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Crosswind
by Lisa Hosokawa Garber
St. Andrews College Press, 2009, 43 pages

This short story about a kamikaze pilot named Tadao Goto from Hiroshima won the 2009 Alan Bunn Memorial Chapbook Award at St. Andrews College in North Carolina. Lisa Hosokawa Garber, a student at St. Andrews, included five English translations of short Japanese poems before the short story Crosswind and five after, but these seem to have little or no relationship to the story. For example, the third translated haiku reads:

To be seen, not touched
geishas admiring a ring
beyond the window

The character development of Tadao, his family members, and his fellow pilots lacks depth. Also, the story's historical details contain various errors. As a result, Tadao does not come across as a realistic kamikaze pilot, and the reasons for his beliefs remain unclear.

Crosswind takes place at Oita Air Base on August 6, 1945, from 1215 to 1222 as Tadao stands in the summer heat with 200 other kamikaze pilots before a lieutenant giving them a speech prior to their final mission. The story has several flashbacks such as three months earlier at Takarazuka Air Base, seven hours earlier in Hiroshima at Tadao's home, and three nights earlier at Oita when the pilots had a drinking party prior to being granted one night to bid their families goodbye. After the story ends, the page after states that an atomic weapon was dropped on Hiroshima at 0815 on August 6, 1945, and that 3,912 kamikaze pilots died during the war. The story itself ends with Tadao standing before the lieutenant who seems to know about the disaster that morning at Hiroshima.

The story's historical background lacks believability. The first page mentions that "Tadao had seen groups of three or four [special attack suicide] pilots, maybe six at the most, sortie out over the course of his training on Oita base" (p. 9), but in reality only two special attack planes with five crewmen in total sortied from Oita Air Base prior to August 6, 1945 [1]. Vice Admiral Ugaki arrived at Oita Air Base from Kanoya Air Base on August 3, 1945, in order to set up headquarters of the 5th Air Fleet at an underground location [2], but Crosswind makes no mention of Ugaki's presence at the base. The Japanese Navy never used Oita as a large kamikaze base for 200 pilots as described in the story, and Vice Admiral Ugaki had stopped mass kamikaze attacks from Kyushu since June 22, 1945.

Tadao, who graduated early from Waseda University, entered the Yokaren (Naval Flight Training Program) at Takarazuka Air Base in Hyogo Prefecture in about November 1944. However, Yokaren was a training program for those who had not entered a university, whereas university graduates and students generally entered the Navy's Flight Reserve Student (Hiko Yobi Gakusei) Program to make them officers. Also, in October 1943, the military draft deferment ended for university students in liberal arts and law, so most students like Tadao would have entered the Navy in late 1943 or early 1944.

Tadao forgets to give his mother his final letter during his stay in Hiroshima, so on his way back to Oita he frets that he will never be able to get the letter to her. However, he could have easily mailed it to her by dropping it in a mail box or by giving it to someone to send it in the regular mail. The story implies that the kamikaze pilots had a choice to volunteer, but usually at this stage in the war entire Navy units were designated as special attack units without any requests for volunteers. Garber describes Tadao's riding an ohka glider bomb being tugged behind a motorized boat at Takarazuka. However, Takarazuka Air Base never had ohka training, and ohka training runs were not conducted by being towed with a boat.

Tadao believes that kamikaze attacks are "inglorious, senseless murder," but the story never really explains how he came to this conclusion. In actuality, almost all surviving members of kamikaze special attack squadrons believe that they were defending their homeland and families by carrying out these suicide attacks against the advancing enemy. This book generally reflects a novice writing effort that lacks in-depth historical research and effective character development.

Notes

1. Osuo 2005, 173-243. Two planes are listed on 207-8.

2. Ugaki 1991, 653.

Sources Cited

Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kougekitai no kiroku (kaigun hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tokyo: Kojinsha.

Ugaki, Matome. 1991. Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941-1945. Translated by Masataka Chihaya. Edited by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.