Who became kamikaze pilots, and How did they feel towards their suicide mission?
This extended essay is about the Kamikaze pilots who made suicide attacks from the air during the Pacific War. This paper aims to find who the pilots really were and how they felt about their suicide mission. The hypothesis for the research was that any pilot could become a Kamikaze pilot, and that the pilots probably felt scared, yet took the responsibility to carry out their mission.
Most of the investigations were made through primary sources. Since the Kamikaze attacks were made from bases in Kyushu, there are several museums there where information may be found. There, the actual letters and diaries that the pilots had left behind are displayed. Also, fifteen interviews with survivors of the attacks, relatives and other people related to the attacks were made. Since the Kamikaze attacks were made only fifty years ago, a great quantity of documents was available.
The time period in concern is from early 1944 to 1945, and the topic being the Kamikaze pilots, and the region of research was within Japan, mainly Kyushu. The conclusion of this extended essay was that the pilots were ordinary, average young men of the time who volunteered, and that most felt that their dying in such a mission would improve the war situation for the Japanese. However, exactly how the pilots felt could not be fully understood by a student researching the topic fifty years after the actual attack.
In blossom today, then scattered:
Life is so like a delicate flower.
How can one expect the fragrance
To last for ever?
Admiral Onishi Takijiro
During World War II in the Pacific, there were pilots of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy who made suicide attacks, driving their planes to deliberately crash into carriers and battle- ships of the Allied forces. These were the pilots known as the Kamikaze pilots. This essay focuses on how they felt about their suicide mission. Because right-wing organizations have used the Kamikaze pilots as a symbol of a militaristic and extremely nationalistic Japan, the current Japanese respond to the issue with ignorance and false stereotypes and with generally negative and unsympathetic remarks. The aim of this essay is to reveal the often unknown truth concerning the pilots, and above all to give a clearer image as to who the pilots really were. The hypothesis behind the question, «Who were the Kamikaze pilots and how did they feel towards their suicide mission?» is that any pilot devoted to the country, who volunteered and was chosen felt scared, yet took the responsibility to carry out his mission.
The death of Emperor Taisho may be the point when Japan had started to become the fascist state that it was during the Pacific War. Although the military had been active ever since the Jiji period (1867-1912) in wars such as the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), it became extremely active when Crown Prince Hirohito became Emperor Showa. Coup d’etats became frequent, and several political figures were assassinated. By Emperor Showa’s reign, the military had the real authority.
According to those who have lived through the early Showa period (1926-1945), the presence of Emperor Showa was like that of a god and he was more of a religious figure than a political one. In many of the haiku that the Kamikaze pilots wrote, the Emperor is mentioned in the first line.
Systematic and organized education made such efficient «brainwashing» possible. In public schools, students were taught to die for the emperor. By late 1944, a slogan of Jusshi Reisho meaning «Sacrifice life,» was taught.
Most of the pilots who volunteered for the suicide attacks were those who were born late in the Taisho period (1912-1926) or in the first two or three years of Showa. Therefore, they had gone through the brainwashing education, and were products of the militaristic Japan.
Censorship brought restrictions on the Japanese people. The letters, diaries, and photographs of individual soldiers were all censored. Nothing revealing where they were, or what they were doing concerning the military, could be communicated. Major restrictions were placed on the press, radio and other media. The public was not to be informed of defeats or damage on the Japanese side. Only victories and damage imposed on the Allies were to be announced.
Another factor that created the extreme atmosphere in Japan were the «Kenpeitai,» a part of the Imperial Army which checked on the civilians to see if they were saying or doing anything against the Emperor or the military.
Since the time of feudalism, especially during the Tokugawa period, a warrior must follow the Bushido. This Code, and a culture which viewed suicide and the death of young people as beautiful were factors contributing to the mass suicides.
Although it was only from 1944 that the General Staff had considered mounting organized suicide attacks, «suicide attacks» had been made since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Two types of suicide attacks had been made. The first was an organized attack which would, in 90% of the cases, result in the death of the soldiers. However, if the plan had worked on the battlefield as it did in theory, there was some possibility that the soldiers would survive. The other type of suicide attack that had been made was completely voluntary, and the result of a sudden decision. This was usually done by aircraft. The pilots, finding no efficient way to fight the American aircraft, deliberately crashed into them, and caused an explosion, destroying the American aircraft as well as killing themselves.
