Japan’s World War Two kamikaze legacy

Japan’s kamikaze pilots during World War Two were trained to die with their aircraft, in order to inflict as much damage and destruction on the Allied forces as possible.

Hisashi Tezuka was a kamikaze pilot, but his life was saved by the announcement that Japan had surrendered to the Allies in August 1945. Hisashi was already on his way to carry out the mission, and was heading to the air force base by train when the announcement was made. He says that if he had gone by plane, he would have had to carry out his mission. He is now 93 and believes that war is nothing but senseless and is a firm believer in keeping the peace.

As the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two is commemorated around the world, Japan remembers the part it played, with more than 30 million people being killed in Asia alone and its nation left in tatters.

To this day, the Japanese people prefer a moderate foreign policy, and to stay out of international politics. In a recent poll, half of those surveyed said that they would not want Japan to go to war to defend an ally nation.

But many worry that the current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, may be returning to the pre-war right-wing regime’s thinking.

The Japanese government has increased its spending on defence, enabled weapons to be exported and is attempting to rewrite parts of its constitution so that it can assert itself by force overseas.

These acts have been backed by the United States, but have been condemned by China and South Korea, which both suffered under the Japanese during World War Two, The Japan Times reports.

The kamikaze veterans believe that education is the key to preventing the same mistakes happening again. They believe the younger generation must be taught at school how Japan occupied great swathes of Asia and that the whole truth must be told, not a diluted version of the truth.

The kamikaze strategy was originally developed by the Japanese in 1944, since its air force could not match the might of the US Air Force. So, for the last year of World War Two, Japan undertook more than 2500 kamikaze missions, with a target hit rate of almost 20%. Around 45 Allied ships were destroyed by the kamikaze pilots.

By the time Japan surrendered, almost 10,000 aircraft were discovered ready and waiting to be used in kamikaze missions. In total just under 6500 men died training for or taking part in kamikaze missions.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE