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Summary

This highly regarded war memoir was a best seller in both Japan and the United States during the 1960s and has long been treasured by historians for its insights into the Japanese side of the surface war in the Pacific. The author was a survivor of more than one hundred sorties against the Allies and was known throughout Japan as the Unsinkable Captain.

A hero to his countrymen, Capt. Hara exemplified the best in Japanese surface commanders: highly skilled, hard driving, and aggressive. Moreover, he maintained a code of honor worthy of his samurai grandfather, and, as readers of this book have come to appreciate, he was as free with praise for American courage and resourcefulness as he was critical of himself and his senior commanders.

©1967 Tameichi Hara (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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Good Men In A Bad War

I came upon this second world war memoir by chance and immediately purchased
it. I have an interest in memoirs from the second world war and in
particular those from a naval perspective. However, what I find most
interesting are those accounts that come from what we in the west would call
the enemy at the time. There are plenty of war time accounts from those that
served in the Allies but rarer are those from the other side of this
conflict. With such memoirs the reader is able to obtain a fascinating
insight into how battles were fought as well as the internal politics of a
nation fighting to survive which brings some greater degree of balance to
the overall picture of many of the key events of such conflicts. This book
is an excellent and often captivating as well as revealing look through the
eyes of a Japanese naval officer and his participation in several key
battles of the Pacific war.

The author recounts in detail the successes and failures of the Imperial
Japanese navy in terms of its battles and policies and paints a picture of a
thoughtful man who is not afraid to question the higher echelons of command.
In addition, we see a man who belies the often fanatical portrayal of
suicidal Japanese military men that dispels the stereotype of the cruel and
pitiless Japanese fighter. This is a book that doesn't simply tell the story
of his days serving during this conflict but also lets us know the emotional
state of this incredible man too. It is not uncommon for the author to
recount instances of where he has wept over men lost under his command as
well as pay his respects to enemy sailors that perished at his hands.
Reading these memoirs from those that fought on the other side during the
second world war allows one to see that there were good men that fought on
both sides of that war as well as bad ones.

The narrator is clearly of Japanese herritage and does an excellent job with
all the Japanese references with his perfect pronunciation and this is
fitting as a non-Japanese English speaker would have butchered the correct
saying of the numerous Japanese places and names given in this book.

For those of you interested like me in naval memoirs of this time period it
might be of interest to note that this book briefly covers the actions which
sunk the USS Houston and HAMS Perth and so to compliment this memoir there
is a superb book telling the survivors stories of the men of the Houston and
Perth available on Audible entitled "Ship of Ghosts" that I urge those
interested to read.

Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway - The Great Naval Battles Seen Through Japanese Eyes is an utterly fascinating detailed account that really gives the
reader a flavour of what life was like at the time and is a highly thought
provoking read and an absolute must for anyone interested in this subject
matter. For those that might be interested, I can thoroughly recommend two
other naval memoirs that I am afraid are not available on Audible as yet but
are a great read and these are the excellent "Steel Boat, Iron heart" and
"Iron Coffins". Both titles deal with the German U-Boat war from those that
served aboard them and are equally insightful and fascinating.

Highly recommended.

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Great account of a remarkable Captain

Any additional comments?

I am disappointed that the book ends rather suddenly after the sinking of Cruiser Yahagi, no mention of the Atomic Bombings of Japan, or her eventual surrender.

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  • Saman
  • 07-11-14

Combat, Fear, Survival!

If you want a page tuner – this is it!

The author, Captain Tameichi Hara is a brave, resilient and a lucky individual. He himself states that his survival in WWII is owed to luck rather than any strategic brilliance. But throughout his surface campaigns, he shows that he is a brilliant commander to his loyal men and a tough and experienced naval fighter. He pulls no punches on his superiors for their ineptitude in battle, the suicidal and piece-meal deployments, and utter chaotic command strategy. Even the famed Admiral Yamamoto does not escape his criticism. Yet, he himself is self-deprecating in more than one occasion.

