In the beginning, most of the recruits were in their twenties; they were honor students, college graduates—Japan’s intellectually-elite. Near the end of WW II, Japan--- desperate for more and more Kamikaze Pilots---began training teenage farm boys with little education and college students whose military deferments had been canceled.
Contrary to most reports, Kamikaze Pilots were not-- officially-- deployed in Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese Pilots who flew their planes into American Warships during the Pearl Harbor Attack were instructed to do so by the Imperial Japanese Navy-- ONLY IF-- their planes had been so-badly damaged they were unable to fly-back to the waiting Aircraft Carriers.
Officially, Kamikazes (Divine Wind) made their debut nearly three years after Pearl Harbor when they descended from the sky---in unison—during the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. Leyte, an island in the Philippines, was occupied by a number of American Warships. More than 5000 Kamikaze pilots died while taking down 34 American ships.
While under contract to teach students in China, I returned to America each year for a four-week visit, compliments of the Chinese Government. On one of my flights back to China, Air China was forced to stop in Tokyo, Japan because of bad weather. Passengers were treated to an overnight stay in one of Japan’s finest hotels and an afternoon of supervised sightseeing. I was delighted when our tour included a visit to a War Museum near the Imperial Palace. Inside the impressive display were many rooms, dedicated to countless Japanese who fought, died, and survived WWII. Naturally, I spent most of my time in the rooms that honored Kamikaze Pilots.
There were original photos of young men as school children and later, in military uniforms; men displaying university degrees, men in flight suits beside their planes. Most touching to me---were the actual letters pilots had written before their final mission; short but very sweet notes and letters to their girlfriends, wives, parents, and young children.
One 23 year old Kamikaze pilot wrote: “Dear Mother and Father. Thank you for bringing me up to be a true man. I died smiling-- so please smile. Do not cry for me.” Another pilot, a 22 year old wrote, “I attack in four hours. I shall be shining among the clouds, drifting and tumbling forever. This is my last letter, your loving son.”
War is never pretty--or fun--or something to anticipate, like an annual event. BUT---when War is inevitable---it should be fought with honor, indomitable strength and--for both sides--War’s ultimate goal must be: TO WIN.
All these years later, I can’t hate Japan or their Kamikaze Pilots. Actually, I feel a strong sympathy for all men--- whether Japanese, Germans, or Americans--all those who believe in fighting for their country. I know how many countless men have died in Wars to keep their countries safe. But-------------isn’t it interesting how most Americans are taught to HATE the enemy---whether it’s Japan or Germany during WWII or much later-- during the cold war-- when it was Russia. I’ve watched too-many American leaderswho EVEN PROMOTE HATE as a weapon for Americans to use--against each other.
Over time, I’ve realized—our real enemy doesn’t necessarily live far away-- in another country. Too often---our REAL Enemies lives all-around-us. Recently, my eyes have been open to the fact that America’s worst enemy just may be---its very-own government.