Because these voluntary suicide attacks had shown that the young pilots had the spirit of dying rather than being defeated, by February, 1944, the staff officers had started to believe that although they were way below the Americans in the number of aircraft, battleships, skillful pilots and soldiers, and in the amount of natural resources (oil, for example), they were above the Americans in the number of young men who would fight to the death rather than be defeated. By organizing the «Tokkotai,» they thought it would also attack the Americans psychologically, and make them lose their will to continue the war. The person who suggested the Kamikaze attack at first is unknown, but it is often thought to be Admiral Takijiro Onishi. However, Onishi was in the position to command the first Shinpu Tokubetsu Kogekitai rather than suggest it.
In October, 1944, the plans for the organized suicide attacks became reality. Having received permission from the Minister of the Navy, Admiral Onishi entered Clark Air Base prepared to command the first organized suicide attacks. Onishi had not thought the organized suicide attacks to be an efficient tactic, but that they would be a powerful battle tactic, and he believed that it would be the best and most beautiful place for the pilots to die. Onishi once said, «if they (the young pilots) are on land, they would be bombed down, and if they are in the air, they would be shot down. That’s sad…Too sad…To let the young men die beautifully, that’s what Tokko is. To give beautiful death, that’s called sympathy.»
This statement makes sense, considering the relative skills of the pilots of the time. By 1944, air raids were made all over Japan, especially in the cities. Most of the best pilots of the Navy and the Army had been lost in previous battles. Training time was greatly reduced to the minimum, or even less than was necessary in order to train a pilot. By the time the organized suicide attacks had started, the pilots only had the ability to fly, not to fight. Although what happens to the pilot himself in doing the suicide attack is by no means anywhere near beauty, to die in such a way, for the Emperor, and for the country, was (at the time), honorable.
One thing that was decided upon by the General Staff was that the Kamikaze attacks were to be made only if it was in the will of the pilot himself. It was too much of a task to be «commanded.»
The first organized suicide attack was made on October 21, 1944 by a squadron called the Shinpu Tokubetsu Kogekitai. Tokubetsu Kogekitai was the name generally used in the Japanese Imperial Navy and Army. The public had known them as the Tokkotai, the abbreviated form. Tokkotai referred to all the organized suicide attacks. Shinpu is what is better known as Kamikaze. The captain of the first attack was to be Captain Yukio Seki.
How was Captain Seki talked into such a task? According to the subcommander of the First Air Fleet, Tamai, who brought the issue up to Captain Seki, the Captain had in a short time replied «I understand. Please let me do it.» According to another source, the reply that Captain Seki gave was, «Please let me think about it one night. I will accept the offer tomorrow morning.»
The document which seems to have the most credibility is the book, The Divine Wind by Captain Rikihei Inoguchi and Commander Tadashi Nakajima. According to this account a graduate of the Naval Academy, Naoshi Kanno, was originally nominated as the leader of this mission. However, he was away from Mabalacat on a mission to mainland Japan. Therefore, to take Kanno’s place Captain Seki was chosen, and was called to Commander Tamai’s room at midnight. After hearing of the mission, it appears, Seki remained silent for a while, then replied, «You must let me do it.» The reason this is the most credible document is because it had been written by Captain Rikihei Inoguchi, who was actually there with Tamai and Seki, and named the first unit, Shinpu. It is doubtful that there was a flaw in his memory since the book was published in 1959, only 14 years after the war.
In any case, Captain Seki agreed to lead the first Kamikaze attack, and, on October 25, 1944 during the battle off Samos, made one of the first attacks, on the American aircraft carrier Saint Lo. Twenty-six fighter planes were prepared, of which half were to escort and the other half to make the suicide mission. That half was divided into the Shikishima, Yamato, Asahi and Yamazakura.
The youngest of the Kamikaze pilots of the Imperial Army was 17 years old, and the oldest, 35. Most of them were in their late teens, or early twenties. As the battle in Okinawa [April to June 1945] worsened, the average age of the pilots got younger. Some had only completed the equivalent of an elementary school and middle school combined. Some had been to college. There was a tendency for them not to be first sons. The eldest sons usually took over the family business. Most were therefore the younger sons who did not need to worry about the family business. Most of those who had come from college came in what is called the Gakuto Shutsujin. This was when the college students’ exemption from being drafted into the military was lifted, and the graduation of the seniors was shifted from April 1944 to September 1943.
