Zero Fighter

Akira Yoshimura, Author, Retsu Kaiho, Translator, Michael Gregson, Translator
Akira Yoshimura, Author, Retsu Kaiho, Translator, Michael Gregson, Translator Praeger Publishers $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-275-95355-3
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Japan's Mitsubishi A6M ""Zero"" dogfighter is among the preeminent aircraft of aviation history. Designed in 1937, the Zero set new standards for air-to-air superiority and wreaked havoc first on Chinese and then on American opponents. In this slim history, Yoshimura (Build the Musashi!, 1992) presents the Japanese view of how the Zero ruled the skies for much of WWII, and how, shortly thereafter, these superb fighter planes became obsolete. Early sections of the narrative are heavy on the technology (the publisher claims that Yoshimura invented the ""technohistory"" genre). There is much here that is poignant, though, such as the description of a skilled test pilot mysteriously slipping out of his parachute harness after safely ejecting from a prototype aircraft that exploded in midair. Yoshimura fascinates when recounting how the U.S. ignored early warnings about the Zero from American pilot Claire Chennault, who encountered the remarkable dogfighter while flying for China. He also manages to impart suspense to the oft-told tale of Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred three years to the day before an earthquake ravaged the Nagoya Aircraft Works, where the Zeros were built--an event that, here, presages not only the end of the war but also the close of Yoshimura's knowledgeable history. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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