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A Glorious Way to Die: The Kamikaze Mission of the Battleship Yamato
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
At the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington D.C. Southeast among the captured war booty and static displays you will find one rather odd looking display, a giant twisted and tortured looking piece of iron that looks like a modern art sculpture. This section of metal is not an artwork, it is a piece of armor plate taken after the war from the shipyard in Japan that built the warship Yamato, the largest battleship to ever to roam the seas. It is distorted because the Navy wanted to see what US Navy 16" guns would do to the armor plate which was used to protect the Yamato and her two sister ships Musashi and Shinano. Like many countries in the 30's and early 40's in Japan the Imperial Navy was the dominant military force, as such the Imperial Navy wanted to deploy the most powerful ships in the world, at that time the battleship was still viewed as the king of the seas. Three ships were taken under construction in the Kure naval yard, they were to be the most heavily armed and defended battleships ever, larger by far than the German Bismark, British Prince of Wales and Hood and even larger than any battleship ever built by the United States, these warships were to sport giant 18" guns that could devastate any opponent that they should face. Very quickly after the start of hostilities it became clear that the role of the battleship would have to be re-thought, the destruction of the Prince of Wales, The Bismark, the Italian fleet at Taranto and several American battleships at Pearl Harbor by (or at least largely in part due to) airpower and the advent of the submarine force made these once unapproachable ships vunerable. After the Battle Of Coral Sea construction of the last of these three giant ships was halted and changed in mid-stream...Shinano would go on to become the worlds 1st "Super Carrier". Yamato and Musashi went into service as battleships, both saw combat. At the Battle Of Leyte Gulf in Oct 1944 Yamato was able to claim a role in the sinking of several American warships, including an escort carrier (USS Gambier Bay) but more telling was the fate of Mushasi, attacked by US Navy aircraft this seemingly invincible ship was sunk after taking 13 torpedos and an undetermined number of bombs. Yamato retreated to Japan to re-arm and repair her combat damage. As the fortunes of the Japanese Empire went on a steady downward slide the presure to send Yamato back into combat grew. The Battle Of Leyte Gulf is famous for one other 1st, the first major use of Kamikaze aircraft, the Imperial Navy decided to deploy the Yamato in his role after the invasion of the island of Okinawa. This book is the story of that mission. Mr. Spurr has interviewed participants on both sides, he became very familiar with suvivors from the crew of Yamato and I think he has created a very educational and entertaining book. I will not divulge the outcome of the mission any further, most people who will look for this book already know what happened. It is an exciting bullet for bullet and shell for shell account, plenty of graphic first hand accounts to be sure. If you ever are in DC and have in interest in this matter please visit the Navy yard and see with your own eyes the section of metal I mentioned earlier, it will answer all questions as to what it must have been like on Yamato. For those interested in the fate of Shinano, it was sunk by the American sub Archerfish on a shakedown/fitting out cruise, once again emphasising the changing role of these giant ships.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
This account certainly deserves five stars, no question about it. Spurr presents an excellent and very readable account of the last sailing of the Yamato on it's suicide mission to Okinawa. The author switches back and forth between the American side and the Japanese side, and, because of this, presents two sides of the same event. And, when reading both sides, the reader gets the impression that the author has done one heck of a job of research. The American characters, and especially the Japanese characters, come alive as real people, in real situations, in real action. Spurr has done an excellent job in both research and presentation; the book is exciting and hard to put down once you start reading. I was also impressed with the clarity of maps and diagrams, which, in most books of this period, are so small and blurry they are impossible to read. A great battleship. A great story.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Other reviews have eloquently praised this wonderful book, so I'll restrict my remarks to related material.
If this subject interest you, try Yoshida Mitsuru's book: "Requiem for the Battleship Yamato". This is a first-person account of Yamato's final mission, and is one of the greatest literary accomplishments of World War II.
And to the reviewer who wanted Spielberg to make a movie of this story, please know that several films about the Yamato's final voyage have already been made in Japan. At least one film was made in the fifties, another version, "Rengo Kantai" (the Grand Fleet) was released in 1981, and a film called the "Battleship Yamato" was released a few years ago. None of these are available in the United States. Hopefully, someone will see fit to import at least one of the recent films (both reportedly lavish productions), as any of these would be preferable to a U.S. production.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 29, 2012
Format: Unknown Binding
HIJMS Yamato was - and will now forever be, the largest Battleship ever built. It will also forever remain a supreme curiosity that Japan - the one country which had the foresight to recognise how air power and aircraft carriers were the sea-going naval might of the future, should insist on building 2 Yamato class Battleships when their construction almost bankrupted the nation to the extent that their building even deprived the country's fishermen of their nets.

Nevertheless this magnificent vessel of death, doom and destruction went into service at a time when the Imperial Japanese Navy could do no wrong. Prior to WW2 Japan broke the terms of the peace treaties by preparing for their eventual complete domination of the Pacific region. The building of Truk Lagoon being one example. Then, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour those plans were put into effect with devastating results. In June 1942, however, they failed to take Midway Atoll and from then on it was all downhill. Three years later, the largest Battleship ever to have been built was sent on a final mission from which she never returned.

In "A Glorious Way to Die" Russell Spurr gives an account of this great ship from beginning to tragic end. It is a complete account - as befits one of the world's greatest ships.

Perhaps the Yamato will prove to be the last great ship to be discovered by the great Bob Ballard.

NM
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30 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In the passage describing the part played by Torpedo Squadron 84 the attack on the Yamato contains egregious errors in the names of 12 of the 14 pilots of VT-84. The only two that are correct are squadron skipper, Lt.Cdr. Chandler Swanson, and Lt.jg Richard Walsh. This leads me to question the validity of other portions of the account that may be made up. My name is Dewey Ray. An Owen Ray appears in Russell Spurr's account . I was one of the pilots on the attack. There was no Owen Ray in our squadron and the names of the other pilots on the attack are similarly mangled or completely ficticious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
By April, 1945, Japan was on the verge of total collapse. Her island outposts had been taken by the ever-advancing American Army and Navy, and she had resorted to kamikaze attacks to ward off the American fleet. Now, with the battle of Okinawa in its opening stages, the Japanese were about to unleash their largest kamikaze yet: the super battleship Yamato.

Yamato's mission would be to sail to Okinawa, attack the American transports anchored there, then beach herself while the crew members joined the ranks of the Japanese army to fight against the American Marines. Yamato would be accompanied by the light cruiser Yahagi and 8 destroyers. Air cover would not be provided, so the force would be sailing exposed to attacks from American carrier aircraft. One only needs to remember what happened to the British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse to see how effective aircraft could be against unprotected warships.

The Americans were trying to decide how best to handle the threat posed by Yamato. Discovered by both search planes and submarines, the Americans knew that Yamato was making a run for Okinawa. But would the carrier aircraft be able to reach her? There was some talk about dispatching surface ships to slug it out with the Japanese fleet, but in the end, it was decided to send the carrier aircraft after them. The American fliers engaged the Japanese fleet on the morning of April 7th. In the space of two hours, the Yahagi and several destroyers were sunk. As for the Yamato, she absorbed upwards of 10 torpedo and heavy bomb hits before finally rolling over and sinking. Only about 200 of her crew survived. The last gasp of the Imperial Japanese Navy had been extinguished by the American carrier aircraft. American losses for the operation amounted to 10 planes and 12 pilots.

This is an excellent book. Author Russell Spurr not only describes Yamato's mission, but he also goes into detail about Japan's entire kamikaze effort. He describes the kamikaze's impact on the ships and crews of the American fleet along with the development and recruitment of pilots by the Japanese.

As for the Yamato mission, Spurr goes through an hour-by-hour narrative of the mission from both the Japanese and American sides. The reader gets a feeling of what it was like, on the Japanese side, to know that one was almost sure to die. While on the American side, the reader finds out what it was like to break through the clouds and see the world's largest battleship floating below them.

I recommend this book very highly. The writing and research done by Russell Spurr gives the reader a true sense of what this desperate mission was like for both the Japanese and the Americans.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
This was a very decent and well researched account of the final mission of the Japanese Battleship 'Yamato'. The story was told well and the author made good use of first hand accounts by the participants on both sides. The book shows that not all Japanese were fanatical in their desire to die for no good cause, a lot where soldiers/sailors doing their duty as they saw fit.
The author presented some very interesting accounts of young Japanese sailors and of some young American pilots. It also offered a overview of the whole suicide campaign against Allied forces off Okinawa. This was a easy book to read and I came away feeling sorry for alot of the American & Japanese servicemen who gave their lives for the country. A good read!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
I rather enjoyed this book. It gave me a sense of really being there. I wish that other books were written this way. I was astonished at how the author had studied and collected so much history from a time so long ago. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys studying WWII
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on May 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
Veteran foreign reporter Russell Spurr presents A Glorious Way to Die: The Kamikaze Mission of the Battleship Yamato, which chronicles the true story of Japan's decision to send the Yamato (the largest battleship ever built) to Okinawa in the final year of World War II, without air cover or fuel for a return voyage. Far more than a dry historical record, A Glorious Way to Die is accessible to readers of all backgrounds in its accurate portrayal of not only Japan's desperation tactics, but also the chilling effect they had on Japan's adversaries. One result was the widespread conviction that an invasion of Japan would likely be a bloodbath, that would not end until every last one of their forces were dead. An exhaustively researched and aptly presented account, A Glorious Way to Die is a worthy addition to World War II history shelves.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
I am trying to read all the books published that are written about, or contain material on, the Yamato-class "super-battleships" of the Imperial Japanese Navy. As I read this book, I felt like I was actually on the deck of the gigantic battleship as she was blown to her destruction.
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