In the beginning, most of the recruits were in their twenties and 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 cancelled.
Contrary to most reports, Kamikaze
Pilots were not, officially, deployed in Japan’s December 7, 1941, 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 top officials of 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. At the time, 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.
During the nineties, I was under-contract to teach students in China. Each year, I returned to America 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, due to 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 Japanese War Museum near the Imperial Palace. Inside the impressive display were countless rooms dedicated to millions of 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 standing 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
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 a class reunion BUT… when War
is inevitable…it should be fought with honor, an indomitable spirit, and relentless strength. War's ultimate goal----for both sides— 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 who believe in fighting for their country. Countless men--throughout history-- fought and
died to keep their countries free and safe. ...and they still do. Regardless of where soldiers live, how they look, or what language they speak, soldiers everywhere have much in common. Like American soldiers, all men have hearts....hearts
that love family, home, and country. But-------------
I find it interesting that the American People WERE and ARE taught to HATE our "enemies"….whether it
was hate Japan or Germany during WWII or, during the cold war, to hate Russia. I’ve watched American leaders promote HATE as a weapon against our "enemies" abroad but---more concerning---HATE against each other.
It's clear that our real enemy doesn’t necessarily live far away… in another country. It appears that our enemy is living close-by... all-around-us. More recently,
my eyes have been open to one, very-disturbing possibility. America’s real enemy just-may-be… its own government.