Wings for the Rising Sun: A Transnational History of Japanese Aviation

About the Book

The history of Japanese aviation offers countless stories of heroic achievements and dismal failures, passionate enthusiasm and sheer terror, brilliant ideas and fatally-flawed strategies.


Former airline pilot turned academic Jürgen Melzer takes an innovative approach to navigate across this vast field. In Wings for the Rising Sun, he connects the intense drama of flight with a global history of international cooperation, competition, and conflict. He details how Japanese strategists, diplomats, and industrialists skillfully exploited a series of major geopolitical changes to expand Japanese airpower and develop an autonomous domestic industry. At the same time, the military and media orchestrated air shows, transcontinental goodwill flights, and press campaigns to stir popular aviation enthusiasm and draw the public into the national aviation project.


Melzer also analyzes the French, British, German, and American impacts on Japan’s aviation. He reveals in unprecedented detail how Japanese aeronautical experts absorbed foreign technologies at breathtaking speed and how they designed and built boldly original flying machines that, in many aspects, surpassed those of their former mentors. Wings for the Rising Sun compellingly links Japan’s aeronautical advancement with the transnational flow of people and ideas, public mobilization, and international relations, offering a fresh perspective on modern Japanese history.

About the Author

Jürgen P. Melzer is Professor of Modern Japanese History at Yamanashi Gakuin University.

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