The Last Zero Fighter
Firsthand Accounts from Japanese WWII Naval Pilots and Airmen
By Dan King
"Dan King is to be congratulated for making this valuable contribution to the history of World War II in the Pacific. By personalizing the individual experiences of Japanese veterans, Dan provides some balance to the stereotypical view of our enemy at the time. Through his interviews, he presents unique insights into the social and cultural forces which molded the individual warrior. I met some of these aviators at our Pacific Aviation Museum in Pearl Harbor and at various commemoration events. I have discovered we share many common traits, love of our Country, love of flying, and a camaraderie that is prevalent among those who have faced life-altering experiences."
— Admiral Ron Hays, USN (Ret)
Former pilot and Commander-in-Chief U.S. Pacific Forces
Chairman of the Board, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor
"We Americans do not hold a monopoly on courage and sacrifice. Our former adversaries, the Japanese, also displayed these qualities in their commitment to their nation. Dan King has interviewed Japanese pilots and obtained their experiences in their own language. Valuable to understanding the Japanese people who are now one of our closest and valuable allies in an area where we have vital economic and national security interests. I encourage everyone who wishes to learn more about the WWII Pacific theater to read this book."
— LtGen. Lawrence Snowden, USMC (Ret)
Former Company Commander, 23rd Marines, 3rd Division, Iwo Jima
"Most English-language histories of the Pacific War of 1941-45 suffer from a dearth of Japanese sources. By conducting and translating interviews with Japanese naval aviators, Dan King offers new and revealing perspectives on many of the battles and campaigns that Japan and the United States conducted within the confines of the world's largest ocean. Serious students of World War II and more casual readers will welcome the release of The Last Zero Fighter and clamor for King to make more of his interviews available in subsequent companion volumes."
— Dr. Gregory J. W. Urwin, PhD
Professor of History, Temple University
"The history of World War II in the Pacific Theater of Operations is not nearly as well known as the history of the War in Europe. If the stories about the participants are not told now, they will disappear forever. I flew a P-51 against them and had the occasion to speak to them once or twice. One of them said to me, "There were no enemies in the sky." Their history is extremely important for all to read."
— Capt. Jerry Yellin, US Army (ret)
Former P-51 Pilot over Japan, 78th Fighter Squadron based on Iwo Jima
The Blackened Canteen, and War and Weddings, a Legacy of Two Fathers
"Dan King combines his rich working knowledge of the Pacific War, his unusually adept understanding of the Japanese language and culture, and his deep personal interactions with some unique airmen to bring out this fascinating look into history. The Last Zero Fighter takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the fading past while experiencing the hearts and minds of boys becoming men in the course of war, stories that pull you in and don't let you go!"
— T. Martin Bennett
"I found the book absolutely fascinating. As a historian, I have written about the Pacific campaigns from the American perspective, primarily through personal accounts/oral history. This allows me and others to more fully document the war, using personal accounts from both sides...giving the subject a more complete accounting. As America's "greatest generation" passes from the scene, I want to commend Dan King for documenting the personal accounts of the Japanese. This has never been done before in such detail...by someone who has such an excellent grasp of the language, as well as their customs and traditions. This book is a one-of-a-kind look into the Japanese method of waging war from the men who fought it."
— Lt.Col Dick Camp (USMC-ret)
Last Man Standing and Leatherneck Legends
As a retired Marine 'Mustang' Officer with 29 years of active duty, a former volunteer scuba diver at the USS Arizona Memorial and amateur WWII Historian - this book is a must read. In it author Dan King answered many questions I had about the Imperial Japanese Navy's use of Enlisted Pilots during the attack on Pearl Harbor and the battles that followed. That he was invited to sit down and have first person interviews - in their own language - separates this book from many before it. I have recommended this book to all my close friends from the United States Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force; pilots and aircraft maintainers alike, up to and including former Phantom, Harrier, and Hornet squadron Commanders and Flag Officers.
— Robert Venema
Major USMC (Ret.)
"Dan King has accomplished something incredible for historians outside of Japan. He spent years personally interviewing almost 100 of our WWII veterans for their priceless combat and life experiences in our own language. In The Last Zero Fighter he introduces five former naval fighter aviators who made history at Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and other battles. He has shared many of their day-to-day experiences. Three of the men who appear in the book have since passed away. Without Dan King's interviews, many of their important historical facts would have remained unknown to us even in Japan. We the readers, both in Japan and in the West, owe much to him."
— Mr. Koji Takaki
Genda's Blade, Japan's Squadron of Aces, 343 Kokutai
"I have seen Mr. King work tirelessly visiting Japan, traveling up and down Japan meeting our WWII veterans. I observed his methods and am impressed with his compassion, attention to detail and eagerness to dig out the truth. These stories need to be told and I am grateful to Mr. King for stepping up to shoulder the task. He is doing what we Japanese need to do."
