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Home » Archives » August 2004 » On the Wings of Gods

On the Wings of Gods

Tuesday, August 24, 2004 Posted: 01:35 PM JST [PHOTOS]

Photos of Japan by Kjeld Duits I cried for three days when the war ended," says 80-year old Shigeyoshi Hamazono with tears in his eyes as he stares deep into the past. "For all the people who lost their lives, for our loss, and for my country." Hamazono had expected to be among the dead. He was a kamikaze pilot.

Some 4,000 members of the Special Attack Forces (Tokkotai) gave their lives for Japan during WWII. They sank 34 allied ships and damaged 288 more. More than 12,000 Americans were killed in kamikaze attacks, some 36,400 were wounded. According to a Japanese account 80 percent of the American losses at the end of WWII could be attributed to kamikaze pilots. Almost 60 years later few former kamikaze pilots survive. I interviewed and took photographs of three.

The concept of suicide attacks was born from the impression that Japan was loosing the war, but the pilots themselves were all but defeatist. The 23-year old kamikaze pilot Isao Matsuo described the fighting spirit he felt shortly before he would die in his suicide mission:

"Dear Parents: Please congratulate me. I have been given a splendid opportunity to die. This is my last day. The destiny of our homeland hinges on the decisive battle in the seas to the south where I shall fall like a blossom from a radiant cherry tree. I shall be a shield for His Majesty and die cleanly along with my squadron leader and other friends. I wish that I could be born seven times, each time to smite the enemy. How I appreciate this chance to die like a man!"

Keywords: special_report

Related Links:

  1. Books about Kamikaze
  2. Sites about Kamikaze Pilots

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16 comments so far post your own

1 | At 09:30am on Dec 09 2004, Mylissa King wrote:
That is a wonderful story. I also see that the Japanese have a lot of respect for those that have died to save Japan. I hope that you can e-mail me and tell me more information about it. I have about 2 books on Kamikaze Pilots. It is truly fascinating to hear about the stories of pilots. Thank you, Mr. Shigeyoshi Hamazono
2 | At 11:19am on Dec 09 2004, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Hi Mylissa,

I am glad you like this story. There is not much more beyond this article that I can tell you, but there are excellent resources on the web. Please check our Japan Links directory at http://www.ikjeld.com/linker/index.php?cat=128
3 | At 11:27pm on Dec 27 2004, William Kellner wrote:
The Japanese culture is as alien to most of the world as if they came from another planet or another age. What they and the Germans did in WW II was never punished to a fraction of what should have been done to them both.
Both countries should have been treated to the same treatment that they meted out in Eastern Europe and China and the Philippines. I feel not one iota of guilt over the atomic bomb, only that it wasn't ready two years before to use wholesale on them both. The Germans, at least, have tried to make amends for the horror which they perpetrated. Not so the Japanese. They only regret losing the war.
4 | At 11:35am on Jan 30 2005, yoko wrote:
how depressing! good story though
5 | At 03:06pm on Mar 23 2005, The Man wrote:
William Kellner, Idiots like you drive the world to destruction.
Say what you want, it's a fact, you are total moron.

Every Human Society has done the worst already. Everyone.
So why not destroy all humankind?
Eye for an Eye? It makes everyone blind.

I'm sad for your stupidity.
Let me guess, you're American?

You basically aren't worth my words, as many others, so feel blessed to receive them.
6 | At 05:20pm on Mar 23 2005, Mboogie wrote:
I`m just wondering why it is Ok for Mylissa to thank the Kamikaze pilot for being willing to die to `save Japan`. Japan was the agressor, not the victim!

The war was fought for the Emperor`s world domination, and the Japanese military is guilty of many things, including biological warefare experimentation on POWs and Civilians throughout Asia,as well as forced sex labor (`comfort women`).

