The Kamikazes Essay, Research Paper
Kamikaze was a type of Japanese pilot who flew suicide missions during the last months of World War II (1939-1945). The kamikazes were trained to dive airplanes loaded with the explosives into certain targets, usually American naval vessels. They were much like a human bullet. The suicide planes were also called kamikazes.
Japan was desperate when it launched the kamikaze missions. Its military leaders viewed the kamikazes as the last hope of stopping the powerful Allied advance. But the plan didn?t work.
The first kamikaze attacks occurred in October 1944, when the Allies invaded the Japanese-held Philippines. More than a thousand kamikazes took part in the defense of Okinawa in 1945. Kamikaze pilots, sacrificing their lives in a last-ditch effort to stop the American advance, sank about 30-40 ships and damaged more than 350 others. They thought the Allied forces would have some trouble because they were losing so many warships. America would?ve been long time ago. In those days naval vessels were so abundant that the U.S. were having trouble finding enough sailors to man the ship. But the kamikazes failed to sink any large aircraft carriers-their main targets-and in time proved to be a costly failure. They became more important for the kind of resistance they symbolized than for the damage they caused.
The word kamikaze means ?divine wind?. During the summer of 1281 the Emperor assigned an enormous army of 140,000 troops to the conquest of the Japanese islands. An armada of four thousands ships sailed, once again bound for Hakata Bay to fight the Mongols. Kublai Khan?s forces landed. The battle was fought again, and once more the Mongols turned back to the beach. The Japanese fought valiantly, but with the enormous resources of the Mongols breached the defenses. Then, one night almost without warning, a powerful typhoon blew through most of their battle equipment and horses, and drowned thousands of the warriors. As the storm ended, the pitiful remnants of the great fighting force struggled back to Korea. Japan was saved. Once again, the people of Japan gave thanks to the Kami Kaze.
The problem that this paper will analyze is what were the reasons of the Japanese that made them go on these suicide missions.
In the Suicide Squads: W.W.II, Richard O?Neill says that the Japanese went on these suicide missions because they considered it a privilege to die for their emperor. The Japanese believed in the nationalistic State Shinto creed of the 20th century. It said that Japan was the first-born of all the nations of Earth, the offspring of divine copulation. Dominion was granted to the storm god Susanowo, ancestor of the Japanese people. But because of his misbehavior, Ninigi grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu replaced Susanowo. Amaterasu was the great-grandmother of Jimmu Tenno (Tenno, ?Emperor?) became the first mortal yet still divine ruler of Japan. Thus, while both Japanese people and Emperor are traditionally of divine descent, the Emperor?s line is by far greater. The Japanese believed that the living god dwelled among the people, and no act in his name, or for the cause of patriotic duty, was too much to ask. All schools and universities displayed portraits of the Emperor to be protected with their lives.
In The Kamikazes, Hoyt explains that in the Japanese society suicide was acceptable and even honorable, from the schoolboy atoning for the shame of flunking an examination to the defeated general writing his report with his life?s blood. Every schoolboy in Japan had admiration for the samurai, the warrior class who for a time were also the educated class in Japan. Since the Meiji restoration, the mystique of the samurai and their code of honor bushido, had again seized the Japanese imagination. The warrior code, bushido, said that they must gladly sacrifice their lives for Emperor and country. Outwardly, at least, all the young men involved were eager to give their lives. From the beginning Admiral Onishi had the presence of mind to create decorative and symbolic trappings for the sacrificial fliers. They were said to be already gods and should have no further interest in human affairs. On completion of their missions, their spirits would fly to the Yasukuni shrine near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and there would be enshrined forever. As time went on more trappings were added. The admiral handed over special bottles of water, from which the Kamikaze pilots were to take a final drink as they prepared to go to their deaths. The hachimaki became another symbol of the suicide corps. In the days of the samurai a warrior who tied a white towel around his head signified that he was preparing to fight to death. Most of the high officers truly believed the propaganda line they had developed over twenty years: that twentieth-century Japan sailor and soldier were reincarnations of the old samurai; that the holy spirit of bushido could conquer materialism.
Ryuji Nagasuka, a young and ingenuous schoolboy trained in the dreadful art of crashing an airplane on the decks of an American warship, tells us why he became a kamikaze pilot in I Was A Kamikaze. He did it because he thought his families were in danger. He said that the Japanese did not go voluntarily to their deaths because of any fanatical devotion to the emperor of to atone for any disgrace or defeat. Rather, they sought to protect their loved ones. Because they loved their parents with that deep, shy, reverent, filial love which is now unhappily vanishing from the Japanese character, they chose to die for. For love they were willing to die. To protect the innocent and blameless.
I agree with Nagasuka because he is a primary source. He lived in the environment and the surroundings. He knew the pressure and what was going on through his mind and through his other squadron members. Of course his accounts would be more accurate than any other would. I also believe in this reasoning because the majority of people think of their parents and loved ones when they die. What better cause is there to die for then for those you love (not saying committing suicide is good)?
I do not agree with the first reason about the Japanese willing to die deliberately for the emperor. The Emperor didn?t care about his soldiers or people. This was the guy who sent young boys fresh out from high school to go on suicide missions. These na?ve children, who couldn?t experience their whole entire life and have fun died. Now why would any soldier die for this cruel guy?
I somewhat agree with the second reasoning. I believe that the leaders and society brainwashed and told trappings to the Japanese when they were little children. I believe when they become adults that they should distinguish the thin line between fact and fiction. The bushido code seems like those childish games where you pretend to be someone. Like little kids pretending to be Superman and invincible.
Hoyt, Edwin P. The Kamikazes. New York: Arbor House, 1983.
Nagatsuka, Ryuji. I Was A Kamikaze. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1973.
O?Neill, Richard. Suicide Squads: W.W.II. New York: St. Martin?s Press,1981.