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"I Was A Human Bomb"
by Hasaru Koseburi
Real Men, September 1956, pp. 40-1, 60, 62, 64, 66

Introductory Comments

Although published in the men's adventure magazine entitled Real Men, this far-fetched story supposedly written by an ohka pilot in the Japanese Navy's Kamikaze Special Attack Corps has little relationship to historical reality. An ohka, called baka (meaning "stupid") by the Allies, was a piloted rocket-powered glider bomb released from a Betty bomber. They were used in combat from March 21 to June 22, 1945, with most of them either being shot down prior to release or missing their target. A few achieved success such as the ohka that sank the destroyer Mannert L. Abele on April 12, 1945.

The story's byline claims that Hasaru Koseburi was a Flight Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Air Force, but there is no evidence that he ever existed. Moreover, Koseburi is not even a Japanese family name. The article contains many fanciful rumors about kamikaze pilots, such as sex rites ordered by the Emperor, but these rumors have no basis in reality. The author of this fictional story even seems to have thought incorrectly that the ohka glider was like a conventional aircraft that takes off and lands on a runway. This story portrays kamikaze pilots from an American perspective, which considers that they were brainwashed with propaganda to carry out a suicide mission and that if given the opportunity they would want to escape from their assignment to crash into an enemy ship.

This article cleverly displays three historical photographs with captions related to the story. The first one shows an ohka with the marking "I-18" on front. This ohka actually was captured by US forces during the invasion of Okinawa, but the caption indicates that is was the author's suicide plane. The second photo shows about 20 soldiers jogging along a Tokyo street, but the caption claims these men were Kamikaze Corps members. The last photo in the article supposedly shows the author after he had landed his ohka glider bomb on an American airfield on Okinawa. He had been stripped by American soldiers who were afraid of a concealed booby trap, and they made him disarm the explosives in his ohka parked on the runway.

Notes have been added to the story in order to provide comments on a few of the inaccuracies. Click on the note number to go to the note at the bottom of the web page, and then click on the note number to return to the same place in the story.


A suicide pilot tells of Japan's last-ditch efforts to win the war and the weird sex-religious-patriotic rites of the Kamikaze Corps.

It was the Emperor's orders that each of us was to sire twelve babies the day after we completed our training [1].

Since we were soon to die by crashing our planes into American warships, the Emperor wanted our Seishin (offensive spirit) to be transferred to as many men-children as possible.

So the Imperial physicians brought women—young and firm of breast and hips—to us in Tokyo's temple of Masiu, the Goddess of Fertility [2], where we awaited them unclad and eager to serve the Emperor.

Amid laughter and jesting, and a certain amount of rivalry, we carried out the Emperor's orders—the most virile of us going to the aid of our less able comrades until the last woman had been honored. Girls were thrilled to be loved by men of the Kamikaze.

The Emperor's reasons for that pleasant finale to our training were both practical and spiritual. The war had decimated the ranks of Japan's adult males so that our glorious nation was afflicted with hordes of manless women. What better way was there to use many of those females than to provide sons for the Empire? And what better sires for their babies than us, the brave and spiritually-cleansed pilots of the Kamikaze, who were soon to die for Hirohito, Light of Heaven and Earth? For our sons would be born with Seishin and would grow to be faithful and fearless Samurai (warriors).

But siring sons for the Empire was but a small portion of the curious duties of men of the Kamikaze. Every day brought forth new wonders. It was unlike military service in any other Army of the world.

For me it all began on an evening early in the summer of 1944. On that memorable day nervous nasty-tempered little Colonel Nokamura [3] entered the flight officers barracks at the Kobe base [4].

Nokamura, instead of screaming and cursing as usual, smiled happily as he told us that the Imperial General Staff in Tokyo had, at last, come up with a way to defeat the Americans.

We listened intently. For it was about time that someone came up with something. The Americans were storming through our outer-island defense so fast that the disrespectful were saying the breeze from their advances gave goose pimples to the Emperor himself.

The General Staff's plan, Nokamura explained, was to form a Kamikaze (suicide plane) division of the Special Attack Corps, heretofore a land and sea outfit. Great honor would attend each man who volunteered for the Kamikaze because by exploding his plane—and himself—to sink the barbarian Americans' warships he would exemplify to the highest degree the spirit of Shintoism and prove to his ancestors that he was willing to die for Tenno, the Heavenly King, otherwise known as Hirohito [5], Emperor of the Invincible Japanese Empire.

