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Kamikaze Connections

Monday, June 6, 2005 Posted: 08:03 AM JST [PHOTOS]

Bill Gordon has been researching how kamikaze pilots are viewed in the US and Japan. The differences are remarkable. Whereas in the US and other countries kamikaze pilots are seen as faceless suicidal fanatics that lack individual personalities, in Japan people are more familar with their true human face. In his article Kamikaze Images, exclusively written for iKjeld.com, he described his findings in Japan. In this article Gordon talks about his experiences during his research in Japan.

(by Bill Gordon) - Since I live far from Japan in the small state of Connecticut between New York and Boston, the Internet has provided an invaluable tool to perform research on kamikaze pilots. With daily suicide bombings in Iraq, more people around the world have become interested in examining Japanese pilots who made suicide attacks near the end of World War II. My web site on Kamikaze Images analyzes the differences in how most Americans and Japanese view kamikaze pilots. The site includes reviews of books, documentaries, museums, and films about kamikaze pilots and other special attack forces that carried out suicide attacks.

When I started my research near the end of 2003, I never thought a former Japanese kamikaze pilot would have his own web site about his wartime experiences. I located Senri Nagasue's Japanese site through Google, and the firsthand accounts published on his site helped me better understand the thinking and feelings of Navy pilots in Japan's kamikaze corps and of their bereaved family members. Before ever meeting Mr. Nagasue, I translated several of his stories about kamikaze pilots he knew during the war.

As part of my research to create my web site on Kamikaze Images, I traveled around Japan for about a month in the summer of 2004. Mr. Nagasue kindly arranged for me to meet about 35 people who served in the former Japanese Imperial Navy or who were family members of kamikaze pilots who died in the war. Most of the former Navy pilots had joined kamikaze squadrons before the end of the war, and some had flown on suicide missions to Okinawa but returned due to bad weather or engine problems. My talks with these former members of the kamikaze corps about their wartime experiences greatly assisted in my exploration of Japanese perceptions of the young men who participated in suicide attacks.

In addition to interviews, I spent much of last year's trip viewing letters and other artifacts at museums, visiting former air bases, and going to monuments throughout Japan. The main museums with artifacts about Japan's special attack forces are located in Chiran and Kanoya in Kagoshima Prefecture, Etajima in Hiroshima, Otsushima in Yamaguchi, and Yasukuni Jinja in Tokyo. However, less well-known museum exhibits and monuments, usually near former Navy or Army air bases, can be found throughout Kyushu and also in other parts of Japan. During my vacation next month in July, I look forward to visiting three smaller former air bases in Kagoshima Prefecture: Ibusuki, Izumi, and Tokunoshima.

Although I keep busy as a Senior Financial Manager at Pratt & Whitney, a leading jet engine manufacturer, my interests in Japanese language, history, and society have led me to pursue several projects in my free time. In 1999, I completed my MA in Advanced Japanese Studies from the University of Sheffield in England through its distance learning program, which included three trips to Hiroshima for seminars and examinations. Since 2000, I have been working on a web site about Friendship Dolls exchanged between Japan and the U.S. in 1927 and recent years. I have had the wonderful opportunity to make visits to about 35 Japanese elementary schools and kindergartens that have Friendship Dolls sent from American children. Although I really enjoy chatting with children in the schools, this project on kamikaze pilots has been a great opportunity to get to know members of the older generation who lived through the war.

Since I opened my web site on Kamikaze Images last December, I have received interesting e-mails from around the world. With this year being the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, a Greek TV journalist and an American documentary producer contacted me and arranged to talk with some of the same former kamikaze pilots I interviewed last year. Some people have sent me questions on very narrow topics, such as a Frenchman interested in the type of sake cups used by kamikaze pilots to drink farewell toasts.

The Internet has been an invaluable source for me to make connections with Japan and recently with people in many other countries. Although I have completed many pages on my web site on Kamikaze Images, I hope to do much more to clarify the complex history of Japan's special attack forces and to introduce little-known stories about the young men who carried out suicide attacks. I appreciate the tremendous support of my web site from people in Japan and here in the U.S. both in person and through the Internet.

Keywords: special_report

Related Links:

  1. Kamikaze Images
  2. Exclusive article by Bill Gordon at iKjeld.com
  3. Listen to the Voices of the Sea
  4. More books about kamikaze pilots at iKjeld.com Shop
  5. Sites about kamikaze pilots at Japan Links
  6. Discussion about kamikaze pilots at iKjeld.com

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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