Although there are quite a large number of Japanese WW2 aircraft available in kit form, study of the equipment used by the pilots and other aircrew is still largely neglected in the West. Author Gary Nila has largely put this serious omission right with this comprehensive study of IJN clothing and equipment.
The book takes the usual form for Osprey - Softbound 185 x 248 mm with 64 pages. The book begins with an unexpected, but very handy, explanation of the Japanese imperial calendar system and a brief glossary of Japanese military terms.
The equipment covered is broken down into the following areas (there are no separate chapters, as such):
Gauntlets & gloves
Flight harnesses and parachutes
Flight watches and clocks
Speaking devices, earphones, throat-mikes & oxygen masks
Miscellaneous flight accessories
In each case, the topic is covered in exacting detail, with a full description of the various manufacturers involved, along with distinguishing features such as the materials used and their colours, differences in styles of stitching etc. In most cases a number of B&W photos illustrate each piece of equipment - these take the form of both modern "product shots", mostly from the author's personal collection of preserved items, and wartime photos showing the equipment in its original context. In both cases the captioning is excellent, with detailed notes identifying the equipment and anything unusual about it.
The text is very clearly written, with an easy to follow guide to the development of Japanese equipment and clothing, both in the light of combat experience and the need to circumvent shortages of materials as the war situation worsened. As the title makes clear, this volume deals with IJN equipment, but there does seem to be a degree of cross-over in some cases with the Army and the book contains some details of IJA counterparts - nevertheless, on the basis of the detail contained here, I really hope Gary Nila turns his attention to the IJA for a companion volume.
While the text is great, the pièce de résistance, for me at least, is the book's colour section. Previous volumes which I've seen in the series have had a set of colour paintings; while I've always found these useful, this book is a real eye-opener; instead of paintings, there are 5 pages containing 23 colour photographs by Tony Chong of models wearing the preserved equipment. The result is outstanding - from a modeller's point of view the photos are definitely preferable to artwork, because every detail is there to see. (No matter how good a painting is, I'm always left with a slight uncertainty as to the accuracy (or not) of the artist's interpretation.
The photos here are excellent quality - well lit and posed to reveal the details of the equipment and clothing. The most important items are shown from several angles. Each of the photos is captioned in detail at the end of the book, listing the equipment shown and pointing out further items of interest.
Along with the photos, the colour section also contains 3 pages of colour illustrations by Bill Younghusband of IJN insignia, which make the perfect accompaniment for the wartime B&W photos in the rest of the book.
While this is a book which will obviously appeal to historians and collectors, from a modeller's perspective it is an absolute goldmine. I would give it the highest recommendation for anyone interested in WW2 Japanese subjects and it is an essential addition to the modelling references if you are contemplating a diorama or vignette. The low price is perfect and the easy-to-read format make this spot on as a reference for the workbench - I can only hope we don't have to wait for a follow up volume about the IJAAF! Unreservedly recommended.
PO Box 140
Northants, NN8 2FA
(01933) 443 863
Thank you to Osprey Publishing for kindly supplying the review sample.