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Book Overview

Saburo Sakai is Japan's greatest fighter pilot to survive World War II, and his powerful memoir has proven to be one of the most popular and enduring books ever written on the Pacific war. First... This description may be from another edition of this product.

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A vivid look at the Pacific war from the other perspective.

Saburo Sakai was a national hero in Japan as its greatest surviving air ace of world war two. This book is his story. It is a fascinating and honest look at the air war in the Pacific from the Japanese perspective. Sakai is shown to have been a patriotic and heroic fighter, who, like most soldiers, gave little thought to the politics of the war. Like young men in many lands in many times, when his country called, he answered.Sakai gives us an honest assessment of both sides as regards the Pacific air war. There is little or no jingoism here. He highlights some of the critical mistakes that the Japanese navy made in the war--one of which was that before the war the Navy only turned out about 100 pilots a year--not remotely enough for the total war Japan was about to wage against the world's greatest industrial power. The standards for entering and graduating from the Naval air training course in Japan were unreasonably high, and simply prevented the country from producing the number of pilots it would come to need. When the Americans eliminated over 300 Japanese pilots in 3 days at the Battle of Midway, Japan never recovered the loss of these trained men. On the other hand, Sakai reminds the American reader that in the Japanese America faced a motivated, intelligent, and very brave foe deriving from a violent military tradition.The book also includes some very interesting glimpses at the Japanese home front during the war. Life in prewar Japan was hard for the lower classes--sufficiently hard that even the savage discipline (which Sakai describes at length) of the Japanese Navy appeared to be a reasonable alternative to the grinding poverty he otherwise faced.Overall, a wonderful look at "the other side of the hill" and into the mind of one of World War Two's greatest air combat pilots.

The finest pilot memoir to emerge from World War II.

I first read this book in in the eighth grade. It was so good in fact, that I literally did not put it down. I have read it three times since, and it has not lost its freshness nor its impact.The highest scoring Japanese ace to survive World War II, Sakai's book was the first of its kind--a first hand account from the "enemy's" persepective. It was astoundingly popular and Sakai became somewhat of a hero in the United States (to this day he receives countless letters, all of which he answers). [Note: Sakai died of a heart attack in October of 2000.]His story chronicles the rise and fall of not only the Japanese Naval Air Forces, but Japan itself. The thrill of victory and the bitterness of defeat are crystal clear. It is amazing that a story translated from one language to another can be so vivid and engrossing.For a brilliant history lesson about the Pacific War during World War II that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is the one. Through it all, you are there with Sakai be it in the cockpit or on the operating table. The "Classics of Naval Literature Series" version is superior to all others (for reasons explained in its FOREWORD). Highly recommended.

The single best book of Japanese WW2 aviation

In the Naval Air Museum bookstore when I was 14, the kindly sales rep (a retired F4F Wildcat pilot) recommended this book to me. I practically memorized it. This is the inspiring story of Saburo Sakai, one of the few Japanese pilots to survive the entire war. Highly readable, gripping, informative, and pretty accurate, although as an Imperial Japanese NAVY pilot, Sakai is a bit too hard on his Army counterparts. But any serious student of the Pacific Theater simply must read this. Take it from me-- I've been into WW2 history all my literate life, and Samurai! is one of the unforgettable highlights.

Fascinating Story of a Japanese Fighter Ace

This book is a must for any history buff or anyone interested in what the "other side" of World War II was like. This work chronicles the career of Saburo Sakai and his many air battles throughout World War II. His words debunk many myths about Japanese pilots (he even admits to turning back from a suicide mission) and gives one a personal feel to the historical events that unfolded around him. One can also plot the technological climb of aircraft as Sakai describes how adversaries steadily got better and better. This book would even be good reading for "peaceniks" who think development of new aircraft and weapons are a waste of money. They will see through Sakai's work how one superior fighter plane (the Zero) was able to command the skies in the Pacific war for several years until better aircraft were turned out by the U.S. In the future, the U.S. may not be so lucky. This is a superior book and is one of the best written about World War II.

Questionable history...undeniable adventure!!!

One of the best books on air combat I've read. Saburo Sakai's 500 mile trek back to Rabual from Guadacanal in his crippled zero is a testimony to the man and to the nature of war. "Samurai" is another book you won't be able to put down. It's the Japanese version of "The First and Last" and the reader follows Sakai's career from the early days of Japanese victory to the war's conclusion. I was particularly struck by the comparative decline in the Japanese Zero as America moved from P40s, P39s and F4Fs to Zero killers such as the F4U, F6F, and P38. *NOTE* Samurai has recently been under scrutiny for questions relating to its historicity. The climatic account of Sakai's encounter with US torpedo bombers has been singled out as particularly spurious. For more reviews see the "WWII Aviation Booklist"
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