Book Review
Kate & Jill Units
Nakajima B5N ‘Kate’ and B6N ‘Jill’ Units
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Nakajima B5N ‘Kate’ and B6N ‘Jill’ Units from Osprey Publishing LTD is catalogued as Combat Aircraft 119. Authored by Mark Chambers and Tony Holmes, and illustrated by Jim Laurier, it is a softcover book and also available in PDF and eBook. With Osprey's short code of COM 119 and the paper format IBSN 9781472818744, it is 96 pages in length. Osprey tells us:
    Entering service during the Sino-Japanese War, the Nakajima B5N (code-named ‘Kate') excelled and went on to achieve surprising and dramatic successes in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It also contributed to the sinking of the US aircraft carriers USS Lexington at the Battle of the Coral Sea, USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway, and USS Hornet at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Its replacement, the Nakajima B6N ‘Jill', while a marked improvement over its illustrious predecessor, was never able to achieve its full potential in combat due to advances in Allied aircraft, finding itself relegated to the dreaded Kamikaze strikes in the latter part of the war.

    Using previously unpublished photographs as well as colour illustrations, this book will cover the history of the ‘Kate' and ‘Jill' torpedo/attack bombers, including their design and development, as well as the combat highs and lows of the Imperial Japanese Navy's premier torpedo-bombers.

Designated by Japan as Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (kyū-nana-shiki kanjō kōgeki-ki, or "kankō") and codenamed "Kate" by the Allies, the Nakajima B5N torpedo bomber was the executioner of American aircraft carriers. While her stablemate Aichi D3A Type 99 dive-bomber is considered the greatest Japanese ship-killer, USN carriers survived pummeling by their bombs. No carrier struck by Kate's type 91 torpedo survived. Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) carrier force (“Mobile Force”, the Kido Butai) kankōs opened the Pacific War at Pearl Harbor with bombs and torpedoes; 'Kate' was also devastating in the level-bombing role, using 800Kg bombs, the largest employed by either side at the time. Those bombs destroyed the USS Arizona and devastated the port of Darwin, the British base on Ceylon, and Allied facilities all across the Pacific. As effective as the elegant airframe was, 'Kate' was horribly vulnerable. Yet Japan had already designed a worthy successor, the Nakajima B6N Tenzan (Heavenly Mountain), code-named 'Jill'. As formidable as 'Jill' was, she was overwhelmed by even better Allied fighters and anti-aircraft weapons, and few Allied ships received torpedo hits from 'Jills'.

Nakajima B5N ‘Kate’ and B6N ‘Jill’ Units is presented through four chapters in 96 pages;

    1. B5N 'Kate' Development and early Successes
    2. Midway, the Aleutians and the Solomons
    3. Land Attack Operations and Other Roles
    4. B6N 'Jill' and the Kamikaze

    Color Plate Commentary

Well written and easy to follow, the text is interesting and even contains bits for the trivia-minded enthusiast of Japanese military terms, i.e., 'To tsu re' = (Deploy attack formation). The first 30 pages of chapter 1 discusses the origins of the B5N 'Kate' and her combat up to Midway. Several pages feature quotes from Cdr Mitsuo Fuchida at Pearl Harbor:
    I was relieved to have reported 'Tora-Tora-Tora" myself, but it was yet to be proven if the surprise attack would really succeeded and annihilate the US Pacific Fleet. I stood up on the seat with my binoculars in my hands and started to give our combat orders, paying attention to the surrounding battle conditions...number of water columns increased in succession as the torpedo-bombers flew in.

The text continues with 'Kate' attacks against Wake island, New Guinea, Rabaul, Darwin, Java, into the Indian Ocean, and finally the first carrier clash of Coral Seas.

Next is the narrative of the Midway campaign and supporting attack on the Aleutians from the Japanese perspective. More first-hand accounts from Fuchida continued, including his witnessing of the decisive diver-bombing attack:
    However, the crucial aeroplane was the third one, because its pilot could make adjustments based on the previous two misses. The aeroplane raised its nose, and the bomb that was released was floating down as though aimed straight at my navel. "This can't be happening", I thought, and I held my head and lay on my stomach. The bomb hit...I was lifted... I could not stand up, no matter how hard I tried. Both of my legs were broken.

Action in the Solomons follows with the B5N's participation against Guadalcanal and in two carrier battles, and describes 'Kate's' most infamous power - the Type 91 Mod 3 Air Torpedo. In October 1942 at Santa Cruz, 'Kates' employed the Type 91 to fatally wound the USS Hornet. That battle produced some enduring photographs of 'Kates' in action against the US fleet.

Land Attack Operations and Other Roles described defending Rabaul, and that remaining 'Kate' crews transitioned into night torpedo attacks and anti-submarine roles.

Seventy-two pages later the story introduces 'Jill' in B6N 'Jill' and the Kamikaze. 'Jill' was the Nakajima B6N Tenzan (Heavenly Mountain) and her combat debut was during 'Kate's' swansong off Rabaul. B6N had an eventful but relatively short career. To put it in perspective, the 'Jill' story is only 8 pages long, ending with the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Seven pages chronicles the kamikaze role of 'Kate' and 'Jill'. With the final shoot-down of B6Ns after the atom bomb attacks, the story of these two kankōs concludes.

Photographs and Artwork
Osprey presents a fine gallery of black-and-white photographs to support the text. While I am definitely not the go-to guy for all known photographs, none of the images in this book are new to me. The images span the era from early B5Ns at war in China, the Pearl Harbor attack through the Battle of Coral Seas to Midway, thence action in the Solomons and Central Pacific with the introduction of 'Jill', through the end of the war. There are no color photographs featured in this volume.

Most of the photographs show the aircraft although IJN aircraft carriers and acclaimed pilots are profiled, too. Some must be from newsreel and newspaper sources with degraded quality and yet I think the vast majority are clear, focused, and definitely useful.

Modelers rejoice! Perhaps the favorite part of these osprey books are the original full-color artwork. Thirty profiles of B5Ns and B6Ns by artist Jim Laurier enrich the book. Each profile includes a brief caption and each plate is discussed in greater detail in the Color Plate Commentary.

Nakajima B5N ‘Kate’ and B6N ‘Jill’ Units is an excellent book for those interested in 'Kates', 'Jills', Japanese torpedo planes and carrier actions. It is an excellent companion for Osprey's book Aichi 99 Kanbaku “Val” Units 1937-42 as well as their books about Pearl Harbor, Midway, and other carrier battles.

I spotted only one minor typo, otherwise the text is expertly presented, deeply researched, and definitely useful for reference, research, and inspiration. While it is not specifically a modelling book (not the author's intention) and yet should be a valued addition to one's bookcase. I am enthusiastic about the book and recommend it.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Detailed text and first-hand accounts. Excellent selection of photographs and artwork.
Lows: Minor typo.
Verdict: An excellent book for those interested in 'Kates', 'Jills', Japanese torpedo planes and carrier actions.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472818744
  Suggested Retail: $23.00
  Related Link: B5N2 Kate with Folded Wings
  PUBLISHED: Oct 14, 2017
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Thanks for the review, Fred! This book is a "must have" for me. Have built 2 "Kates" already and have 2-3 more in my stash plus a "Jill" somewhere. Some years ago I bought the Bunrindo book of the "Kate" cheap from an inheritance. Though it's all in japanese I was surprised how many B5N were land based. Torsten
OCT 17, 2017 - 12:27 AM

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