TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 March 2014
I expected a lot from this book, written by an authentic WWII Japanese Imperial Navy submarine commander - but I was greatly disappointed.
Before going into the review of the book itself I must say something about the firm which published this recent 2010 edition of "Sunk". It has the proud name of "Progressive Books" and at first glance there is nothing wrong with it. But once I looked at other positions published by this firm, my jaw dropped on the floor...
Basically "Progressive Press" publishes books about every possible conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 (in every one of them it is US government who really did it), the Illuminati (it seems that this is the force that controls Al Qaeda and the world), "the Luciferian bloodline" (God only knows what it is), Trilateral Commission, New World Order, mind control, "destruction of consciousness", CIA-controlled drug trade in USA (!), etc., etc.
"Sunk", which is, I think, freely available in public domain, seems to be the ONLY title in their offer which wasn't written by and for lunatics... Why did they publish it then? Well, there is a publisher's note at the end, that casts some light on it - in this note the boss of "Progressive Press" explains, that Japan was forced into war against USA by emperor Hiro-Hito who was in fact a "sleeper agent of Anglo-American bankers"! I am not kidding - it is written in all letters in the publisher's afterword.
Returning to the book now, first, let's say that its author, Commander Mochitsura Hachimoto, learned some considerable and well deserved fame on 29 July 1945, when, as commanding officer of huge Japanese submarine "I58" he sunk heavy cruiser USS "Indianapolis" - the ship which just before delivered to Tinian USAAF base two atomic bombs which were going to be dropped on Japan in August...
It was a huge success for Japanese Imperial Navy - and one of the worst and most heart-breaking tragedies in the whole history of US Navy, as out of a crew of 1196 only 317 lived to be rescued... Both "I58" and Commander Hachimoto survived the war. He was the defence witness at November 1945 court martial of USS "Indianapolis" skipper, Captain McVay who stood accused of negligence. Hachimoto published this book in 1954 - much later, as an old man, he became a Shinto priest and in 1990 he met survivors from USS "Indianapolis" for a common praying reconciliation. The man who sunk USS "Indianapolis" died in 2000, at the very respectable age of 91.
When published in 1954, this book was amongst the first Japanese points of view on war widely available to American public - the much more famous "Samurai" by Saburo Sakai and "Japanese destroyer captain" by Tameichi Hara were published respectively three and seven years later. "Sunk" was met with some interest, but mostly amongst professional naval officers - however, it is definitely not a very good book. It is rather poorly written, poorly researched, very superficial and in many, many places, simply dead wrong on most basic facts. Its greatest interest is to give us an insight into the mind of Japanese Imperial Navy officers - otherwise, for information about Japanese submarine naval war in the Pacific it is better to read admiral Morison monumental opus or simply go on Wikipedia and look up Japanese subs one by one.
In the introduction by an American officer, Commander Edward L. Beach and the afterword by Admiral Shigeru Fukutome, former Chief of Staff, Combined Fleet, IJN there is an attempt to explain how come that Imperial Japanese navy, which started the war with possibly the best submarine fleet in the world, wasted almost completely this great potential. There are however better and more detailed explanations given about it, in admiral Morison's books especially but also on articles available on internet.
Here is a more detailed description of those chapters, which present some interest (sadly, most don't):
Chapter 1. Special operation at Pearl Harbor. The attack of midgets on 7 December 1941 - author was torpedo officer on board of submarine "I24" which carried the midget piloted by Kazuo Sazamaki, who was to become the first Japanese POW in Pacific War.
Chapter 4. Bombardment by submarine. A short chapter illustrating the obsession Japanese Imperial Navy had with using submarines to shell American held islands - which is a very, very stupid way to use this kind of warships, as they don't carry enough weaponry to make significant damage and by making such an attack they reveal their position and expose themselves to be hunted...
Chapter 6. Submarine communication between Japan and Germany. Interesting, but short - also, all this information is now widely available on internet.
Chapters 9 and 10. Supplying Guadalcanal garrison and transport missions in face of enemy domination on sea and air. Shows clearly how the great potential of Japanese huge powerful submarines was wasted in those purely logistical missions.
Chapter 11. The desperate struggle of "I-176". Describing a real experience, possibly the best chapter of the book.
Chapter 15. Radar. The key to victory. Shows how incredibly stubborn and simply stupid were high ranking Japanese Imperial Navy officers when facing this great technological advance.
Chapter 20. The sinking of "Indianapolis". Obviously the most interesting chapter, which was considered for a long time very controversial as autor states loud and clear that he sunk "Indianapolis" with torpedoes, when many Americans claimed that he used suicide Kaiten (human torpedoes) crafts.
The rest of the book describes Japanese submarine operations according to claims by captains of submarines and official communications - the picture so given is almost entirely NOT true and mostly, those chapters show how deeply Japanese high military leadership lived in a world of fantasy...
A particularly infuriating thing, very frequent in Japanese war time memories is the absence of any mention of Japanese war crimes - and Japanese submariners committed many of them (recommended reading: "Slaughter at sea" by Marc Felton). Also you would look in vain for any kind of remorse for starting the whole great Pacific War by invading China in 1937 and inflicting untold abominations on the population of this country...
Bottom line, this is a book which one can skip safely, without losing much - but still can be of some interest for most devoted fanatics of Pacific War history. Be however warned that this 2010 "Progressive Press" edition was published by extremist lunatics and therefore if you buy it new, you give them money... Something which I did and which I now greatly regret...