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The history of Japanese aviation offers countless stories of heroic achievements and dismal failures, passionate enthusiasm and sheer terror, brilliant ideas and fatally flawed strategies. In Wings for the Rising Sun, scholar and former airline pilot Jürgen Melzer connects the intense drama of flight with a global history of international cooperation, competition, and conf The history of Japanese aviation offers countless stories of heroic achievements and dismal failures, passionate enthusiasm and sheer terror, brilliant ideas and fatally flawed strategies. In Wings for the Rising Sun, scholar and former airline pilot Jürgen Melzer connects the intense drama of flight with a global history of international cooperation, competition, and conflict. He details how Japanese strategists, diplomats, and industrialists skillfully exploited a series of major geopolitical changes to expand Japanese airpower and develop a domestic aviation industry. At the same time, the military and media orchestrated air shows, transcontinental goodwill flights, and press campaigns to stir popular interest in the national aviation project. Melzer analyzes the French, British, German, and American influence on Japan's aviation, revealing in unprecedented detail how Japanese aeronautical experts absorbed foreign technologies at breathtaking speed. Yet they also designed and built boldly original flying machines that, in many respects, surpassed those of their mentors. Wings for the Rising Sun compellingly links Japan's aeronautical advancement with public mobilization, international relations, and the transnational flow of people and ideas, offering a fresh perspective on modern Japanese history.


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The history of Japanese aviation offers countless stories of heroic achievements and dismal failures, passionate enthusiasm and sheer terror, brilliant ideas and fatally flawed strategies. In Wings for the Rising Sun, scholar and former airline pilot Jürgen Melzer connects the intense drama of flight with a global history of international cooperation, competition, and conf The history of Japanese aviation offers countless stories of heroic achievements and dismal failures, passionate enthusiasm and sheer terror, brilliant ideas and fatally flawed strategies. In Wings for the Rising Sun, scholar and former airline pilot Jürgen Melzer connects the intense drama of flight with a global history of international cooperation, competition, and conflict. He details how Japanese strategists, diplomats, and industrialists skillfully exploited a series of major geopolitical changes to expand Japanese airpower and develop a domestic aviation industry. At the same time, the military and media orchestrated air shows, transcontinental goodwill flights, and press campaigns to stir popular interest in the national aviation project. Melzer analyzes the French, British, German, and American influence on Japan's aviation, revealing in unprecedented detail how Japanese aeronautical experts absorbed foreign technologies at breathtaking speed. Yet they also designed and built boldly original flying machines that, in many respects, surpassed those of their mentors. Wings for the Rising Sun compellingly links Japan's aeronautical advancement with public mobilization, international relations, and the transnational flow of people and ideas, offering a fresh perspective on modern Japanese history.