— Ms. Yukie Sasa
Hakushi Shoshu de Chiru Gunzokutachi no Gadarukanaru Senki
(WWII Japanese military contract workers on Guadalcanal,... no official English title.)
Onna Hitori Gyokusai no Shima wo Yuku
(Official English title - Toward the Island of Graves)
The Last Zero Fighter weaves first-hand accounts from Japanese WWII Naval Pilots into a compelling account of the Pacific War. Assembled from one-on-one interviews conducted with five surviving vets, and supplemented by visits to Pacific battle sites, Dan King presents the best of military scholarship. However, no stuffy academic treatise here...Mr. King couples an encyclopedic knowledge of the Pacific War with expertise of Japanese Naval pilots to present stories that invite the reader to feel the leveling wind of war.
It is said that history is written by the victors. Indeed, these stories have gone speechless and unspoken for generations. No more. Fluent in Japanese and schooled in the most esoteric terminology of the Japanese military, Mr. King allows the vets to tell their stories freely, sincerely and without pose. They speak humbly and openly, recounting and accounting for the terrible and tragic machinery of war. Ballasted by the bones of fallen comrades, some of the stories are grisly, but all have heft and hit the reader with the authority of lived experience. The vets not only tell of hard victories and close defeats, but also hometowns, families, and the first flex of youth. The stories show the humanity of the combatants often obscured by war propaganda. Speaking of comrades he had witnessed die, one vet recounts, "None of them called out for the Emperor or shouted a patriotic slogan. The last word spoken by many men was the name a of a loved one..."
But this is no somber book of facts and figures. With vivid descriptions and credible details, these stories thrill, giving the reader a glimpse of what it's like to stand on a drenched and dangerous flight deck or feel the chill stillness of a runway at dawn. We are allowed to imagine the roar of engines and the high whine of the sea while watching the sunlit glint of wings on the horizon. We read of ocean rescues, air strikes, squadron formations, dive bombers and hard landings.
Mr. King has walked these pilots from silence into sound, giving voice to their memories...memories which vibrate with the echo of war. Their stories will cling to your clothes and thoughts for hours.
— Mr. Thor O. (Amazon customer)
"I just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed "The Last Zero Fighter" book. I look forward to reading future books from you. It was very interesting to hear from Mr. Kaname Harada discuss the way he was treated by some the Japanese people after the war and the difficulties he had finding a job. It seems that the Japanese Pilots experienced many of the same problems after the war as American pilots: nightmares, difficulty adjusting back to a non-war related life, etc. It appears to be much worse for the Japanese Aviators since their country lost the war.
The book was in many ways very sad yet also very inspiring to read. Many of the problems and difficulties each of us face today seem trivial as compared to what these five pilots experienced during and after the war.
I now have as much respect for the Japanese Pilots as I do for the American pilots.
Keep up the great work!!!"
— Andy Malkus
I've just finished your book, "The Last Zero Fighter". I know of no other work than yours that brings into focus so clearly the philosophical and culture of the Japanese. I was aboard a Destroyer in the battle for the Philippines and was on the receiving end of the Kamikaze attacks described in Mr. Toshimitsu Imaizumi's chapter. His account did odd things to my pulse rate and respiration; some experiences are permanently imbedded in the mind. As time passes, history becomes sterilized and impersonal. The writing and publication of books like yours postpones the inevitable fading from view of the true nature of war.
I am grateful to you for assembling the accounts of Japanese airman, including their culture and training. A few more years and they (and all of us who were there) will be gone.
— Lt. John Pigott (USN)
USS Barton (DD-772)
Author of Destroyerman
I've just finished reading "The Last Zero Fighter". As a modeller and Japanese aviation enthusiast, I found it absolutely fascinating. The first-hand accounts from these respected men reveal perspectives on campaigns, fighting tactics and technical details that I had never considered before. I'm looking forward to your next book.
— Best regards,
"....Regarding your book (The Last Zero Fighter) I would like to say I found it simply wonderful. Not only is your research of top quality, but you have been able to make me understand the spirit and frame of mind of those whom people usually regard as being "on the other side". This is precisely one of your book's greatest achievements: to make the reader realize there is no such thing as "the other side" when it comes to the grief at the loss of a friend, the hope for a world without war and the love for and commitment to one's family and country.
There are books that, when you finish reading the last page make you look at the ceiling and wonder at the mysteries of being human; how the basic elements that make us human (namely fear, suffering, hope happiness; etc.) are really universal, regardless of nationality or race. Yours is such a book..."
— Daniel Garcia