Would anyone ever think of saying I just wanted to thank all the Nazi soldiers that were willing to Kill Jews to save Germany? No. If some did say it, they would be attacked. Yet THE MAN had no qualms about attacking someone he percieved to be a `stupid`( talk about an ignorant stereotype) American, who actually makes an interesting point.

The Japanese people feel very little responsibility or regret for the the atrocities committed on their behalf during the war. It is barely even taught about in school.I know, I am a teacher in Japan. In fact recently one of my students drew a cartoon picture of himself as Hitler for a class project and everyone thought it was great. No one even blinked. Its hanging up in the class room.

Not to mention Koizumi`s yearly trips to the shrine of those who died in the war, which is inflammatory to people all over Asia because unlike JApan, they remember well the attrocities the Japanese committed against them.

The fact is that the Japanese were killing, enslaving and torturing far more people throughout Asia, not to mention the Pacific, than were killed by the A-bomb. The Japanese themselves were so brainwashed by the Emperor`s propaganda that they were killing themselves rather than surrender to the Americans. Please research how many people, Japanese and non-Japanese, were being killed each day, and how maany more would have died if the A- bomb had not ended the war when it did.

Why doesnt anyone blame the Emperor? He was warned about the A-bomb, and refused to surrender. Even after it was dropped at Hiroshima, and he was aware of the severity of damaged it was capable of, he refused to surrender and subjected his people to the second bomb at Nagasaki.

The Japanese would have fought to the end, as evidenced by the Kamikaze spirit. How many of more people would have died if the Americans had instead chosen to invade mainland Japan?
How long would the war have lasted?

Just some things to think about.
7 | At 09:17pm on Mar 29 2005, pitufa wrote:
William Kellner, you forget that we as Americans have not fared much better on the moral siede of wars or agression. What about the Japanese internment camps in WWII? The American Indians who we slaughtered and drove from their lands for our own use? The enslavement and inhumane treatment of thousands of Africans to do our dirty work? Do not be so eager to deal out death and judgement beore looking at your own cultures list of sins. People like you are the reason so many hate Americans and believe us ignorant.
8 | At 05:00pm on Apr 04 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
An anonymous comment was posted and therefore deleted. Always state your name, e-mail address and (if applicable) your site's URL. Anonymous comments will always be deleted, regardless of how well-written or important they are.
9 | At 02:39pm on Apr 10 2005, Professor V.A. Hammons wrote:
AS a professor of history, one is not impressed with the apparent absence of simple historical facts on the part of those who have e-mailed this sight. In Japan the facts are simply not available, but in the U.S., historical facts are easly comeby for those who desire them.

One is reminded of the axiom "One who forgets history is destine to relive it." On can just as well read "...ignorant of.. ."
10 | At 09:14pm on Apr 10 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
The message by"Professor V.A. Hammons" leaves more questions than answers. In Japan all the facts about WWII are freely available for those interested in knowing them. Where do you base your statement "In Japan the facts are simply not available" on? And what "simple historical facts" have been ignored in the above comments?
11 | At 09:17pm on Apr 12 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
Mboogie wrote: "In fact recently one of my students drew a cartoon picture of himself as Hitler for a class project and everyone thought it was great. No one even blinked. Its hanging up in the class room."

Recently a British Prince enjoying himself at a party dressed up like a nazi. Clearly lots of people, including the prince himself, thought that was great too.

Ignorance and cruelty can be found in each and every human being, no race has a monopoly on it.
12 | At 12:59pm on Apr 15 2005, mboogie wrote:
I did not say, nor mean to imply, that Japanese people have a monopoly on ignorance.

The actions of the prince were not applauded, but sickened and enraged the public. It is not clear that many people thought his actions were `great`. How did you come to that conclusion? On what facts is that statement based? What does `lots of people` mean?

My student`s drawing was hung up on the wall of the classroom, thus encouraging his inappropriate behavior. You do not see this as a problem? Can you imagine it happening in other nations, like Great Britain, Germany or the USA?

