Rain of Steel – Mitscher’s Task Force 58

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Rain of Steel – Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ugaki’s Thunder Gods and the Kamikaze War off Okinawa. By Stephen L Moore. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2020 (e-book). ISBN 9781682475317 (e-book)

Reviewed by David Hobbs

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This e-book was sent to me for review in advance of a hard-back copy.  It tells the story of Vice admiral Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58 during the Okinawa campaign and compares it with the Kamikaze attacks against it organised by Vice Admiral Ugaki.  The author has clearly gone to considerable lengths to describe the actions of individuals, especially Admiral Mitscher, his immediate staff and the large numbers of US Navy and Marine Corps fighter pilots who distinguished themselves in action.

Although written from an American perspective, it is a very human story about the men who gained such an impressive victory over mainland Japan and the sea around Okinawa.  This is its strength.

Moore has researched the combat reports of both squadrons and individuals to produce a wealth of individual details, often describing how pilots came to join the Navy, learnt to fly and subsequently distinguished themselves in combat.  He presumably had less material to work on for Japanese pilots but still manages to describe individuals in a way that helps the reader to understand them.  He interviewed  surviving veterans as part of his research and clearly established a rapport with them that is revealed in his descriptions of their actions.  In total there were ten large-scale Kamikaze attacks on Mitscher’s task force, known to the Japanese as ‘Kikusui’ which translates as ‘floating chrysanthemum petals’.  These included at least 1,465 suicide sorties which sank twenty-six ships and damaged a further 164.  The latter number included more than one aircraft carrier in which Mitscher flew his flag.

Japanese suicide aircraft were escorted by conventional fighters and a number of conventional strikes were also carried out throughout the Okinawa Campaign.  Some idea of the scale of fighting can be gained from the author’s estimate that 1,594 Japanese aircraft were shot down by USN pilots, a further 631 by carrier-based USMC pilots and 491 by USMC pilots based ashore.  In an annex, Moore lists the names of no less than ninety-five pilots who achieved ‘ace’ status with five or more air victories during this campaign.  Of these ninety were from the US Navy and Marine Corps and only five from the Army Air Forces.

The book is well illustrated and, as one would expect, there are plentiful source notes for those who want to research further and a bibliography which runs to thirteen pages, including oral histories and personal papers.  For those who want to read about the achievements of Marc Mitscher, his chief of staff Arleigh Burke and Task Force 58’s fighter pilots during the Okinawa campaign or, perhaps, to understand the vast expansion of the US Navy and Marine Corps’ fighter squadrons to form the core element of the most powerful fleet the world had ever known in the pre-nuclear era, this is a good book and I thoroughly recommend it.

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