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Wings for the Rising Sun

Wings for the Rising Sun

A Transnational History of Japanese Aviation

Jürgen P. Melzer

ISBN 9780674244412

Publication date: 01/07/2020

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.

In Wings for the Rising Sun, scholar and former airline pilot Jürgen Melzer 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 a domestic aviation industry. At the same time, the military and media orchestrated air shows, transcontinental goodwill flights, and press campaigns to stir popular interest in the national aviation project. Melzer analyzes the French, British, German, and American influence on Japan’s aviation, revealing in unprecedented detail how Japanese aeronautical experts absorbed foreign technologies at breathtaking speed. Yet they also designed and built boldly original flying machines that, in many respects, surpassed those of their mentors.

Wings for the Rising Sun compellingly links Japan’s aeronautical advancement with public mobilization, international relations, and the transnational flow of people and ideas, offering a fresh perspective on modern Japanese history.


  • Extremely well-written and beautifully presented…Melzer’s book has excellently made the case that aviation is worthy of study, not merely for understanding the development of the industry itself but also for gaining a much better understanding of the workings of the Japanese state, media, and public during this period.

    —Christopher Hood, Journal of Japanese Studies


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

Book Details

  • 370 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center