The point is not the ignorance and cruelty inherent in the human race,which is obvious, but our unique ability as humans to reflect upon our past actions, judge them as being `good` or `bad`, take (or deny responsibility) for them, and learn from them.

If Japanese students are not taught about the truth of what happened in the past, then how can they learn from the mistakes that have been committed?

Our knowledge of history is the lens through which we view our modern world. Without an understanding of the past, how will my students be able to understand current events, their consequences, and the future that they will lead to?
13 | At 01:58pm on Apr 15 2005, Kjeld Duits wrote:
mboogie: I completely agree with your statement: "Our knowledge of history is the lens through which we view our modern world. Without an understanding of the past, how will my students be able to understand current events, their consequences, and the future that they will lead to?"

I also agree that many Japanese students do not learn enough about Japan's actions during WWII. Even though most textbooks list them, most students never get into studying the modern age of Japan's history because they graduate before their history teachers get to this era.

I am also glad to read that you did not mean to imply that Japanese people have a monopoly on ignorance. But in your comment above you write: "Can you imagine it happening in other nations, like Great Britain, Germany or the USA?" This statement in my eyes clearly implies that Japan is unique in ignoring the lessons from the past.

It also assumes that your classroom situation is representative for all of Japan.

Chinese students don't learn about their country's role in Tibet, the millions executed during the cultural revolution, or the events during the demonstrations at Tiananmin Square.

Do all American high school students learn about the premeditated slaughter of countless of non-combatant civilians during the wars in Korea (direct orders to shoot people in white clothes) and Vietnam? (For an interesting viewpoint on the latter, read Brian Wilson's autobiography)

At school in the Netherlands, a supposedly tolerant and open society where I received my education, I never learnt anything about the Dutch atrocities committed in its colonies, nor about the many Dutch who collaborated with the Germans and gave up hidden Jews during WWII.

I don't think this is the right thing to do. I just want to make sure there is an understanding that a lack of such education appears to be a worldwide phenomenon, in some countries worse than in others. It is important to bring this up and to change it. It also important to do it in such a way that we don't make it look as if only one particular nation is guilty of this.

For readings about nations being selective about the recording of their own deeds. I suggest reading "Living With the Bomb: American and Japanese Cultural Conflicts in the Nuclear Age" by Laura Hein et al. ISBN: 1563249677. Or papers by respected historian Daqing Yang.

Additionally, I feel extremely uncomfortable when I read something that could be interpreted as all Japanese being unaware of what happened during WWII.

I just happened to have written an e-mail today that addresses this point. I think it is appropriate to post it here:

"I completely agree with you that "outright changing of the historical record" is "simply unsustainable". But I also believe it is very important to realize that this is not a wholesale Japanese endeavor. Some Japanese like the politicians Shintaro Ishihara and Shigeto Nagano and the historian Nobukatsu Fujioka are clearly guilty of this. It is the group that Fujioka founded that is writing the text books that create so much trouble.

But there are also responsible historians like Tokushi Kasahara and Yoshiaki Yoshimi, who have researched the Nanjing massacre for many years, the journalist Masato Kajimoto, who has created what is probably the best online documentary of the massacre (see the list of Nanjing Massacre links on iKjeld.com) and Saburo Ienaga, who fought the Japanese Ministry of Education for thirty years to get the facts into the history books, to name just a few.

It is hardly reported abroad that Ienaga and his tens of thousands of supporters actually succeeded in getting these facts published in history books. A few years ago, after the previous problems with text books that attempted to rewrite history, Kyodo news reported that only 0.03% of Japanese schools use the revisionist text books. Japanese schools are free to select their own text books and they massively shunned the revisionist one.

The Japanese heinous crimes during WWII are indefensible, incomprehensible and thoroughly repulsive. But it is incorrect and unfair to insinuate, as many media reports do, especially in China, that every single Japanese agreed or agrees with these activities, or want them hidden away."