"To have Tenno rule over the whole world is the will of Heaven," Nokamura concluded piously.

Whereupon there was a tremendous clamor among the men in our barracks for the honor of being tapped for membership in the Kamikaze corps. Everyone wanted to be a hero in the outfit that would change the course of the war and drive the Americans, if any survived, back to San Francisco in panic and humiliation.

But unfortunately only four men in our wing would be allowed to serve, Nokamura said sadly. The others would be required, in the interests of the war effort, to continue their regular duties as pilots of our Domaki bombers [6].

The Colonel solved the selection of the four men easily and with great diplomacy. He put a hand into the pocket of his jacket and drew forth a pair of dice. He would roll them once for each man, he said, and the first four men who called their numbers correctly would be given the honor of joining the Kamikaze corps.

We watched breathlessly as he summoned the first man, then another and another, rolling the dice for each.

It was the will of Tenno that I was one of the four men to be chosen. In behalf of the Emperor, Colonel Nokamura bowed before each of us and left the barracks.

We fortunate ones were too excited to sleep that night even if our envious comrades had let us. So we spent the night in revelry and laughter of joy at the thoughts of Japan's impending victory and America's resounding defeat.

But because the barbarians were already hammering at our bases in the Marianas we were made to leave the next morning for Tokyo to begin our training.

Upon our arrival there we were paraded through the streets with 200 other future Kamikaze pilots [7]. The populace, which lined the streets in vast hordes, screamed and shouted and prostrated themselves at our feet so that many times we had to break formation to avoid stepping on them. Everyone treated us with the greatest reverence for we were the stalwarts in soul and fortitude who were soon to die for our homeland.

After the parade we were escorted by the Emperor's own guard to the Kesoya air base [8] on Tokyo's outskirts upon which had been erected a huge shrine. There a Black Dragon [9], one of the Emperor's advisors, told us the importance of cleansing our souls of sin and defilement by purifying ourselves before the Emperor's all-seeing eyes. Whereupon we chanted a solemn pledge that we were willing and anxious to die for Tenno and the Invincible Empire.

Our instructions in Kamikaze warfare in subsequent days was more spiritual than tactical because we were already pilots [10]. So its stress was on our forthcoming service to Tenno and the honor we would soon be paying to our departed ancestors.

We were taught a song which we sang before each meal and upon arising in the morning and before retiring at night:

If cherry blossoms were but men,
Then the loving butterflies are their wives.
Bloom, cherry blossoms, spiritedly
In eight petals or in singles.
With the dawn you'll be gone
Tomorrow another blossom shall fall.
Bloom, cherry blossoms, spiritedly
For I'll be following you.

Those words were of great comfort to us and they gave us courage. For while the thought of serving our country was one of joy, the anticipation of a flaming death on an enemy ship was most unpleasant. We needed the spiritual strength the song gave us.

Our instructors informed us of the origin of Kamikaze which, in English, means the Divine Wind. We learned that the name was derived from an incident occurring in 1281 when the Mongols attacked Japan from the sea. At the most crucial moment, when it seemed as though nothing could stop the barbarian enemy, a great wind arose and wrecked the invasion fleet. The gods provided that wind as they were providing the means to halt the modern barbarians, the Americans, who, like the Mongols, would invade our homeland and burn our homes and defile our women with children of unclean blood.

On the last day of our training our souls were removed from our bodies and enshrined in little white boxes [11] which were taken to the Yasukuni shrine. There our forthcoming sacrifices were honored by the Emperor himself, for the Yasukuni shrine was Tenno's own place of worship. Then the boxes were prepared to be sent to our parents to be worshipped on our family's shrines.

The next day we sired sons for the Emperor in the ceremony in the Temple of Fertility which I have already described.

On the following day—which was July 9, 1944—a ghastly disaster occurred. The Americans defeated the last of our brave defenders in the Marianas and our huge Army and Air bases on Saipan, Guam, and Tinian were lost, as well as our fleet anchorage at Guam. It was a disaster of the utmost magnitude for it put the cursed Americans in control of islands that were within bombing distance of the cities of our homeland.

