On the Wings of Gods
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 Posted: 01:35 PM JST [PHOTOS]
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!"
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