Our Fighting Forces
DC Comics, October 1978, No. 181, 44 pages
Captain Storm, a WWII PT boat captain, leads the Losers in
two stories related to kamikaze in the October 1978 issue of Our Fighting
Forces. In the four-page comic entitled "The Samurai Dies at
Sunset," a kamikaze pilot crashes into an American carrier and survives,
but he quickly commits suicide when Capt. Storm tries to rescue him from the
water. "American Kamikaze," the eleven-page leadoff story in this
issue, tells the story of a suicidal mission by the Losers against the Japanese
in Burma. World War II serves as background for these two stories, but the
adventures depicted in this comic book have little connection to history.
Our Fighting Forces, a DC comic book series with
assorted war stories, was published from 1954 to 1981. The Losers appeared in Our
Fighting Forces starting in 1970 and continuing for over fifty issues. The
Losers had four members: Capt. Storm, Gunner, Sarge, and pilot Johnny Cloud
(the Navajo Ace). The name of Losers suits the team since they all had lost
their previous individual DC comic series, but they together remained popular
as a team throughout the 1970s. The name also fits well since Capt. Storm lost his
PT boat, crew, and one leg earlier in the war when a Japanese submarine
attacked his boat.
In "The Samurai Dies at Sunset," kamikaze
pilot Lt. Saburo Okiya attacks an American aircraft carrier with his bomb-laden
Zero fighter. Capt. Storm's PT boat is escorting the stricken carrier
that has been hit once already in a kamikaze attack when he spots Lt. Okiya's Zero
diving toward the ship. The Zero crashes into the carrier, but Lt. Okiya
is thrown safely into the water. Capt. Storm, clinging to a piece of wreckage,
rescues him. However, the kamikaze pilot dives away from the wreckage as Capt. Storm rescues a
member of his boat's crew. Lt. Okiya then draws out his ceremonial dagger and
Plot inconsistencies make this story preposterous. The
comic's third frame clearly shows several American ships far below Japanese
kamikaze planes, but by the second page Lt. Okiya suddenly enters a fog that
completely blocks his view. His controls are shot away so he cannot guide his Zero,
but he still dives directly into the carrier. An officer on the carrier shouts
to abandon ship even before the Zero hits, but this command possibly
could have caused by another kamikaze plane that had crippled the ship. Even
though the kamikaze plane crashes into the ship with a huge explosion, Lt.
Okiya somehow gets thrown unscathed into the water.
The writer of "The Samurai Dies at Sunset" commits
several historical errors. The kamikaze pilot dreams of ships sinking
"like fiery torches in the Japan Sea," but the Sea of Japan between
Japan and Korea is far away from the East China Sea where kamikaze hit American
ships during the Battle of Okinawa. The pilots in the comic shout
"banzai" as they raise sake cups to the rising sun Japanese flag, but
Japanese during the war never treated their flag in such a reverential manner.
The comic's kamikaze pilot encounters no American combat air patrol planes as
he approaches American ships, which very rarely happened, especially in broad daylight,
since radar usually detected them long before reaching the American fleet.
The story stereotypes the kamikaze pilot as someone who
wants to commit suicide even apart from an actual suicide attack, but this
notion has little basis in history. Lt. Okiya immediately thinks he must thrust
a dagger into his heart when he cannot locate the enemy ships. However, if
kamikaze pilots during the war could not find an enemy ship, they usually tried
to survive in various ways such as returning to base or at worst making a forced
landing on or near a small island. Lt. Okiya's suicide in the water follows the samurai
way of committing suicide rather than getting captured alive by an enemy, but many
downed Japanese pilots tried to escape or let themselves be captured rather
than immediately turning to suicide.
"American Kamikaze" features the Losers in a
desperate mission in Burma to destroy a cable car installation being finished
by the Japanese Army in order to speed up delivery of supplies through the jungle.
The Losers parachute from a plane into the Burmese jungle, but Japanese soldiers capture
them. When the cable car installation has been completed, Capt. Storm and the
other Losers accompany Major Kyoni, the Japanese commander, on the cable car's
first trip. The cable car soon plummets to the bottom of the gulch when the
cables snap from the corrosive acid put on them by Capt. Storm. The Losers
barely escape from the cable car before it falls.
Major Kyoni admires Capt. Storm for his bravery in riding
the cable car even though he knew that the cable would soon snap due to the
effects of the corrosive acid. The Japanese leader says, "You are American
samurai, committing hara-kiri for your cause. I salute you!" Kyoni decides to stay with the cable car
about to plunge down since he has failed, whereas the Losers climb out the
windows to go along the cable by hand to escape to the other side.
This comic book's last story introduces a super spy with the
code name of Falcon in a battle against Nazis. Even this comic has a kamikaze
element as Falcon rams his plane into a German bomber headed toward Roosevelt
and Churchill in Casablanca. However, Falcon does not die in the attack in the
same manner as Japanese Army pilots often did when they rammed B-29 bombers. He ejects a
microsecond before the crash.
This issue of Our Fighting Forces presents various
perspectives on suicide attacks, but the stories are rather far-fetched with
little historical accuracy.