Dynamic response of a cellular sandwich core material, balsa wood, is investigated over its entire density spectrum ranging from 55 to 380 kg/m(3). Specimens were compression loaded along the grain direction at a nominal strain rate of 3 x 10(3) s(-1) using a modified Kolsky (split Hopkinson) bar. The dynamic data are discussed and compared to those of quasi-static experiments reported in a previous study (Mech. Mater. 35 (2003) 523). Results show that while the initial failure stress is very sensitive to the rate of loading, plateau (crushing) stress remains unaffected by the strain rate. As in quasi-static loading, buckling and kink band formation were identified to be two major failure modes in dynamic loading as well. However, the degree of dynamic strength enhancement was observed to be different for these two distinct modes. Kinematics of deformation of the observed failure modes and associated micro-inertial effects are modeled to explain this different behavior. Specific energy dissipation capacity of balsa wood was computed and is found to be comparable with those of fiber-reinforced polymer composites. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.