Abruptly we men of the Kamikaze corps were dispersed to scattered bases to await our first—and last—missions. With 90 others I was sent to Tokuna Shima [12] in the Nansei Shoto (Southwestern Islands). Tokuna is the second island north of Okinawa, which was our communications center for the western Pacific, and also headquarters of the defense command of the Nansei Shoto. Furthermore Okinawa was an island upon which the Americans had been giving more than casual interest, our intelligence informed us. We were determined that it would never fall to them.

But we had no more than arrived at Tokuno than a problem of unanticipated gravity arose—there were few planes available to the Kamikaze corps! The Americans had destroyed 2174 [13] of our aircraft in the Marianas campaign. And other hundreds in their unceasing raids on Truk, the Philippines, and Marcus. The planes our Air Force had left at its disposal were horded frugally for they would be desperately needed, it was feared, for the defense of the homeland.

But our General Staff solved that problem easily and with great intelligence. They conceived the idea of cheap little craft which the Americans were later to name—quite appropriately, Baka (stupid) planes.

Those little craft didn't have to be made with skill nor with costly materials, since they were destined for brief one-way flights. So components for hundreds of them were hurriedly turned out in factories all over the homeland and shipped to our bases for assembly.

But meanwhile the few planes of conventional type that were available of us—mostly obsolete models or damaged planes—were used upon American warships with great loss of life to the Americans. Kamikaze was a success!

In March of 1945—precisely at the time when Baka planes became available to us in quantities, the Americans attacked Okinawa. They did it with vast sea and air armadas. And massive land armies.

As history reveals, we let their troops go ashore virtually unmolested. Then in a coordinated move our armies attacked them in a great pincers and the planes of the Kamikaze went into action.

It was our plan to destroy much of their Navy, causing the surviving units to flee so that the Americans would neither be able to reinforce nor evacuate their Army.

We made the Americans bleed. Casualties in their Army were ghastly and the men of the Kamikaze sunk 17 of their ships, and crashed and dived into others, killing and wounding American sailors by the hundreds. (The U.S. Navy states that 2,714 men were killed and 7,893 injured by Kamikaze attacks during the Okinawa campaign.)

But instead of withdrawing the remnants of their fleet the Americans reinforced it and landed more thousands of troops on the shores of Okinawa.

In panic at the Americans' unanticipated resistance, our General Staff ordered us to increase the tempo of the Kamikaze attacks. But for every American ship we sank two more came to take its place; there seemed to be no limit to the size of the American Navy. Of equal disaster, our troops ashore were unable to execute their pincer movement—the Americans landed airborne troops which attacked our forces from the rear.

But despite our miserable fortunes, we made the Okinawa campaign drag on at great cost to the enemy in men and material. (The Okinawa campaign, originally scheduled for 3 weeks, lasted for 7 weeks [14].)

Then one morning it was my turn to crash into an American ship. I left the barracks accompanied by my shouting, prancing comrades, just as I had shouted and pranced at the departure of other men of the Kamikaze. It was a glorious moment; I was about to die for the Emperor and for the glory and honor of my ancestors.

I climbed into my Baka, which had the number "I-18" painted on its side in huge black letters. I recall wondering, as I entered the cockpit, why the Bakas were numbered. What difference did it make? They were planes of no return; identification wasn't important. They had but one flight to make and one function to perform—to crash into an enemy ship.


Ohka glider captured by American forces during Okinawan invasion
(story's author claims that he landed this ohka on Okinawa)

But, once inside, I closed the transparent plastic hatch. Our commandant latched and locked it immediately. Then he attached Senjinren ribbon to the Baka's stubby tail, one of those 20-foot white streamers we trailed behind our aircraft so frequently. Those ribbons—a source of wonderment to the Americans—were supposed to ensure success of a mission.

I gunned the engine and waved farewell to my comrades. Whereupon I taxied across the runaway [15], ascended into the air and sped in the direction of Nakagusuku Wan (Buckner Bay) where the enemy's ships lay at anchor in support of their troops ashore. I had no specific target; any large ship would do, preferably an aircraft carrier.

In minutes I was over Okinoyerabu [16], the island between Tokuna and Okinawa. Then I was over the open sea again, headed for Okinawa and a glorious death in behalf of Tenno.

This, I reflected happily, was going to be an easy way to assure myself of glory in heaven and bring, at the same time, great honor to my family and to our Invincible Empire.