10 review for Wings for the Rising Sun: A Transnational History of Japanese Aviation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    When the United States went to war against Japan in 1941, American pilots were shocked by the superior quality of the planes flown by their opponents. Believing that the Japanese were inferior technological copyists, the greater capability of many Japanese aircraft models quickly disabused them of their assumptions and forced them to adopt different tactics until American airplane manufacturers could catch up. In this book Jürgen Melzer examines how the Japanese exploited Western technological i When the United States went to war against Japan in 1941, American pilots were shocked by the superior quality of the planes flown by their opponents. Believing that the Japanese were inferior technological copyists, the greater capability of many Japanese aircraft models quickly disabused them of their assumptions and forced them to adopt different tactics until American airplane manufacturers could catch up. In this book Jürgen Melzer examines how the Japanese exploited Western technological innovations and manufacturing processes to develop an aircraft industry that by the 1930s was in terms of quality the equal of any in the world, one that aided Japan's goals of empire-building through warfare. Melzer begins his book by summarizing Japan's initial exploration of flight through the development of lighter-than-air craft. Here the role of the military and the "balloon fever" which gripped the Japanese foreshadowed developments when Japan turned to heavier-than-air flight after 1908. With Europe at the forefront of airplane by that point Japan sent two army officers there for training and purchased craft for them to fly upon their return as qualified pilots. Though Japan investigated air travel in a number of Western countries, for the first decade of development they relied mainly upon French training and purchases in establishing their air arm. Shifting priorities and disappointment with the poor quality of postwar French surplus led the Japanese government to turn to the Germans and the French after the First World War, as they sought both to exploit air power for naval warfare and to develop an indigenous aircraft industry. While this effort created the later impression of the Japanese as technological mimics, Melzer details how the Japanese strove to limit their dependency upon Western manufacturers and know-how. This comes through especially in his description of Japan's interwar relationship with German airplane designers. Shackled by the Versailles treaty, German manufacturers were eager to develop export markets, with Japan among the most promising prospects. The Japanese particularly valued German innovations in all-metal planes, and worked to master their construction at a time when canvas planes were still the norm. While Germans such as Ernst Heinkel believed they could maintain a dependent relationship, by the mid-1930s Japanese designers had already caught up with German innovators, exploiting their ideas in new and innovative ways. So advanced was Japan's aircraft industry by then that during the Second World War they were able to develop rocket and jet engine technology with only halfhearted assistance from the Germans, only for their successes to come too late to reverse their imminent defeat. Melzer's book offers readers a wide-ranging examination of how the Japanese exploited training and technology transfers to build a formidable industrial sector. In doing so, he provides a case study of how nations go from dependency to autonomy, if not in the end complete independence form outside influence. It's an interesting and well-argued analysis, one that will be of considerable interest to readers of aviation history, the history of technology, or of the Second World War and Japan's efforts to win it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Wings for the Rising Sun is currently the only single-volume history of Japanese aviation in English, and it is damn good. The book focuses on how the Japanese built up their aviation industry in cooperation with other nations, gradually developed independence, and finally designed and produced fully competitive aircraft that could stand among the best in the world. All this to have it come crashing down after an ill-conceived and devastating war of aggression. There is some discussion of develo Wings for the Rising Sun is currently the only single-volume history of Japanese aviation in English, and it is damn good. The book focuses on how the Japanese built up their aviation industry in cooperation with other nations, gradually developed independence, and finally designed and produced fully competitive aircraft that could stand among the best in the world. All this to have it come crashing down after an ill-conceived and devastating war of aggression. There is some discussion of developing "airmindedness" within Japan that compliments the main thrust of the book well. However, this is first and foremost a sweeping transnational history of the development of Japanese aviation from balloons to 1945, with a brief epilogue covering post-war developments. The author's grasp of aviation (he's a former airline pilot) and the historian's craft is excellent. The book draws from French, British, American, and Japanese sources. It has a reasonable number of images that compliment the text well, some are even in colour, and the book is superbly structured. The last point may seem mundane, but clearly named chapters and sub-headers are a godsend that allows a researcher to quickly locate a relevant section. It will be the first book I recommend to anyone that wants to learn about Japanese aviation.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emmanuel Gustin

    This is a great contribution to the history of aviation in Japan. The author came to the study of history relatively late in life, finding a second career in the study of Japan after his flying career ended, and that turns out to be a happy blend of experience and interest. Unlike most western authors who have written on Japanese aviation, he was able to access Japanese archives and sources, which cast a revealing light on the development of Japanese aviation technology and its interaction with This is a great contribution to the history of aviation in Japan. The author came to the study of history relatively late in life, finding a second career in the study of Japan after his flying career ended, and that turns out to be a happy blend of experience and interest. Unlike most western authors who have written on Japanese aviation, he was able to access Japanese archives and sources, which cast a revealing light on the development of Japanese aviation technology and its interaction with (primarily) France, the UK, Germany, and the USA. The result is a very informative account with a lot of new material. It is an academic work, and with its repetitive insertion of paragraphs of introduction and conclusion boxing in each chapter, occasionally a little dry. (I am reminded of Colin Sinnott's The Royal Air Force and Aircraft Design 1923-1939, which has similar academic origins, but at least does not do that.) But the rich content makes up for that. The book is also focused on the exploration of international connections, so any purely national aircraft design is out of scope. A possible gap is that there is no discussion of the study of Soviet aviation technology in the 1920 and 1930s. Presumably, because there was no cooperation and no technical mission, it was out of scope too. Yet the USSR was a technologically advanced power with which the Japanese had regular border conflicts and seriously contemplated another major war, and it is known that this influenced requirements. The story that Melzer tells is that of Japan before 1945, reaching out to the world to acquire and master the latest innovations in aviation technology. The French, British and Americans wanted profitable industrial deals but also sought to keep Japan dependent on foreign design ability. Their attempts to withhold advanced engineering skills and the latest technology were broadly unsuccessful. But rather unsurprisingly their missions to Japan consistently reported back success, which in their case meant that they reported back that the Japanese were only capable of copying foreign models and derivative design. By 1940 that was wishful thinking and a thoroughly misleading assessment. In contrast, German engineers and firms of the 1920s had no industry to defend (as the Versailles treaty forbade them from having any), nor colonies (as Japan had already taken the German colonies in the far east) and they willingly shared their technology. Perhaps also because many of the German innovators had an academic mindset and were set to teach. Famous Japanese designers such as Hirokoshi Jiro and Doi Takeo were German-trained. It's a fascinating story. It is, by choice, an account of industrial and technology politics, more than of actual technology and industry.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fedtzu

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Masaki

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard Goth

  8. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Hennessy

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aprovertte

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

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