This is the first book I read about the Japanese view point in WWII. It is a fascinating history of the men who fought this war against a far superior opponent who eventually annhilated the IJN. Even to the end, knowing fully that the war was lost, these men fought on. The final IJN sortie, Operation Ten-Go, is harrowing in its description.

This is the finest WWII book I have ever read.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Neil
  • 16-07-14

Excellent account from the Japanese point of View

This is an excellent book from Captain Hara who was on numerous major missions including the invasion of the Philippines, Guadalcanal, Savo Island, and Midway. He criticized the admirals including Yamamoto who he felt should not have commanded the Japanese Navy. And he saw that the Japanese were reacting to the US and not proactive in the war. Most books I have read on the Pacific War are from the US point of View, so this is refreshing to read it from a Japanese Captain. He was also a Nanking, but he played down the atrocities. He later admitted to being an alcoholic so there was honesty there. There are real accounts of his battles with the allies, and he notes a few time how the allies evasive tactics were superior to the Japanese. He goes through the battles concisely and meticulously so if you want details of what happen that night then this is the book for you. He also fired upon John Kennedy;s PT boat, which he give a brief account.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • 28-11-14

Rousing tale of fear overcome

This book was first published in Japan in 1958 and then in 1961 by the Naval Institute Press. The autobiography was highly regarded at the time both in Japan and the United States. The book was released as an audio book on November 11, 2013. Historians have used the book for insights into the Japanese side of the surface war in the Pacific. The author was a survivor of more than one hundred sorties against the Allies and was known in Japan as the “unsinkable captain.”

The book begins with Captain Hara recounting his early life and his time at Eta Jima, Japan’s Naval Academy. The book has anecdotes about his personal life, life aboard ship and “behind-the-scenes” events which made the book absolutely a super read. Captain Hara was highly regarded in Japan. He wrote a manual for the Navy on torpedo warfare. He followed a code of honor similar to his grandfather who was a samurai.

The author was free with praise for American courage and resourcefulness. He also had praise for and was critical of the Japanese Navy and himself. Hara states that the Japanese combatants made more tactical mistakes than their American counterparts. He also specifically faults Tokyo with cronyism and acquiescing too often to the Army. He states the military would have been much better if advancement in rank was based on merit rather than political and birth class.

Hara’s war began around Formosa and the inland sea during the 1930s. He was part of the diversionary forces that attacked the Philippines. Contrary to the title of the book he was not at Pearl Harbor. Captain Hara was a destroyer squadron commander aboard the destroyer Shiqure. Most of the book describes the battles in the Java Sea and the Solomon Island Campaign where Captain Hara participated in most of the major actions. Brian Nishii narrated the book. If you are interested in World War II Pacific theatre this is a book for you.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • 29-04-15

A thrilling war memoir

This book really made me want to break out one of my World War II wargames. Come to think of it, I don't have a good WWII wargame simulating naval combat in the Pacific...

Tameichi Hara was, as the title indicates, the real deal — a Japanese destroyer captain who saw intense combat in the Pacific theater and was present at some of the biggest battles in World War II. (The subtitle is a bit misleading, though; he was not at Pearl Harbor, and he was only peripherally involved in Midway.) He was bombed, torpedoed, and wounded, lost men, he sunk allied ships and submarines, and his own ship got sunk from beneath him and while bobbing in the waves, he watched the Battleship Yamato go down in one of the last battles of the war.

This war memoir is fascinating and thrilling, as Hara gives an up close and personal account of many of the great battles of the Pacific War. He describes the precise movements of ships and the ranges at which they fired their weapons with the memory of a go player playing back a game, and he really brings to life the fear, tension, uncertainty, and fog of war that plagued both sides, as well as providing a fast education on naval warfare and the different classes of ships. (I will no longer be confused about the differences between a destroyer, a cruiser, a battlecruiser, and a battleship.) This really is a great book for wargamers for whom torpedoes and submarines and air support is usually just an abstraction. Commander Hara describes in great detail how Japan won its share of battles, but lost the war.

