Osprey Publishing – ‘Imperial Japanese Navy Battleships 1941 – 1945’ and ‘Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft Carriers 1921 – 1945’


These are the first books that I’ve bought pertaining to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and also the first volumes from Osprey Publishing. I’ve scoped out the books before on other websites and decided that since the little that I do know about the IJN is patchy at best, it would be helpful to acquire these books for future reference.

As I’m also a part-time hobbyist in scale modelling and have taken great interest in the IJN, these books are a great help for a novice in this subject matter like myself.


General overview

These books were penned by Mark Stille and his narration throughout is systematic and clear.

Even with the daunting prospect of covering the various naval epochs and watershed events in IJN’s history, Stille’s direct approach and economic use of words made reading both books rather enjoyable. Best of all, I had the opportunity to read about the service modifications made to the ships and its armament setup which could facilitate my modelling hobby in the near future.


The colored illustrations by Tony Bryan are also top-notch and presentable. You’ll get to see the color / camo schemes used on the ships, something which is actually debatable in the scale modelling world.


The period photographs are also always welcome although if you are a naval enthusiast yourself, it is possible that you’d have come across some of them in Wikipedia or the web. Some of the pictures of the Sōryū and the Hiryū aircraft carriers are already widely available online but a little familiarity wouldn’t hurt.


IJN Battleships (1941 to 1945) 


An astute choice of topic, in my view. The peak of the IJN battleships’ might was displayed during the period between 1941 to 1945 – with the notable launch of the mighty Yamato-class battleships and especially with the long-standing Japanese doctrine of prioritizing ‘big-gun battles’ to fight the Pacific War.


It should be remembered that the IJN, being one of the world’s greatest naval powers at the beginning of the 20th century, was obligated to comply with the provisions of the Washington Naval Treaty signed by Japan in 1922. Obviously, this had a profound effect on the development of IJN’s battleships as any ships laid down after the Nagato are to be scrapped or converted into other vessels. The maximum tonnage afforded to Japan for capital ships was 60% of the US Navy or the British Royal Navy.

Whether or not (in hindsight) this proved detrimental to any of the navies who signed the Treaty, Japan was forced to retain and upgrade its older battleships dating from the World War 1-period, notably of the Kongō-class battlecruiser (later, fast battleships) and the Fusō-class battleships which were built between 1912 to 1917. The Amagi-class battlecruiser was famously scrapped with only the Akagi surviving to be converted into an aircraft carrier.


The book sufficiently explains the development of the battleships built by the IJN during this period and fuses the piecemeal information usually found off the web into a comprehensible chronology of events.


The details of the type of armament installed and the modifications made to the various ship classes are also clear and adequate. Again, it’s important to learn of such information so that notes could be compared with those gleaned online for consistency. Then again, I’m speaking from the viewpoint of a modeller so I’m not expecting the casual reader to be inordinately excited over these details.

You’d get to read about the aforementioned earlier classes of battleships, moving on to the Ise-class and to the Nagato-class before reading about IJN Yamato and her sister ship, the IJN Musashi. Each of the sister ships are also briefly documented, with its service history. 


Here is an illustration of the largest class of battleships ever built, the Yamato. Almost every important equipment aboard is marked for easy reference. It must be said though, that such large-scale drawings with labels are rare in the book.

Towards the end, you’d be able to read about the color-schemes used aboard the battleships which is again important to me as a modeller.

To the casual reader, I’d guess that this book is informative enough although I do wish that there could be more on the development of the iconic ‘pagoda masts’ and a deeper insight into some of the other battleships. If you’re already an IJN expert, I don’t think that this book would be of much help to you. Still, with the convenience of having all the IJN battleships information that you might want to access in a clear and concise volume, this book is highly recommended.


IJN Aircraft Carrier 1921-1945


While the IJN focused on the development of battleships, it was also not averse in accepting the idea that naval warfare would soon be pervaded by the influence of carrier-based attacks and the projection of naval air power to control the seas. The fact that Pearl Harbor was attacked primarily by aircraft is testimony to this although the IJN somehow lost its primary focus as the Pacific War progressed in earnest.

In the above picture, we could see the IJN Zuikaku aircraft carrier in its 1941 configuration (with its 1944 camo scheme in a more lurid green) with side-illustrations of the anti-aircraft guns used. Note that the book doesn’t point this fact out to you.

With Mark Stille again providing his analysis on the subject matter, you’d expect to read the development and progression in aircraft-carrier classes from the time of the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Pacific War. This time, though, you’d also get to read about some of the lesser-known light aircraft carriers as well as the Unryū-class.

It is interesting to note that by the time the three ships of the Unryū-class aircraft carriers were ready for active service, Japan’s diminishing fortunes in the War meant that they were restricted to largely trivial roles, merely serving as troop ships or simply moving from one port to another.

Again, some of these information can be researched online whereas some additional points are added into the book. It’s hard not to come away thinking that this book is probably more suitable for those without an internet connection in our heavily-wired society but at the same time, this handy reference material is so easily read and digested that if you’re an IJN buff, this book makes for a very reliable companion.

I do expect more from the book, though – especially with regard to the paint schemes of the ships and obviously, more illustrations thereof. However, photographs of IJN ships in general during wartime are hard to come by, so any dearth in such material is quite reasonable.


Overall, I’d say that these books are helpful in the interest of my hobby. For example, I could compare for myself the infamous casemates issue propagated by this particular Kongō battleship kit – http://www.hlj.com/product/FUJ42017 with the photographs provided in the book of the ship itself and see what the fuss was all about.

However, in terms of new material, I must say that there is very little that these books could educate me. I’m not saying that I now know a lot about IJN capital ships, but I think that I probably wanted these books more for the hobby side of things rather than for the information that these books could furnish.

Still, I’m impressed with the presentation and the layout of these books (i.e. concise information and flow of ideas) and I think that future purchases of other books in this extensive series are probable, if the subject matter piques my interest. 




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