Many of these students were from prestigious colleges such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Keio, and Waseda Universities. These students from college tended to have more liberal ideas, not having been educated in military schools, and also were more aware of the world outside of Japan. Where were the pilots trained? All the pilots involved in the «Okinawa Tokko» had been trained in/as one of the following: The Youth Pilot Training School, Candidates for Second Lieutenant, The Imperial Army Air Corps Academy, Pilot Trainee, Flight Officer Candidates, Special Flight Officer Probationary Cadet, Pilot Training Schools, or Special Flight Officer Candidate.
Since the Kamikaze attacks were to be made only if the pilots had volunteered, and could not be «commanded,» there were two methods to collect volunteers. One was for all pilots in general, and another was for the Special Flight Officer Probationary Cadet (College graduates) only. The former was an application form, and the latter was a survey. The survey asked: «Do you desire earnestly/wish/do not wish/to be involved in the Kamikaze attacks?» They had to circle one of the three choices, or leave the paper blank. The important fact is that the pilots were required to sign their names. When the military had the absolute power, and the whole atmosphere of Japan expected men to die for the country, there was great psychological pressure to circle «earnestly desire» or «wish.» The Army selected those who had circled «earnestly desire.» The reason that the Special Flight Officer Probationary Cadet had to answer such a survey rather than send the applications at their own will was probably because the military had known that the students who had come from college had a wider vision, and would not easily apply for such a mission. For the regular application, the Army was confident that there would be many young pilots who would apply. They were correct. Every student of the 15th term of the Youth Pilot Training School had applied. Because there were so many volunteers, the military had decided to let the ones with better grades go first.
There are several factors which made so many young pilots volunteer for such a mission. Extreme patriotism must have been one factor for sure. Added to that, there was the reverence for the Emperor, a god. Some say that it was generally believed that if one died for the emperor, and was praised in Yasukuni Shrine, they would become happy forever.
The effect of the brainwashing that the military had done to the students is surprising. The pilots felt it was «obvious» that they were to take part in the Kamikaze attacks. Most pilots mention in letters that they were happy, and proud of being given such an honorable mission. It is true also that they believed that if they took part in the mission, it might improve the war situation for Japan.
What the military education was like was described in a diary kept by Corporal Yukio Araki, from the time he had entered the Youth Pilot Training School, until the night before his original date of departure for Okinawa. Since anything written was checked by one of the military staff, nothing that would upset the military or contradict the ideas of the Japanese government could be written. However, more importantly, because of the lack of privacy, personal emotions could not be written. Therefore, in Corporal Araki’s diary, very rarely can anything «personal» be found. The first several days in the Training school, he simply lists the subjects that were studied that day, and what was done for physical training. Later on he mentions what was done for training, the events that took place, and other things he had done. However, most of what he wrote was about the «warning» he received.
The following are some of the «warnings» he had received: There is an attitude problem when listening to the officers. Some students seem to smile or laugh during training, and others are being lazy…In general there seems to be a lack of spirit. Straighten yourself. It reveals your spirit.
The education emphasized the mind, spirit and attitude. Neatness and cleanliness were also frequently mentioned. Usually, a hard slap in the face accompanied these warnings. The way the 15-year- old boy responded to the warning was: «I must try harder.» One of the listed subjects in the diary was a course called «Spiritual Moral Lecture,» nearly every other day. What exactly was taught in the course is not mentioned. However it seemed that in some of these courses, great military figures who died for Japan were mentioned. It is a certainty that this course was one factor in making the pilots feel «happy and proud» to be involved in the Kamikaze attacks. The military education was quickly absorbed by these young pilots-to-be. It was in October 1943 that the young boy had entered the Training School. By the next February, he had written a short poem saying that a Japanese man should be praised when he dies as he should for the Emperor.
