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The activities of Japan’s Paratroop formations during World War Two are either relatively unknown to western readers, or misunderstood. They were formed in a similar manner to US and British formations, namely, as a result of German successes early in the war. Initially raised at the end of 1940 by both the Army and Navy, they were trained with great speed, being used a bit more than one year later in combat operations. Their greatest moments came early in the conquest of Manado in the Celebes Islands, Koepang on Dutch (now East) Timor and Palembang on Sumatra. Later, in 1944 and 1945, they were used as suicide assault troops, usually in vainglorious attempts to destroy US land-based airpower in the Philippines and on Okinawa.
Since the subject is not extremely vast, its coverage in the Osprey Elite series format is just what the doctor ordered. The authors are also an ideal pair, since Mr. Rottman is well-known for his work concerning battles in the Pacific and the organization, equipment and history of Japanese ground forces. Mr. Takizawa (known to ML visitors for his outstanding web site devoted to the Imperial Japanese Army and their AFVs) is a new addition to the Osprey stable and balances things quite nicely. The text is concise and well-presented. It includes a history on the concept, development, training and combat employment of the various Imperial Japanese Army and Navy airborne units. It describes their tactics and equipment in good detail and includes information on the Type 2 Ko-To light airborne tank, the Kokusai Type 4 “Gander” glider, and various other aircraft, as well as the types of personal equipment (particularly parachutes, weapons and special equipment). The photos show much of what is described in the text, although some of them are relatively poor in quality, no doubt as a result of the condition of the originals. But, these are rare items to be sure, and certainly belong in this type of book as the story would suffer without them. The temptation to re-touch a few of them (especially the aircraft; surely at least some of them could have been represented by better originals) is perplexing, but seems to be a trait of books by Mr. Rottman. On the other hand, there are extremely clear and detailed photos of vintage equipment held by collectors, a definite plus as far as figure painters will be concerned. The color plates by Mike Chappell and Adam Hook are simply outstanding. They depict individual troops, combat vignettes and special weapons and equipment. The commentaries for the plates are informative and detailed.
All of this is complimented by a glossary of terms, a chart explaining abbreviations, maps, a bibliography and an index. Figure painters, especially, will find this book to be of interest, as will students of elite and airborne forces.
Frank De Sisto