For the latter, he places a great deal of blame on the high command. Of course — when do the front-line warfighters not blame the admirals and generals back home for being out of touch? But Hara's open criticism of Japan's leadership, including the revered Admiral Yamamoto, was almost shocking when he first published this memoir. Yamamoto, the architect of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, who feared that the Empire had "awoken a sleeping giant," was, according to Hara, a great leader of men, but a very poor strategic commander of ships.

He also criticizes his country's leadership for not negotiating for peace sooner and, like, I suppose, all defeated military officers, claims to have thought the war was a bad idea from the beginning.

The insight into Hara's state of mind was quite interesting to me, and while he talked candidly at times about how he felt, I could not help suspecting that he was being a bit opaque, if not perhaps glossing over his perspective in hindsight. He describes feeling sorry for American sailors he saw floating in the open ocean, calling for help, and radioed his fleet to send another ship to pick them up as he couldn't stop. (Supposedly, they were later rescued and became POWs.) He also tells his crew to respect the enemy they have killed, he forbids physical discipline on his ship, and he altogether sounds like a great officer, an honorable man, the quintessential good soldier fighting for a bad cause. On the other hand, he dismisses the rape of Nanking as "much exaggerated," and while he seemed to respect the enemy and bear no personal animosity towards them, he never once examines what Japan was actually doing in the territories it conquered, outside his limited domain of naval warfare.

No doubt he had feelings about that which he kept to himself. If he was inclined to defend his country, he wouldn't have looked too good in the post-war years, and if he were more critical, he might have been seen as disloyal. Supposedly Hara did become a pacifist, and he interviewed other former officers (Japanese and American) while writing his book. He was a national hero for a losing cause; a difficult situation for any man to be in.

I highly recommend this memoir for anyone with an interest in World War II history.

The narration by Brian Nishi is top-notch, with flawless intonation on the Japanese names.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • william
  • 03-06-14

A new story to the battle of the Pacific

a very interesting story of the Japanese naval effort in the Pacific leaves one wondering why they ever started the war with Pearl

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-11-17

Unique perspective I was looking for.

Like reading this book. It gave me an insight that's hard to find. I like that the author was able to evaluate himself and those around him as well as he did. It seemed very honest and impartial. Definitely recommend it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 25-02-17

Inside the Mind of the Enemy

What did you love best about Japanese Destroyer Captain?

A detailed look at the motivations, thoughts, and emotions of a Japanese destroyer commander plus his impressions of the war and his insight into the Imperial Japanese Navy. Cpt. Hara was uniquely qualified for this as he was the only destroyer captain who survived from the beginning of the war through the end.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Well, since it's semi-autobiographical, Cpt. Hara.

Have you listened to any of Brian Nishii’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not listened to any of his performances before, but I thought his narration here outstanding.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

I'm no good at coming up with stuff like that. Just be assured the movie would be very exciting, tense, and gripping. Sad too.

Any additional comments?

Cpt. Hara's account gives a fascinating inside look into the mind of the enemy in WW II. It also puts a human face to the Japanese and reminds us that in every war we don't fight against mindless evil robots, but real men with families, friends, and varying views of their country's actions.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Oneill
  • 10-05-15

Other side of the hill

Well written personal story, does not hold back on mistakes.

Well worth the read for anyone interested in the Pacific War

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Dan McGrew
  • 13-02-14

Hara Rules

What made the experience of listening to Japanese Destroyer Captain the most enjoyable?

The Japanese perspective of the naval war in the Pacific, as well as his observations on the Japanese High Command and political system. He brought a human face to the Japanese fighting men.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Japanese Destroyer Captain?

His observations and discriptions of the Soloman Islands Campaign. The Americans use of Radar, Tactics and industrial might vs that of the Japanese.

Any additional comments?

this book was writen before the release of information on Allied decoding of Japanese radio transmissions. While Hara was a Torpedo expert, he wrote Japans pre-war manual, he was silent on the very poor performance of American Torpedos.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • G. Collins
  • 14-09-16

Excellent eyewitness account

I had read Hara's account back in the 1970's and enjoyed it immensely. I am very glad that audible is offering this audio version for a new generation. This account should be of interest to anyone interested in the war in the Pacific.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful