Reality of Kamikaze Special Attack Units:
There are many people, particularly among conservative politicians such as the Liberal Democratic Party, who praise the Kamikaze special attack units that plunged airplanes into enemy fleets during World War II.
Despite the thousands of lives lost, there are many young individuals who, upon reading the farewell letters of those who perished, express sentiments like, “Wonderful! I respect them. They are national heroes!”
However, when one actually speaks to former members of the Kamikaze special attack units who belonged and survived, the reality appears to be different.
An article titled “Special Attacks, the Uncommunicated Reality” was published in the Asahi Shimbun on April 30, 2014.
The key points are summarized below:
“It was not voluntary but forced. Some special attack unit members were chosen and even lost consciousness. Some tried to escape, got caught by military police, and committed suicide. Whether you run away or follow orders to dive, it’s hell. This is the reality of special attacks. Patriotism for the country is a later concoction by people from the postwar era. Please don’t romanticize the dark prewar and wartime periods.”
The idea of “brave pilots gladly sacrificing their lives out of a desire to serve their country” seems quite implausible to me.
One should not let emotions dominate and view things with a distorted perspective.
Evaluation of “kamikaze” Overseas:
So, how do people overseas perceive the Kamikaze special attack units?
The term “kamikaze” has become quite well-known and has been anglicized.
According to the 8th edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (published by Oxford University Press), “kamikaze” is defined as follows:
“(from Japanese) used to describe the way soldiers attack the enemy, knowing that they too will be killed.”
The word “kamikaze” is not used in a positive sense.
It is used synonymously with “suicidal.”
An example sentence in the same dictionary reads, “He made a kamikaze run across three lanes of traffic,” conveying an unusual action that one would not normally undertake.
In the case of the simultaneous terrorist attacks in France, where multiple perpetrators carried out suicide bombings, many Western media outlets expressed the situation using the term “kamikaze.”
How to avoid the reccurrence of “Kamikaze” tragedy :
Associating the term “kamikaze” with the image of heroic spirits is limited to a subset of the Japanese population (ultra-right-wing individuals).
The act of not facing the mistakes of the wartime era and indulging in self-praise is truly unseemly.
Generally, accurately assessing oneself is extremely challenging, and the correct and objective evaluation is best done by others.
Regarding the interpretation of one’s own country’s history, without incorporating perspectives from other nations, it becomes convenient for far-right authorities.
Expressing reverence for heroic spirits and idealizing them can lead to repeating the same mistakes.
At least overseas, people do not respect the “Kamikaze special attack units,” nor do they wish to emulate them.
On the contrary, they serve as a cautionary example.
Saying things like, “Calling suicide bombings ‘kamikaze’ is wrong. It is disrespectful to heroic spirits!” won’t make a difference.
International evaluations are impartial.
Without being swayed by emotions, they see through the essence of things with a calm perspective.
We Japanese must humbly accept this evaluation.
Similarly, along with “karoshi” (death from overwork), which has also become an English term, we Japanese need to seriously reflect on “kamikaze,” investigate its causes, and strive for prevention of a recurrence.