Then, quite suddenly, my eyes opened wide and I mumbled aloud, "Invincible Empire? No! It's not invincible. The truth is we're getting the hell beat our of us—we're very close to defeat!"

An overwhelming cascade of thoughts poured through my mind—thoughts I'd never allowed myself to have. They stunned me with their magnitude and import so that I stared unseeingly, holding the speeding little craft's wheel [17] in a clench as it cruised at the prescribed 500 feet elevation over the sea.

My lips quivered and tears came to my eyes. For quite violently I realized that I was not a hero on his way to glory. Instead, I was a fool on his way to senseless death. I realized further that I was—and had been—a dupe in the hands of our war lords. We were not invincible. The war was not holy, or even decent. The Emperor was . . . . just a man and subject to error just as any man.

I laughed without humor. The weak, effeminate Americans—that is what our Commanders told us they were—were neither weak nor effeminate. The truth was they were brave and fearless warriors. And infinitely better equipped than the men of our Armies.

Other truths raced through my brain and brushed aside the cobwebs of superstition, deceit and stupidity. I realized that the Divine Wind which had defeated the Mongols in 1281 was merely a typhoon; the China Sea is notorious for the frequency and savagery and suddenness of its typhoons. There was nothing divine about it—it was simply a coincidence that it arose when it did and destroyed the Mongol fleet. For our nation was then, as now, tottering at the hands of a superior enemy.

I cursed bitterly at the thought of our nation's propaganda, for suddenly I knew that it was, and had been all along, little but exaggerations, half-truths, and downright lies conceived by men cleverly skilled in mass psychology.

And the Imperial war lords—the Black Dragons who held the Emperor virtually a prisoner,  had neither the intelligence nor the courage to surrender. They chose, instead, to continue to throw away the lives of men like me, knowing as they did it that victory was impossible of attainment.

Abruptly I jerked the little Baka's wheel 90 degrees to the right and guided it inland over Okinawa. I had a plan, suddenly conceived, but with luck it would meet with success.

Five minutes later I reached an American airfield, coming in low and swift. Miraculously, I landed or—more realistically—because I approached that airfield at an altitude of 30 feet, so low that the Americans' radar didn't detect me and too low for their anti-aircraft weapons to be used. I slid to a halt before the Americans realized the nature of their unexpected guest [18].

Then they almost went into panic. Immediately they taxied their planes away from the Baka. Whereupon they stood at great distances and stared at it—and me—through field glasses.

It was 8 o'clock in the morning when I landed on that American airfield. At 11 o'clock I was still there, unable to escape from my locked cockpit.

The Americans seemed to be in great confusion. They thought, quite naturally, that I had landed to explode my Baka on their airfield. They were reluctant to fire at me for they knew that the Baka's nose was laden with incendiaries and explosives.

Noon came. I waved and made signals to the Americans for they watched me unceasingly through their glasses. But none approached me. So the little Baka remained in its same position throughout the afternoon and night—and I a prisoner within it. To my discomfort I was almost paralyzed from the cramped position in which I was forced to remain.

I dozed off during the night and was awakened by the sound of nearby voices. I opened my eyes. It was daylight. Then I turned my head. Four American enlisted men were approaching the Baka cautiously and slowly and with great fear on their faces.

I waved at them and they stopped immediately and stared at me with uncertainty. Then I pointed to the cockpit's cover and made gestures to indicate that I was unable to open it. They continued to stare, as if fearing that I would suddenly explode the Baka and blow them to death.

Then I recalled the V the Americans and English made with their first two fingers of a hand. So I made the sign of the V, hoping it would cause the Americans to realize that I was no longer an enemy.

One of the Americans grinned and started toward the Baka. But another, a Sergeant, seized his shoulder and talked to him roughly. The Sergeant was fearful of a trick. I understood his skepticism; we had used every deceit upon the Americans that our devilish Commanders could conceive. So the Sergeant, rightfully, was suspicious of a trap.

But quite suddenly the Americans, apparently resigning themselves to whatever might occur, came to the Baka.

One of them swiftly unlocked the cockpit. I lifted its canopy and arose, preparing to climb to the ground and to safety.

The Americans held their weapons at the ready as I descended, whereupon they stripped me of my garments, fearful of a booby trap. Then they escorted me at gunpoint to their Commandant. He summoned an interpreter and I told him the reason for my defection.

I also cautioned the Commandant that the plane was laden with explosives and that extreme caution should be employed in removing them.

