Over the course of three decades Japan built an aircraft industry that by 1941 was qualitatively the equal of any in the world. In Wings for the Rising Sun: A Transnational History of Japanese Aviation
(Harvard University Press, 2020), Jürgen Melzer
explains the ways in which the Japanese drew upon Western technology and expertise to achieve this goal. In many respects this process was foreshadowed by Japan’s embrace of manned balloons in the late 19th century as a means of flight. As airplanes took to the skies Japan sought to keep pace with these developments by sending men abroad for flight training, purchasing planes for them to fly at home, and developing public enthusiasm for Japan’s airborne achievements though campaigns paralleling those in European countries. Though the French dominated these contacts for the first decade, after the First World War the Japanese turned to the Germans and the British for technology transfers and training. Melzer shows that while businessmen and government officials in the West envisioned Japan as a market for their airplanes, the Japanese used these relationships to develop their own aircraft designs and manufacturing capabilities. Such was their success that were able to adopt rocket and jet engine technology from their German partners in the Second World War with only minimal assistance, although their successes in this area came too late to shape the outcome of the conflict.