Fast, manoeuvrable and heavily armed, destroyers were the most aggressive surface warships of the twentieth century. Although originally conceived as a defensive screen to protect the main battlefleet from torpedo attack, the gamekeeper soon turned poacher, and became primarily a weapon of offence. As such they were involved in many hard-fought battles, using both torpedoes and guns, especially with enemy vessels of the same kind. This book recounts some of the most significant, spectacular or unusual actions in the history of destroyer warfare, from the first employment of torpedo craft during the Russo-Japanese War to the recent terrorist attack on USS Cole. With individual chapters devoted to each incident, the book may be read as a series of dramatic narratives, but each reflects a development in the tactics or technology, so taken as a whole the book amounts to a complete history of the destroyer from an unusual and previously neglected angle.
By late 1944 the war in the Pacific had turned decisively against the Japanese, and overwhelming Allied forces began to close in on the home islands. At this point Japan unveiled a terrifying new tactic: the suicide attack, or Kamikaze, named after the ‘Divine Wind’ which had once before, in medieval times, saved Japan from invasion. Intentionally crashing bomb-laden aircraft into Allied warships, these piloted guided missiles at first seemed unstoppable, calling into question the naval strategy on which the whole war effort was based. This book looks at the origins of the campaign, at its strategic goals, the organization of the Japanese special attack forces, and the culture that made suicide not just acceptable, but honourable. Inevitably, much mythology has grown up around the subject, and the book attempts to sort the wheat from the chaff. One story that does stand up is the reported massive stock-piling of kamikaze aircraft for use against any Allied invasion of the home islands, if the atomic bombs had not forced Japan’s surrender. However, its principal focus is on the experience of those in the Allied fleets on the receiving end of this peculiarly alien and unnerving weapon – how they learnt to endure and eventually counter a threat whose potential was over-estimated, by both sides. In this respect, it has a very modern resonance.