Pacific Paratrooper by G. P. Cox
KASAMA, Japan – The pilots filed into the room and were presented with a form that asked if they wanted to be kamikaze. It was multiple-choice, and there were three answers: “I passionately wish to join,” ”I wish to join,” and “I don’t wish to join.” This was 1945. Many were university students who had been previously exempt from service, but now Japan was running out of troops.
Hisashi Tezuka recalls that a few of his colleagues quickly wrote their replies and strutted away. But he and most of the others stayed for what felt like hours, unable to decide.
He did not know then if anyone had dared to refuse. He learned later that the few who did were simply told to pick the right answer. Tezuka so wanted to be honest to his feelings he crossed out the second choice and wrote his own answer: “I will join. I did not want to say I wished it. I didn’t wish it,” he told The Associated Press at his apartment in a Tokyo suburb.
They were the kamikaze, “the divine wind,” ordered to fly their planes into certain death. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey and data kept at the library at Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo estimate that about 2,500 of them died during the war. Some history books give higher numbers. About one in every five kamikaze planes managed to hit an enemy target.
Books and movies have depicted them as crazed suicide bombers who screamed “Banzai” as they met their end. But interviews with survivors and families by The Associated Press, as well as letters and documents, offer a different portrait — of men driven by patriotism, self-sacrifice and necessity. The world they lived in was like that multiple-choice form: It contained no real options[…]
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