The amount of time students spent in the Youth Pilot Training School was reduced from three years to less than two years for the 15th term students. Therefore, the schedule was tight and tough. There was almost no holiday at all, and many of the planned holidays were canceled. What Corporal Araki called a «holiday» was very much different from what is normally considered a holiday. An example of his holiday started with some sort of ceremony, followed by listening and learning new songs (probably of war), and watching a movie. Something related to the military was taught even on days called «holidays.» Therefore, they were given no time to «think.» There was something to do almost every minute that they were awake, and they were taught what the right spirit was. By not giving them time to think, they had no time to evaluate what they were being taught. They just absorbed it, and as a result, by the time they graduated, they were brainwashed. Corporal Araki had an older brother and three younger brothers. In his will to his parents, he mentioned that he wished two of his younger brothers to also enter the military; one should enter the Navy and become an officer, the other to enter the Army and also become an officer. He also mentions that he wishes that his brothers follow his path (and be involved in the Kamikaze attacks). Mr. S. Araki, Corporal Araki’s older brother, mentioned that his brother had greatly changed after entering the military school. He remembers that his brother’s attitude towards him was not casual, and it was not like he was talking to a brother. He felt that he had really grown up since he had seen him last, both physically and psychologically. There are three references in which Corporal Araki’s thoughts towards the mission may be found: his will, last letters, and his diary. In his will to his parents, and to his brother, he mentions that he has no nostalgic sentiments. In his will addressed to his brother, he mentions that he would like him to consider the mission as piety. In a postcard sent on the day of his mission, he calls the mission, «an honorable mission,» and that he is looking forward to see them again at Yasukuni Shrine. It was in the end of March 1945, that Corporal Araki’s unit’s mission was ordered to take place.
From just before then, Corporal Araki had not written in his diary. After an entry on March 16, there were no entries for two months. He wrote, because he was busy, there was no time to write. Could that be true? Indeed, his squadron was on a tight schedule for March. From the 25th, they returned from P’yongyang to Gifu prefecture. However, Sergeant Kazuo Arai had been able to keep a diary at the time. It may be because of strong personal emotions he just could not keep the diary. Or, it may be that he could care no longer about keeping a diary. In either case the fact that he had not written an entry on the day that the mission was officially ordered, when he had written every other special event down, reveals that he was no longer in the state of mind that he had been. The planned date of the mission of the 72nd Shinbu squadron (which was the squadron to which Corporal Araki belonged) was initially, May 21, 1945. However, because of rainy weather, it was postponed to May 27, 1945. In his last diary entry on May 20, 1945, he wrote: …at ** o’clock I received the thankful command to depart tomorrow. I am deeply emotional, and just hope to sink one (American battleship). Already, hundreds of visitors had visited us. Cheerfully singing the last season of farewell. and is cut off there. His handwriting however was very stable, and was not as if he was losing control. If for some reason he had to leave the diary for a while, why did he not go back to it? Was it that he had become extremely emotional that he could no longer write? In any case, he never returned to his diary.
In reading the last letters of the Kamikaze pilots, there are generally two types. One, the «Typical» letters and the other, the «Unique» letters. Most of the typical letters were written by graduates of military schools such as the Youth Pilot Training School. The «Unique» ones were written by the Special Flight Officer Probationary Cadets—the graduates from college. The first two of the following five pilots have written a typical letter, and the other three have written unique letters. Corporal Masato Hisanaga of the 72nd Shinbu Squadron was twenty years old. In his letter, he thanked his parents for the years that he was alive, and reported to them how he had been doing, and informed them of the kindness of the people where he had been. After asking his parents to say «Hi» to various people, he says that he will take revenge for his older brother (who, as it appears, must have been killed in the war) by sinking the enemy’s battleship and killing its soldiers. He too asks that his younger brothers follow their brother (himself). «All of the (Japanese) population is the tokkotai.» He too mentioned, «I have no nostalgic sentiments.» Corporal Shinji Ozeki, 19 years old wrote a will to his mother saying: As a man I will courageously go. Now, I have no special nostalgic sentiments. However, I will go regretting that although being born a man, I have not had filial piety.
To give this young self for the protection of the imperial nation, I believe is piety.
I hope that you will forgive my sin of being undutiful and that you will live in happiness.
This is similar to what Corporal Araki and Hisanaga had mentioned. All reveal their thoughts towards their parents. They believed their dying was piety, which shows that they were doing it for their family. All had mentioned having no nostalgic sentiments possibly to make their parents feel easier. Because these are «Typical» letters, many others had written just as they had.
