The Russo-Japanese War is a fascinating conflict that, arguably, was one of the most important events in the 20th century. It contributed to the decline of the Russian Empire, paving the way for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and gave rise to the Japanese Empire, paving the way to Pearl Harbor. And yet, this war is often overlooked in the West, leading to a dearth of first-hand English language accounts. Thankfully, Human Bullets (1906) by Tadayoshi Sakurai survives to fill that void.
It’s often said, “history is written by the victors,” and this only half true. While the narrative of World War II is definitely constructed from the Allied lens, this does not mean that the vanquished were unable to tell their stories. German officers and soldiers pumped out volumes of memoirs during the postwar years, many of which were consumed voraciously by readers in America and Britain. Japanese memoirs were more sparse, at least regarding translations that made it to the West. One notable exception was Masanobu Tsuji’s memoir Japan’s Greatest Victory, Britain’s Worst Defeat.
Japanese Destroyer Captain is the postwar memoir of Tameichi Hara, a Japanese Navy officer who earned the nickname the “Miracle Captain.” He is one of the only Japanese captains to have survived the entire Pacific War from its beginning in 1941 to its end in 1945. Of the 175 destroyers the Imperial Navy possessed during World War II, 129 were sunk.