WWII ‘Zerosen” Fighter Pilot Says His Piece about WWII in a Documentary

kaname Harada with director Zero Mori

Former WWII ‘zerosen’ fighter pilot, Kaname Harada, shares his reflections about the Second World War in an upcoming documentary by the film group Nagoya katsudo Shashin.

Aside from his personal impressions about WWII, the former ‘zerosen’ fighter pilot will be adding valuable snippets about the Second World war’s historical accounts.

The now 97-year-old former ‘zerosen’  fighter pilot of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Kaname Harada, flew one of Japan’s type 0 carrier Fighters which were popularly known as ‘zero’ or ‘zerosen’. He also was able to fight in several combats in the Pacific War including, the Battle of Midway.

The former ‘zerosen’ fighter pilot recounted that in that particular military assault, the aircraft carrier which carried his ‘zerosen’ was sunk so, he was forced to land on the last existing carrier in Japan’s flotilla. He added that that said carrier would also end up being destroyed by the US Navy.

(Left) Kaname Harada as a 'zerosen' fighter; (Right) A 'zerosen' fighter plane. Kaname Harada was one of the pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor which marked America's entry into WWII.
(Left) Kaname Harada as a ‘zerosen’ fighter; (Right) A ‘zerosen’ fighter plane. Kaname Harada was one of the pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor which marked America’s entry into WWII.

He further narrated that his ‘zerosen’ eventually went out of fuel forcing him to ditch it. Fortunately, a Japanese ship nearby was the one who spotted him and plucked him out from the waters.

Nevertheless, the sights which greeted him after he got on deck were gruesome. A number of men with lost limbs were lying around. One man stood out from among the rest in Harada’s memory. This particular soldier was severely injured with his intestines spilling out from the slash he got on his abdomen. Despite having countless of seriously wounded men lying around, the doctor gave him medical attention first. He remembered the doctor saying to him that you “just have to discard guns with a bent barrel”. One realization dawned upon the ‘zerosen’ fighter pilot with the doctor’s words — that in the front line, men were treated not as human beings but as weapons and ammunition.

49-year-old Director Zero Mori first met the former ‘zerosen’ pilot and WWII vet when he and his team were filming Nagoya Kushu wo Kataru which was about the bombing of Nagoya during WWII. That was in 2011.

Even when the documentary had wrapped up, the director continued to pay Harada visits as he was fascinated by the stories of the war veteran during and even after the war ended. As he was listening to Harada’s accounts, mori made up the decision to make a film centering on the life of the former ‘zerosen’ pilot.

Notably, Harada were among the ‘zerosen’ pilots who took part in the attack of the Pearl Harbor, which marked US’ official entry into the war, as well as in the invasion of China. After surviving the Battle of Midway, Harada returned to Japan and, eventually, became a kamikaze pilot.

A group of 'zerosen' fighter pilots during the Second World War where Harada was once part of.
A group of ‘zerosen’ fighter pilots during the Second World War where Harada was also part of.

After Japan surrendered, Harada went on to become a dairy farmer. However, due to his wife’s promptings about atoning for the lives he had taken during the war by nurturing new lives, the former ‘zerosen’ pilot started a kindergarten. He looked after countless children until his retirement a few years ago from his headmaster position.

As for the documentary director, Mori wanted to prod viewers to think about the lives they were given and how to use it via Harada’s accounts of the Second World War.

The documentary is set to be finished at the end of this year and is scheduled to premiere in Nagoya in February next year.