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on December 6, 2016
Fascinating view of history. A very balanced presentation due to collaborative effort from a former I-boat Captain and a US Naval Officer historian!
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on November 23, 2014
Excellent book! It provides a surprising window into the Japanese Navy of WWII through the eyes of a Japanese submarine captain!
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on June 13, 2016
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on July 3, 2011
I demurred writing a review of this book due to the nature of the previous one's written here, as I do not agree with them. Having reread the book I have decided to post my own observations, though they seem to differ drastically from previous reviews.

First off those looking for any actual details on the Japanese submarines themselves will be sorely disappointed. Scant technical details and little actual description of the boat's, even the author's own command are barely present. If you do not have any working knowledge of Japanese submarine design of capabilities a trip to google will surely be necessary to get some basic understanding of the tools being used.

While the author does do a good job of critiquing the Japanese Naval Command's lack of understanding of submarine capabilities or tactics, he also repeatedly talks about "what could have happened" had they been employed in the way he thought they should have. Reading the authors assumptions the Japanese submarine fleet could have absolutely devastated any and all American Naval units they encountered. This despite the known lack of concern, training and in some cases downright lazy behavior of Japanese submarines which were repeatedly sunk during the war. The authors "what if" scenarios display the typical Japanese mindset of the day, that everything would work exactly as planned and once again as was so aptly demonstrated during the war the Japanese commands inability to adapt to changing combat environments and tactics led to their intricate plans being thrown into chaos. Throughout the book several downright absurd notions are made, not the least of which is the authors claim RADAR was a Japanese invention as well as a lack of understanding as to his enemies war fighting capabilities. Just as Admiral Yamamoto knew from the beginning, once the United States swung it's economy into full scale war production Japan had no chance of winning the war. In the Atlantic, Admiral Doenitz's much more effective, well trained and more numerous submarines were barely able to put a dent in allied supplies, especially past 1943. Even if they had been better prepared with substantially better technology and weapons the much smaller Japanese fleet never could have achieved what the author claims.

In the beginning of the book the author makes it seem that Japan's unprovoked and unchecked aggression throughout China and Southeast Asia as nothing but a nation responding to the "economic war" being raged by other powers against Japan, which is apparently an excuse for his people to literally rape and kill their way through other countries not to mention using them as subjects for bacteriological weapons. Later he speaks of how Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was simply to assault a hostile threat to his nation's safety despite the fact at no time the United States had taken any form of provocative action towards the Japanese due to isolationist feelings at home and even then most of the nation was focused on Hitler's rampage through Europe, further on he speaks of the pride he felt as his Kaiten pilots begged on their knees in tears to be fired at an American warship to fulfill their duty to the emperor. Truthfully while this book does offer insight into Japanese submarine operations, blunders and one captain's experience overall it is far more effective in providing a frightening insight into the mindset of a Japanese naval officer of World War 2.
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on March 8, 2009
Half way through it, but it is quality "enemy" memoir...and a little scary, frankly, Oritas detailed explanations of "what ifs", if Japanese had tossed the coin the other way on certain fateful crucial decisions, such as the submarine deployments around midway, or even the alternative operations to midway that many senior Japanese brass wanted, could they indeed in fact have effectively won the Pacific War?
Its already pretty apparent the tactical Japanese naval superiority in almost all key areas, fighters, dive-bombing, air torpedos, destroyer torpedos,the torpedos themselves, and night surface-ship gunnery.
What if Pearl Harbor had never been attacked at all, but the Japanese had gone south then waited for the 7th Fleet in its entirety to come after them in mid or SW Pacific, sometime in 1942.
Who sees much chance that this show-down battle that many Japanese admirals dreamed of, could possibly not have been won by the Japanese?
America might have been looking at another Tsushima, except worse, with most or all of the US Pacific Fleet wiped out thousands of miles from America, a death toll 10 times that of Pearl Harbor or more, and by an enemy who had never- in this scenario- directly attacked America?
How would any US president let alone one like Roosevelt already skating on thin ice for his apparent resolve to gradually involve isolationist America in war with the Axis, be able to convince the Congress and public to rebuild , re-man , rally and go out across the ocean to fight the unbeaten Japanese again?

and if so, then what of us, in Australia.
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VINE VOICEon January 12, 2004
Captain Orita was one of the most active Japanese submarine commanders to have survived WWII. He details his experiences in hunting U.S. and British ships throughout the Pacific Ocean. He discusses how other Japanese submariners sank the Yorktown carrier and the Indianaplis cruiser. He details the different classifications of Hirohito's submarines. He notes how and which various Japanese submarines were sunk on their missions. He describes how his submarines attacked Sydney Harbor and shelled Santa Barbara, CA. He discusses how Japanese submarines conducted resupply missions throughout New Guinea and Guadalcanal, and the difficulties that they experienced. He is able to put a very human face on the stoic pilots of the Kaiten "one way" suicide submarines, and how their one- and two-man crews trained, and sometimes failed in horrible drowning accidents. He seems to be a little vexed in that he believes that the Japanese submarines sank a lot more Allied ships that what the Allied navies are willing to admit. Not an "exciting" battlefield suspenseful reading book, but a nice, well written view from a true seafarer who survived the worst that Davy Jones' sea locker had to offer.
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on November 26, 2012
In a previous review this book was trashed by a reviewer, i would like to point out the fact that every officer who has ever served in any navy of any country has always had an overated opinion of his own countrys abilities and a biased opinion about his own countrys actions and policys in regards to foriegn countries, peticularly those seen as threats. It is normal for one to believe ones own countrys propoganda and outright lies. One cannot fault the author for believing in his service or trusting in thier governments words. The opinins the author are, however misguided, are those of a loyal and patriotic officer. I found this book to be informative and enlighting about a little discussed piece of history
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on August 26, 2016
The autobiography of one of Japan's most famous WWII submarine captains. That this man managed to survive the war that killed almost all of his contemporaries marks him as a submariner of the first rank. Filled with fascinating detail about Japanese submarine warfare, Japanese culture and the clash of civilizations that was the war in the Pacific.
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on January 10, 2010
I had the good fortune of reading I-Boat Captain after reading Sunk by Mochitsura Hashimoto. The reason it is a good fortune is that I-Boat Captain is able to expand upon what Sunk could not based on a few factors. Sunk was written during the American Occupation of Japan after the war and was written in some respects not as freely as I-Boat Captain. Where I-Boat Captain exceeds Sunk is that Joseph Harrington a historian working the Department of the Navy where he had access to American records is a co author not a translator and Orita had access to Japanese records gives the reader a more complete picture of the Japanese submarine force in WWII. Like Sunk this is a combination of memoir and force history.