The unique ones written by the college graduates included more personal feelings. For example, Second Lieutenant Shigeyuki Suzuki wrote:
People say that our feeling is of resignation, but that does not know at all how we feel, and think of us as a fish about to be cooked. Young blood does flow in us. There are persons we love, we think of, and many unforgettable memories. However, with those, we cannot win the war. To let this beautiful Japan keep growing, to be released from the wicked hands of the Americans and British, and to build a ‘freed Asia’ was our goal from the Gakuto Shutsujin year before last; yet nothing has changed. The great day that we can directly be in contact with the battle is our day of happiness and at the same time, the memorial of our death…
Second Lieutenant Ryoji Uehara, a graduate of Keio University was 22 years old. His ideas were «radical» for the time, and if known by the Kenpeitai, he would not have been left alone. In a note, he wrote to a journalist just before his mission that he was greatly honored to be chosen as a Kamikaze pilot.[58 ]Yet he also wrote, thinking logically with the skills he had gained in college. He believed in democracy. He believed that the victory of democracy was obvious, and although fascism would make the country appear to be prosperous temporarily, only decline would wait for it. He mentioned the fact that Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had been defeated, and that the power of «Freedom» will appear in history. He says that if his ideas were correct, it would be a tragedy for the nation but that he would be happy. In the end of the note he wrote:
Tomorrow, one believer in democracy will leave this world. He may look lonely, but his heart is filled with satisfaction. Second Lieutenant Uehara believed that he would not go to Yasukuni Shrine, but go to heaven where he would be able to meet his brother and the girl he loved, who died earlier.
Second Lieutenant Toshio Anazawa was engaged. Yet being chosen for such a mission that [engagement] was to be canceled. He wrote in his last letter to her all the thankfulness he felt for her and her family. He tells her that he does not want her to reflect on the time they had spent together. He wrote:
As an engaged man, as a man to go, I would like to say a little to you, a
lady before I go.
I only wish your happiness.
Do not mind the past. You are not to live in the past.
Have the courage and forget the past. You are to create a new future.
You are to live from moment to moment in the reality. Anazawa no longe exists in the reality.
Unlike the first two letters, which contained the words, «I have no nostalgic emotions,» he wrote: «It’s too late now, but I would like to say some of my wishes.» He then listed the books he wanted to read, what he wanted to see, what he wanted to listen to, and that he was eager to see her, and to talk to her. The last three writings probably spoke for themselves and require no further explanation. They just made clearer the different ways of thought the college students had from the others who attended military school.
Not only in writing had the thoughts of the pilots appeared. In actions, and in speeches too were the emotions visible. Corporal Mineyoshi Takahashi, according to Mr. Yasuo Takahashi, his older brother, had changed since entering military school, and his attitude in talking with Mr. Takahashi was not as it used to be. (The way Mr. Y. Takahashi explained the differences before and after Mineyoshi joined the military was similar to the way Mr. S. Araki had explained Yukio’s changes.) He remembers that the last time they met, he took Corporal Takahashi into the ship he was working in. Suddenly, Corporal Takahashi had asked his brother: «Which part of the ship is the weakest?» Mr. Takahashi remembers that he was extremely surprised, but pointed to the place which he knew was the weakest. This reveals that Corporal Takahashi was thinking of his mission rather calmly. He had asked the question, probably thinking of which part of the ship he should drive his plane into. Corporal Takamasa Senda before his departure had been singing many songs with children, and at times, sat quietly alone, burning old letters in an expression of deep thought. The last night, he looked up at the stars and said, «You are lucky, this will be the last time I see the stars…I wonder how my mother is doing….» His singing with the children was probably to forget the coming mission, and his burning the letters was to forget the past. Saying that he wanted to be able to see the stars again is an indication that he wanted to live.
Whether patriotism was the answer to the way they felt can be doubted in the case of Second Lieutenant Fumihiro Mitsuyama. His real name was Tak Kyong-Hyong. He was Korean, but like other Japanese men, he too was sent to war, and was chosen as a Kamikaze pilot. The last evening before his mission, he went to the cafeteria appointed by the Army, which was run by a lady, Mrs. Tome Torihama, who was called «Okasan» (mother) by the young Kamikaze pilots of Chiran Air Base. He went up to her and said, «I will sing you a song of my country,» and sang Ariran. By the second verse he was in tears. Because he was a graduate of college, he had not volunteered willingly but was probably pressured to circle «desire earnestly» in the survey, especially being a Korean.
According to survivors, all say that they felt quite calm, and normal. They were not scared of death but were happy that the day had finally come. Mr. Itatsu was a pilot who had departed for the mission but because his engine had stopped on the way, his plane fell into the sea, and he survived. He says that he remembers being happy when he was chosen for the mission. He said that the young people then who had gone into military schools did not have the ability to think logically, and therefore sent applications without much thought. He also says that these pilots were really innocent, and thought purely that they would be able to serve, and protect the country. An author and a critic, Tadao Morimoto said in a T.V. program that he believes that it was not true that they were happy to die for the country. Mr. Itatsu says that he disagrees with him because some young and innocent pilots died believing they could become happy dying that way. Since Mr. Itatsu was one of the Kamikaze pilots himself, his comments should be given more credibility than the comments made by Tadao Morimoto who had been an officer in the Navy during the war, but was not involved with the Kamikaze attacks himself.
