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Star Spangled War Stories - I Was a Kamikaze Pilot!
National Comics Publications, August 1953, No. 12, 36 pages

The six-page comic story entitled "I Was a Kamikaze Pilot!" has an exciting plot but a fantastical and historically incorrect depiction of Japanese kamikaze operations. The author of this story published in the early 1950s uses emotionally charged words to describe the suicide pilots such as "fanatical Japs," "filthy maniacs," "crazy fools," and "filthy fanatic." In contrast, the comic portrays an American Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) named Lt. John Sell as a hero.

A Japanese pilot named Akira Muto gets shot down and captured by Americans participating in the invasion and retaking of Cebu Island in the Philippines. Lt. John Sell looks just like Muto, so a plan is hatched to have Sell infiltrate the enemy so that he can find out what the Japanese are planning to do to stop the Americans on Cebu. He gets picked up by a Japanese submarine and returned to a Japanese air base only to find out that Muto is a kamikaze pilot. Sell's assignment is to fly the lead plane of a squadron of kamikaze aircraft that will attack the American fleet off Cebu. As he approaches the American ships, he drops his plane's bomb into the sea and makes a crash landing into the water. He gets rescued and then watches as the Japanese planes he sabotaged all explode or go out of control before they can reach the American ships.

Historical facts get altered in "I Was a Kamikaze Pilot!" The story has a Japanese kamikaze squadron making an attack during the American invasion of Cebu Island in the Philippines. The invasion actually began on March 26, 1945 [1], but the last kamikaze attacks in the Philippines took place in January 1945 [2]. John Sell disguised as Akira Muto returns to Atsugi Airfield, "home base of the kamikaze planes." In real history, Atsugi was a large Navy air base near Tokyo, but it never served as either a training or sortie base for kamikaze squadrons.

Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi organized the Navy's Kamikaze Special Attack Corps in October 1944, but John Sell in the story refers to kamikaze pilots flying long before that. He says that he saw kamikazes while flying a mission over Attu, a battle that occurred in May 1943. He refers to a kamikaze as a Japanese pilot who tries to crash into an enemy plane. Lt. John Sell flies as a pilot in a crack Nisei Air Force unit fighting in the Philippines, but such a unit of Japanese Americans never existed, although the 442nd Infantry Regiment made up of Japanese Americans did distinguish themselves in WWII during fighting in Italy.

The comic book Star Spangled War Stories was published from 1952 to 1977 with more than 200 issues. The three other six-page war stories in the August 1953 issue are similar to "I Was a Kamikaze Pilot!" with detailed plots, brave heroes, and fantastical elements. Although the story "I Was a Kamikaze Pilot!" has a WWII setting, many historical facts get changed, plus some plot elements surpass belief such a Japanese-American looking exactly like a captured Japanese pilot and then being able to replace him as a kamikaze squadron leader at a Japanese air base. Also, the explanation of the kamikaze planes' exploding and going out of control after Sell's sabotage of their altimeters does not make any scientific sense.

First frame of comic

Notes

1. Morison 2001, 233-7.

2. Inoguchi 1958, 221.

Sources Cited

Inoguchi, Rikihei, Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. 2001. The Liberation of the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao, the Visayas, 1944-1945. Originally published in 1959 by Little, Brown & Company. Edison, NJ: Castle Books.