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Hellcat vs Shiden/Shiden-Kai

Hellcat vs Shiden/Shiden-Kai Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review February 2019 Title Hellcat vs Shiden/Shiden-Kai
Author Tony Holmes Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2019 ISBN 9781472829740
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.00


Two classic late-WWII naval fighters face-off in Hellcat vs Shiden/Shiden-Kai – 91st in Osprey's extensive "Duel" range.

Subtitled "Pacific Theater 1944–45", contents follow the publisher's familiar format.

After a brief introduction with chronology, author Tony Holmes kick-starts coverage with background chapters on each aircraft's design, development, and specifications.

Commentary next turns to the "Strategic Situation" and "Combatants". As war neared climax, Imperial Japan's circumstances turned progressively "dire". And America's conversely strengthened.

Contents then hit crescendo with accounts of combat between Shiden-Kai fighters of the IJN's elite 343 Kokutai and F6F Hellcats of the USN's TF 58.

Code named "George" and sporting superb maneuverability, Kawanishi's N1K1/2 Shiden/Shiden-Kai featured heavy armament, a powerful engine, and robust construction – all departures from previous IJN fighters.

But Japan manufactured relatively few. And over two years of fighting had gravely depleted IJN pilot ranks. Formation of the 343 Kokutai, Holmes shows, proved inescapably necessary.

Over 12,000 rugged, heavily armed Hellcats, by contrast, eventually rolled off Grumman assembly lines by late 1945. And owing to massive training efforts, USN carrier-based units enjoyed steady stream of fresh pilots.

Resources-starved Imperial Japan, in short, faced overwhelming American equipment and personnel superiority in the last two years of WWII. The August 1945 atomic attacks simply sped certain defeat.

"Statistics and Analysis" and "Aftermath" sections complete coverage. Photos, color plates, cockpit interior details, and maps illustrate the account. Tables, expanded captions, biographies, and sidebars also supplement the study. And an index neatly wraps things up.

This excellent "Duel" effort provides an illuminating introduction to both of these classic combatants. It enjoys my strong recommendation.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!