March 3, 2005 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Kamikaze. 'American and Japanese images of kamikaze pilots differ greatly. This web site explores diverse portrayals and perceptions of the young men who carried out suicide attacks near the end of World War II.'
'When Japanese kamikaze pilots carried out their attacks between October 1944 and October 1945, Japanese and American people had opposite perspectives. Japanese people saw young smiling pilots as they waved goodbye. In contrast, American soldiers viewed death and destruction when the pilots' planes exploded upon crashing into their ships. These very different points of view continue to influence Japanese and American perceptions of kamikaze pilots even until today.'
posted by plep (16 comments total)
Now we have suicide bombers.
posted by caddis at 7:55 AM on March 3, 2005

October 1945???
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:05 AM on March 3, 2005

There are airfields in the jungle where service crews to this day do not know the war is over.
posted by vbfg at 8:11 AM on March 3, 2005

There's definitely some interesting material on this page, but overall it's written like a high-school term paper; "The essay on Japanese Views shows that Japanese people today consider kamikaze pilots in a manner completely contrary to American views." You mean to tell me the members of one team have different opinions about their team than members of the opposite team do?

Good thing none of the kamikaze pilots had turned around and run their planes into Japanese buildings. That would really have screwed up everyone's perceptions.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:20 AM on March 3, 2005

In the American Views section, the author states about U.S. writers:

"Although sometimes authors speculate on the motivations of the pilots, their books include very few stories about individual kamikaze pilots."

Like much of this, it falls under the category of "no duh." In any war, one side depersonalizes the other. It would be extremely odd if Americans were to take great interest in the personal lives of the kamikaze pilots, just as it would be strange for the Japanese to tell the story of the flight of the Enola Gay the way the History channel does here in thhe USA.

And, as Card Cheat mentions, it does read like a H.S. term paper. Although I wouldn't let my kids use "Ripley's Believe it or Not" as a source.
posted by kozad at 8:41 AM on March 3, 2005

I was a kamikaze pilot. They gave me a plane - I couldn't fly it home.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:19 AM on March 3, 2005

vbfg: "There are airfields in the jungle where service crews to this day do not know the war is over."

Really? How do we know that? I mean, who saw them? Are there people around the corner just laughing about it-- 'ha ha, check out the guys, they still think it's WW2! HA'-- who don't tell them? That would be a funny joke to play on someone, I think.

posted by koeselitz at 9:19 AM on March 3, 2005

I poked around that site a bit and I still can not figure out where October, 1945 comes from (VJ Day - August 15, 1945, unconditional surrender signed September 2, 1945). The author made many date errors, mostly 1945 for 1944. I guess he meant August, not October, 1945. Occurring on the front page, this error looks pretty bad.
posted by caddis at 9:29 AM on March 3, 2005

vbfg, I think at this point you should say " There are airfields in the jungle where the children and grandchildren of the original service crews to this day do not know the war is over"
posted by nkyad at 9:32 AM on March 3, 2005

Card Cheat et al: There's more than the "no duh" fact above that each side in a war has its own opinions. I, at least, hadn't really thought through the fact that there was more than the usual shift in interpretation involved with perceptions of Kamikazes.

Each side saw a different physical terminus of the same flights, the same arcs. It's not simply that they portray the same acts different ways: one side saw them taking off into the sunrise, all bands and glory- the other saw them flying out of the sunset, blossoming in death and sacrifice. Something similar is true for almost any military operation, but rarely is the contrast so striking and direct.

That's a powerful and fascinating piece of history.
posted by freebird at 9:39 AM on March 3, 2005

Speaking about the Japanese servicemen in the jungle, I think they've all come home now. They haven't found any in years. My father was in a SE Asian airport when he had an opportunity to speak with some Japanese veterans who were heading out to a small island in the pacific to inform their somrade that the war was over; this was in the '60's. One of the vetrans used to be a commanding officer of some rank. The man in the jungle refused to surrender unless commanded so by a CO.
posted by dazed_one at 9:54 AM on March 3, 2005

Yes, what freebird said. Try to look past this "high school term paper" business. Thanks for the link.
posted by foot at 10:17 AM on March 3, 2005

Japanese Holdouts of WWII
posted by First Post at 2:07 PM on March 3, 2005

I'd like to know if the US Navy got more pissed off by the fact that Japanese pilots were flying planes into American ships or by the fact that British ships (with their steel, not wooden, flight decks) barely took a scratch...
posted by runkelfinker at 3:45 PM on March 3, 2005

I'm expect I'm due to be snarked at for advancing a viewpoint that will be decidedly unpopular here, but whatever you may think of the writeup, try to get past what sounds like futile craziness and try for a moment to see these doomed men for the gallant and selfless warriors they were. They weren't nutjobs or zombies, after all; they were young men, undoubtedly terrified who were tragically caught up in a war they didn't ask for and couldn't avoid, and they gave everything there was to give.

What we in the West understood as a dastardly sneak attack, Pearl Harbor, was part and parcel of the Japanese ideal of combat: Defeat your enemy with sudden, decisive violence before he can best you. Here in the US we viewed the Japanese as wily, sneaky yellow cowardly bastards who didn't fight fair, but war is not about fighting fair. It's about "clubbing baby seals," as my Marine-officer brother puts it. It's horrific and nasty and no one's giving out prizes at the end for being a good sport. At the end, there aren't the "winners" and "losers" of sports metaphors; there are the the dead and the survivors who are left to mourn them.

As Pearl Harbor -- Yamamoto's attempted masterstroke to let the Japanese Navy run wild in the Pacific for the first sixth months of the war, knowing he could do no more than buy Japan a little time against the inevitable might of an angered United States in a war the Japanese viewed as inevitable -- was misunderstood by his adversaries, so were the kamikaze.

I remember one USN veteran of a carrier that got hit saying "At first, we saw the kamikaze as a totally mindless kind of thing." But growing up in the post-war era, I've always understood them, and their submariner Kaiten-pilot counterparts, as patriots who were willing to go on a guaranteed one-way mission because of their bushido code, their love of country and their dedication to the Emperor. I'm sorry for all of them, but they were as brave and noble as any warriors could've been. I grieve for them as well as for the horrific losses they inflicted on the US Navy and Marine Corps. When I first read the Tennyson poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade," it was the kamikaze I immediately thought of.
posted by alumshubby at 4:08 PM on March 3, 2005

Thanks for the link.
posted by vito90 at 10:13 AM on March 4, 2005

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