Kiichi Matsuura, the author of the book Showa wa Toku (Showa Far Away) wrote that he recalls the first planned date of the mission was like every other day, and no special conversation took place. When he found that his aircraft would not function properly, he suddenly felt the strong urge to live. His aircraft not functioning implied that he would not die. Realizing that, he could only think of living. On his second «chance» his plane was fine halfway. He was with two other pilots, and seeing one of them sink into the sea, realized a problem in all their engines. The two returned. He recalls that until the moment they decided to return, he was not at all scared, because they were flying toward death. However, returning was frightening. He had to protect his life from death.
Finally, in an interview with a member of the Self Defense Force, Mr. Matsunaga, a word which held the key to a better understanding was mentioned. The word was «decision.» To the question, «If something happened, would you not be afraid?» he answered that it was his decision to enter such a world, and that he would not escape if anything did occur. Similarly, although it was with far more psychological pressure, all the Kamikaze pilots had made the decision.
The pilots were, as a matter of fact, not radical nor extremely patriotic, but were the average Japanese of the time. It was a dream for the young boys of late Taisho period and early Showa to serve in the military, especially in the Air Force, as a career. Not all pilots who wanted to become Kamikaze pilots could become one. Although this may sound strange, there were so many volunteers to make the suicidal and fatal attacks, that the military, to be fair, had to let the ones with the better grades go earlier. Because of the aura that had covered Japan, the young pilots of 18 and 19 were eager to go. Those of the Special Flight Officer Probationary Cadets who had their own thoughts like Second lieutenants Suzuki, Uehara, and Anazawa were able to separate their personal life from what was required of them to do for the war. They felt the responsibility to go.
How exactly the pilots felt about the attacks could not be known but it seems that they were, in general, happy that they could serve the country, but had other thoughts towards death. Because the brainwashing done on the pilots trained in military schools was so effective, it changed the priority of ‘life, then country,’ the other way around. Life was made, by the atmosphere and education of the time, to be not the first priority, but something that must be given up for the first priority, the Emperor and the country. If they believed that ever-lasting happiness would follow their mission, there was nothing for them to fear. Those who were not brainwashed (the college graduates) may have felt fear. If they were able to detach themselves totally from life, they might have felt better. Yet is detaching oneself from life really possible? In any case, it seems that they were all optimistic. They volunteered, believing their death might save their family, the ones they loved, and Japan. However, as a student investigating fifty years after the events, it was not possible for me to understand exactly how the pilots had felt towards their mission.
The Different Pilots’ Training Schools in The Imperial Army Where the Kamikaze Pilots Were Trained
The Youth Pilot Training School
The students who had graduated from the Youth Pilot Training schools had the best flying skills of the Imperial Army. This schooling system had begun in 1933, and lasted until the end of the Pacific War. The age range that was accepted into this school was between 14 and 17. Originally, the time spent in the school was three years. One year of general education in Tokyo and two years of specialized education in various parts of Japan. However, by the end of the war, the students of the 15th term were trained in only a year and 8 months and were made into soldiers just in time for the Okinawa Tokko. Candidates for Second Lieutenant Non-commissioned officers whose excellence was recognized were educated in the Air Corps Academy. Because of their experience and career, their skill was of a high level.
Imperial Army Air Corps Academy
Students who had completed the four-year course of Middle School or the Higher Elementary School took an examination to enter. They became civil servants who had decided to work in the Army. Graduates of the 56th and 57th term were involved in the Okinawa Tokko.
The pilot trainees had to have a pilot’s license, and had to be an Officer Candidate. After one month in a squadron, they received six months of flight training in the Imperial Army Air Corps Academy of Kumagaya, and after six months as probationary Officer, became Second Lieutenants. Among the students of the Ninth term, there were graduates of the Higher Pilot training schools.
