Axis Suicide Squads...

...German and Japanese Secret Projects of the Second World War, from Fonthill Media

Title: Axis Suicide Squads
Author: Justo Miranda

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-565-1

This new book from Spanish historian Justo Miranda is full of well researched information, and covers a topic which we know about in terms of the Japanese Kamikaze, less so perhaps on the German interest in designs to create suicide aircraft other than the piloted version of the V1 which was tried, the Reichenberg. The opening section, covers German designs, some of which only remained on the drawing board.  In the text the author provides some useful and interesting background, on 'ramming'.  Occurrences of ramming involved pilots of many nationalities, even as early as WW1 and in the Spanish Civil War.  To the Russians, it was known as 'Taran'.  The tactic in most cases involved one aircraft closing on the target (usually a bomber) from behind, and using the propeller to shred the tail surfaces of the target.  This often meant that the attacker could in some cases recover and land, or parachute to safety.  Not necessarily a suicide mission therefore.  A number of examples are included.

So the first part of the book looks at Luftwaffe designs.  Many are well known aircraft, such as Me Bf 109 and FW 190 among others.  In addition though there are other designs such as the piloted V1, the Reichenberg, and one among others which fascinated me was the Gotha P.54 Rammer, which was to be towed into the air by an FW190 for it to then ignite rocket motors to ram the fuselage or tail of a target bomber, but where the capsule containing the pilot was designed to pass right through the fuselage of the bomber, leaving the rest of the airframe to bring down the bomber, while the pilot of the rammer could then still have a chance of getting clear and parachuting to safety.  There are other interesting and unusual designs that I think will tempt many modellers to want to try to build them.

Then the book moves on to the topics of the IJA (Imperial Japanese Army) and the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy).  As well as using the well known Japanese aircraft types, they also planned to use obsolete aircraft, even trainers, and fit a bomb to them, and the aircraft considered expendable.  New designs looked at making a basic airframe that didn't use strategic raw materials and flow by pilots with only a minimum of flight training.  Some of these designs were to be able to be fitted with any available radial engines, rather than a specific one, and others did include jet and rocket powered airframes.  Among them is of course the Ohka bomb and some designs intended to be carried in capsules by submarine.  As well as a host of side view drawings throughout the book, each aircraft type has background text, including those which were built and deployed, whether or not they were used in action.

I found this a really interesting book to read, and so much more than just tackling the Kamikaze that are perhaps best known.  The variety of German designs alongside the Japanese ones was also much more extensive than I had realised until I read this new book. Recommended for modellers and WW2 aircraft enthusiasts alike.

Robin