But that American Commandant was a resourceful man. And unwilling to risk the lives of his own men on a possible trick. So he sent me back to the Baka, alone and unescorted but covered by his marksmen, with orders to remove its explosives myself and stack them on the ground fifty paces from the plane.

This I did. Whereupon I strode back to my captors and reported the fulfillment of my orders.

The Commandant was greatly pleased, for my Baka was the first to come into the Americans' possession intact and undamaged. They were extremely interested in it and they studied it minutely, taking photos and measuring it and delving into its construction.

Then the Americans put me into an internment camp where I remained until the end of the war which occurred four months later.

But unfortunately my comrades of Company 27-I, Kamikaze Division, Special Attack Corps, continued to die as human bombs during those four months—the last of them blowing himself and his American victims to death on, ironically, the day that the Emperor publicly admitted that he was not invincible [19].

On that day, August 15, 1945, Hirohito surrendered.

Notes

1. The is no evidence that the Japanese Emperor ever gave orders that kamikaze pilots carry out such preposterous actions as to father twelve children on the day following completion of their training.

2. Masiu, the Goddess of Fertility, was not a goddess in Japanese religion.

3. Nokamura is not a Japanese name, but Nakamura is a common Japanese family name.

4. Kobe Air Base did not exist.

5. The spelling in the original article has been corrected from Hiroshito to Hirohito.

6. Domaki bombers did not exist.

7. There are no reports of a mass parade of 200 kamikaze pilots.

8. Kesoya Air Base did not exist.

9. The Black Dragon Society was a Japanese ultranationalist right-wing group founded in 1901. The group reached its peak of political influence in the 1920s and 1930s. Black Dragons did not control the Emperor as portrayed in this story.

10. Ohka pilots underwent special training, since the ohka glider was a unique weapon that was not piloted in the same way as conventional aircraft. Chapter 3 of Naito (1989, 73-93) describes some of this special testing and training.

11. The Japanese military typically delivered white wooden boxes with the remains of war dead to the families of those who died. The kamikaze pilots did not have any practice in which their souls were removed from their bodies prior to death and enshrined in little white boxes. In the case of kamikaze pilots, the remains such as fingernails or hairs from the head would often be prepared in advance. There are also cases where the white box would arrive at the family's home with no remains.

12. The correct spelling of Tokuna Shima is Tokuno Shima. This island did have an Army air base, but the Navy did not have an air base there. All Mitsubishi Type 1 (Betty) bombers that carried ohka (called "baka" in this story) gliders into battle made sorties from Kanoya Naval Air Base in southern Kyushu.

13. The number of 2,174 Japanese aircraft destroyed in the Battle of the Marianas is grossly overstated. Japan lost a total of about 475 carrier planes and float planes (Toland 1970, 503).

14. The Battle of Okinawa actually lasted for almost 12 weeks from April 1 to June 22, 1945, not seven weeks as mentioned in the story.

15. Ohka (called "baka" in this story) gliders did not take off from the ground as described in this story. Instead, in real history Mitsubishi Type 1 (Betty) bombers carried the ohka glider. It was launched from a mother plane at an altitude of 20-27,000 feet (O'Neill 1999, 154).

16. The normal spelling in English is Okinoerabu.

17. The ohka was steered with a control stick rather than a wheel (Bungei Shunju 2005, 452-3).

18. The ohka did not have any landing gear to allow for a runway landing, since it was designed as a suicide weapon that would crash after being released from the mother plane. During testing the ohka was equipped with sled runners to allow for a landing (Naito 1989, 57, 68), but these runners were not on the ohka glider bombs when released during battle.

19. The last ohka attacks were carried out on June 22, 1945 (Naito 1989, 180), although sporadic kamikaze attacks by conventional aircraft continued through the end of the war.

Sources Cited

Bungei Shunju, ed. 2005. Ningen bakudan to yobarete: Shougen - ouka tokkou (They were called human bombs: Testimony - ohka special attacks). Tokyo: Bungei Shunju.

Naito, Hatsuho. 1989. Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell Their Stories. Translated by Mayumi Ishikawa. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

O'Neill, Richard. 1999. Originally published in 1981 as an illustrated edition. Suicide Squads: The Men and Machines of World War II Special Operations. London: Salamander Books.

Toland, John. 1970. The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. New York: Random House.