Finally, I have a question I'd like to ask you. You write "In fact recently one of my students drew a cartoon picture of himself as Hitler for a class project and everyone thought it was great. No one even blinked. Its hanging up in the class room."

You are clearly upset with this and feel it is not right. From your writings I conclude that you feel that these students' teachers have the responsibility to teach them correctly about the past. You are a teacher of these students. You think the drawing is not right. And you think it is wrong that it hangs in the classroom. What have you done about this?
14 | At 10:23pm on Apr 24 2008, Peter Meinhold wrote:
Has anyone heard anything about those Kamikaze pilots who refused to fly suicide missions? According to "Japan's Imperial Conspiracy: How Emperor Hirohito led Japan into war Against the West" by David Bergami there was a squadron (in the Phillipines, I believe) whose commander refused Kamikaze orders that he thought were wasteful of his men and planes. Yet he was never punished for insubordination or disloyalty.
Has anyone read about this?

Regarding ones duty to teach the truth about one's country's history (I'm a history teacher): Let's be logical. Yes, many in America and Holland (etc) were not taught the truth about their own history...just like in Japan. As wrong as this is, it doesn't make the Japanese failures to face their history any less "wrong".
We should all teach the truth, period.
Unfortunately, it does seem to be a specific policy to ignore many embarassing truths in Japan, and this could lead to an ignorance that could make future attocities more likely to be repeated and/or accepted by the Japanese nation...just as this process has been repeated by American soldiers (My Ly...then Abu Gareb...sp??)
So let's all look to our responsibility to teach ALL of our history, and acknowledge a mutual responsibility to keep each other honest (and each other's nations), and stop "throwing stones" about who is "worst", let alone "just as bad".
Sincerely,
Peter Meinhold
15 | At 10:23pm on Apr 24 2008, Peter Meinhold wrote:
Has anyone heard anything about those Kamikaze pilots who refused to fly suicide missions? According to "Japan's Imperial Conspiracy: How Emperor Hirohito led Japan into war Against the West" by David Bergami there was a squadron (in the Phillipines, I believe) whose commander refused Kamikaze orders that he thought were wasteful of his men and planes. Yet he was never punished for insubordination or disloyalty.
Has anyone read about this?

Regarding ones duty to teach the truth about one's country's history (I'm a history teacher): Let's be logical. Yes, many in America and Holland (etc) were not taught the truth about their own history...just like in Japan. As wrong as this is, it doesn't make the Japanese failures to face their history any less "wrong".
We should all teach the truth, period.
Unfortunately, it does seem to be a specific policy to ignore many embarassing truths in Japan, and this could lead to an ignorance that could make future attocities more likely to be repeated and/or accepted by the Japanese nation...just as this process has been repeated by American soldiers (My Ly...then Abu Gareb...sp??)
So let's all look to our responsibility to teach ALL of our history, and acknowledge a mutual responsibility to keep each other honest (and each other's nations), and stop "throwing stones" about who is "worst", let alone "just as bad".
Sincerely,
Peter Meinhold
16 | At 10:42pm on Apr 24 2008, Kjeld Duits wrote:
@ Peter:

"We should all teach the truth, period."
- Absolutely, exactly my point, too.

"Regarding ones duty to teach the truth about one's country's history (I'm a history teacher): Let's be logical. Yes, many in America and Holland (etc) were not taught the truth about their own history...just like in Japan. As wrong as this is, it doesn't make the Japanese failures to face their history any less "wrong"."
- Exactly. But it doesn't make the Japanese unique or more wrong either. Yet, usually they-and I deliberately use "they"-are portrayed that way. The same assumption even spills out of the sentence "it does seem to be a specific policy to ignore many embarassing truths in Japan." That is quite a generalization that covers the whole nation and everybody in it.

"So let's all look to our responsibility to teach ALL of our history, and acknowledge a mutual responsibility to keep each other honest."
- I am all with you! Often, people in power have quite a few skeletons in the closet which they'd like to keep there. It is our duty to bring them into the light.
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