the commanders around him as well as the enemy. His writing has consulted both Japanese and American records to provide insights on both sides of the battle.
The book begins by recounting his early life and rural upbringing, and the most important day of his life, when he traveled to Hiroshima to take the exam for entry into Japan's Naval academy at Eta Jima. He describes his studies there and early assignments afterwards crewing ships, and also comments on the political climate of the world, and how events like the Naval Treaties, developments in air power, and events in China were perceived, and how rigid class-structure dominated the Imperial Navy, as well as its traditionally subordinate position to support the Army during operations.
Hara mentions Japan's peacetime development of torpedoes, which would prove to be the world's best when war came in December 1941. Hara himself authored an important torpedo doctrine that dramatically increased crews successes. He also writes about the doubts of many senior naval officers about a war with the United States, and clearly understands the industrialization would mean that the Japanese Navy would have to win every battle decisively. Hara assigned as a destroyer captain prior to the start of the war is powerless to voice his concerns and must go about his duty to destroy the enemy.
Start of the Pacific War
On the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack, Hara was commander of destroyer Amatsukaze and observed the attack on Davao returning soon afterwards to land troops. Next, he participated at the Battle of the Java Sea where his destroyer fired torpedoes and observed the battle from a distance, and later sunk submarine SS-176 and participated in the occupation of Christmas Island south of Java. Then, a support role in the battle of Midway when the Navy suffered a crushing defeat by American air power and loss of its carrier force.
It was during the Guadalcanal and Solomons campagin that Hara's gained great reputation and fame as a destroyer captain. Firstly, during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons when carrier Ryujo was sunk before them.
Battleship Yamato Mission
After taking command of a new crew, his service continues until the end of the war, when he commanded one of the escorts for Battleship Yamato.
Review by Justin Taylan
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