Flight Officer Candidates
Officer candidates consisted of drafted men with at least Middle School education. After four months of preliminary education, a test was taken. If they passed the test, they received the required education for officers, and if found fit for the position were ranked as Higher Officer Candidates. After serving as probationary officers, they were ranked as Second Lieutenants. If they were not found fit as an officer, they became the Lower Officer Candidates and became non-commissioned officers. Those who had the interest in flying received training with the Special Flight Officer Probationary Cadet in the Imperial Air Corps Academy. The students of the 7th, 8th, and 9th term were involved in the Okinawa Tokko.
Special Flight Officer Probationary Cadets
This was for the college students drafted into the war by the Gakuto Shutsujin who were interested in the Air Corps. The 1st term entered in October 1943, the 2nd in December 1943, and the 3rd in June 1944. They were made into Second Lieutenants in one year, half a year earlier than planned. One sixth of the entire Okinawa Tokko of the Army was made up of these 312 cadets.
Pilot Training Schools
This was not an institution belonging to the Army, but belonged to the Ministry of Communications. However, the content was almost the same. There were twelve of these schools and the students were separated into the regular course and flight training course. Students of fourteen to fifteen years old entered the regular course. After three years of regular education, the students received one year of flight training which the students of the flight training course had completed. To enter the flight training school from the beginning, an educational background of more than Middle School graduation was required. 108 of the graduates died in the Okinawa Tokko.
The 72nd Shinbu Squadron
Many of the Kamikaze pilots mentioned in the Essay were pilots of the 72nd Shinbu-tai of the Imperial Army. The following are pilots of the squadron:
Title Name Age at Departure
First Lieutenant Mutsuo Sato 24
Sergeant Nobuyoshi Nishikawa
Sergeant Kazuo Arai 21
Corporal Yukio Araki 17
Corporal Tsutomu Hayakawa 19
Corporal Kairyu Kanamoto
Corporal Atsunobu Sasaki
Corporal Kaname Takahashi 18
Corporal Mineyoshi Takahashi 17
Corporal Masato Hisanaga 20
Corporal Toshio Chizaki 19
Corporal Takamasa Senda 19
This squadron was formed on January 30, 1945 as the 113 Educational Flight Corps, then was transformed to the 23rd Rensei Flight Corps. On March 30, 1945, the same unit was renamed the 72nd Shinbu Squadron. (Shinbu refers to the squadrons of the Imperial Army which made the suicide attacks by aircraft.) They were stationed in Heijo, what is now P’yongyan of North Korea. From March 25, 1944, they were in Kagamihara, Gifu prefecture for about one month. Before the mission in May, the unit returned to Kyushu, and stayed in Metabaru, for a few days, and flew over to Bansei Air Base. Their attack was first planned to be made on May 20, 1945, however it was postponed to May 27, 1945 due to rainy weather.
Of the twelve pilots, three did not depart for the suicide attack. Corporal Atsunobu Sasaki was killed by an American P-51 on May 2, 1945 in China. On the same day, Sergeant Nobuyoshi Nishikawa was injured, and could not take part in the mission. The aircraft of Kairyu Kanamoto malfunctioned on the day of their mission, and could not take off. The remaining nine made their mission from Bansei Air Base at 6:00 a.m., May 27, 1945.
The Research Method The first time I learned of this topic was in August, 1992. It was the time when I went with my parents to Japan and visited manmuseums and talked to many people whose age varied from12 to 60 and they have told me many stories about war.
There, a great number of primary sources and photographs were displayed, which made me even more interested in the topic.
Since the summer of 1992, the collection of information started, with no academic purpose. In 1993, the book Rikugun Saigo no Tokko Kichi by Shichiro Naemura was published. This book was about the Kamikaze pilots who departed from Bansei
That summer of 1993 was crucial to my interest in the Kamikaze pilots. First, I visited Chiran Tokko Heiwa Kaikan again on August 21, and looked in more detail at the letters, diaries and photographs of the pilots. The photographs were extremely inspiring in a sense, since in none of them were the pilots showing an expression of fatigue, or regret. Most of them were smiling.
On the same night, I decided to spend the evening at «Tomiya Ryokan» which is what used to be the small restaurant Ms. Tome Torihama ran during the war, and which the Kamikaze pilots used frequently. There were several photographs of the Kamikaze pilots remaining there. Mr. Yoshikiyo Torihama, the grandson of Ms. Tome Torihama, talked to me about many episodes concerning the last evening the pilots visited the restaurant.
Since May 1993 I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to organize my thoughts and information on this topic.
This essay was extremely interesting and, above all, meaningful for me. The members of the older generation who I interviewed encouraged and supported me tremendously.