I-Boat Captain is a study of the failures of the Japanese submarine force. Orita's conclusions are that Japan's military did not have a relationship with the scientific community which caused the military be behind the Allies by at best two years with things such as radar and sonar. Orita as well Hashimoto conclude that this factor caused the sinking's of a great majority of the 134 submarines the Japanese lost. Orita correct relates another technological advance is the use of hedgehogs which were mini depth charges fused with contact fuses rather than hydrostatic fuses. Which meant the attacking surface ship could maintain contact with the submarine and only when the hedgehog made contact with a submarine did it explode. With the explosion the submarine was often mortally wounded but the destroyer now had a reference point and an accurate knowledge of the depth to give the submarine a coup de grace.

Another significant conclusion by both books is that the admirals who led the Japanese fleet misused the submarine fleet. First the submarine fleet wasn't deployed the way they should have been. Quite often the submarines were used as freighters rather than war ships bringing supplies into besieged garrisons rather than attacking the Allies supply lines which would have hampered the war effort. Secondly many of the admirals in charge of the submarine fleet were staff officers with often no submarine experience which caused them to underappreciate their own force. This caused the admirals to misuse their own force to the detriment of Japan's war effort. His lesson seems to be let experienced operators to run the fleet. In Japanese Destroyer Captain the author Tameichi Hara describes how staff officers were often promoted over officers who were in combat because the staff officers were considered to have the big picture of the war but Sunk, I-Boat Captain and Japanese Destroyer Captain contradict this theory in that front line forces have a better understanding and a more up to date understanding of the opponents capabilities and tactics. This failure of leadership seems to be throughout out the Imperial Japanese Navy but in the submarine force the lack of knowledgeable leadership seems to have an exaggerated. Edward Beach's (eminent US submarine Historian and novelist as well as experienced US submariner) forward in Sunk suggests that the Japanese submarine force lost face in the apparent failure of the "midget submarines" in the Pearl Harbor attack caused the submarine force to lose "face" and led to perhaps not the best staff officers being assigned to the submarine force.

Another significant cause to the failure of the Japanese submarine force is the lack of a coherent strategic shipbuilding plan. This had the Japanese focusing on building submarine freighters and submarine "aircraft carriers" when they should have been building combat submarines. This lack of a strategic shipbuilding plan meant that the limited resources (which are a stated reason why Japan entered into the war) were wasted by building these submarines that weren't helping with assisting in combat. The use of submarine based aircraft was interesting but it shows the lack of a coherent ship building plan that the aircraft and midget submarines could have been better utilized in manpower and resources that would have helped Japan's war effort.

A disturbing part of both Hashimoto's book and Orita's is their description of tokko or suicide weapons which for submarines are called kaitens. Orita was the most disturbing because he suggested that an earlier use of kaitens might have been helpful in turning the tide of the war in the Japanese favor. Orita describes how the submarine force had thought of suicide style weapons before any part of the Japanese military. It seems that Orita wasn't enamored with the use of tokko weapons but saw it as his duty in order to defend his country. In Orita's book he develops the best reason I have seen supporting why Hashimoto (author of Sunk and the man who sank the Indianapolis) didn't use kaiten in sinking the Indianapolis, fist kaiten needed sunlight to be effective to see their targets with their inadequate periscopes and it would have taken too long to man and launch the kaiten. Orita then answers questions I had about Hasimoto's role in the controversial court martial in Charles McVey the commanding officer of the Indianapolis.

This book is a valuable resource to anyone interested in the Imperial Japanese Navy or a comparison of how effective the US submarine force was in WWII. To date the only successful submarine campaign in History is the US submarine campaign in the Pacific and the largest failure of submarine campaigns is the Japanese effort in WWII. Orita's book is an insight of the men who fought well in a fight they were never given a chance to influence.
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on April 1, 2005
Captain Zenji Orita's book is a memoir and overview of the Japanese submarine service during the war in the Pacific. It provides the reader with an insiders's look at bitter arguments within their naval staff on the advisability of plans to attack Pearl Harbor and Midway Island. Orita writes the Japanese navy of WW2, "had the world's smallest,largest,slowest,and fastest submarines with a small airforce mounted on its decks." The book's dust cover proclaims,"How Japan's Submarines Almost Defeated the U.S. Navy in the Pacific !" This is a publishers attempt to capture interest and not an opinion shared by the author. Orita explains Japan's submarine operations changed after the defeat at Midway Island and were never effectvely "interposed between the beach head (and harbors) and supply sources." The Japanese had a superior torpedo, but suffered grave losses due to better anti-submarine tactics, weapons and radar. Orita describes the duality of trying to save his own crew while transporting individual Kaiten underwater suicide missions, and reveals canceled plans to bomb the Panama Canal by submarine launched aircraft. The book is illustrated with photographs of Japanese submarines, military personnel, and the Naval Academy at Etajima.
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