Book Review





Joseph F. Enright  et al


St. Martins Press



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

September, 2003



Near the closing days of World War II, the Japanese still had one last secret weapon they planned to deploy against the Allied forces. Shinano tells the story of this superweapon.

Born of desperation after the fateful battle of Midway, the Japanese planned a new unsinkable aircraft carrier. Three hulls for the Yamato class battleship had already been laid and the third, laid in 1939, was to be called the Shinano. Its destiny was forever changed by the battle of Midway and the design was changed  to make it the largest aircraft carrier of its time. Built entirely in secrecy, even the mention of her name outside the confines of the shipyard was an indiscretion  that would draw the death penalty.

Early in 1945, she was ready to be launched for sea trials. After this, outfitting would be accomplished under cover of night at the Kobe naval yard. Her captain was to be Captain Toshio Abe, a veteran of the Midway battle that had witnessed Admiral Yamaguichi strapping himself to the bridge of his sinking carrier. Destiny  would make sure she never arrived for final outfitting and her complement of  naval aircraft. Accompanied by several destroyers, she was to meet her end at  the hand of the submarine Archer-Fish, a United States Navy submarine. Following  the model of Admiral Yamaguichi, Captain Abe chose to go down with his ship, ending a distinguished naval career.

The Archer-Fish's skipper was a young naval officer, Joseph Enright. This was  his second chance as the captain of a submarine, a previous command ending with his removal from sea duty and a series of unimportant shore postings. Stalking the waters off Japan, the crew was surprised by sighting an aircraft carrier, a new class that was not listed in any of their identification books. Stalking their prey over miles of empty ocean, luck found them in the proper position  to send at least four torpedoes into the unsinkable ship, which quickly lost power, took on water, and finally capsized.

This is an interesting book about the war in the Pacific. Although it is packed  with a number of personal glimpses of the sailors on both sides, some of the material and dialog is invented since many of the witnesses of this battle went  down with the ship. The only two known photographs of the carrier are included in the center section, and there are a number of interesting photographs of  life aboard the Archer-Fish. Shinano documents the final days of this gigantic ship and the men who would have sailed her into battle.

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