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US Navy Ships vs Kamikazes 1944-45
by Mark Stille
Osprey Publishing, 2016, 80 pages

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The notion that these men were robots who performed their last duties without regret is incorrect. Ultimately, all were volunteers, although subtle coercion was undoubtedly part of the process. There was no great overt pressure placed on men to volunteer. They were not brainwashed into crashing their aircraft against American ships. Many left behind thoughtful letters explaining their choice and expressing their hope that their sacrifice would display the moral strength that Japan would need to deal with the desperate situation it was in and with the likelihood of rebuilding the nation after defeat.

Given the pure motives of the kamikaze pilots, and the ultimately futile nature of their sacrifice, it is easy to blame their superiors for cynically leading them to suicide. For their part, they were making a cold calculation that conventional attacks were fruitless and that the only prospects for success were special attacks. Of course, the proper conclusion that should have been reached by late 1944 was that continuing the war was hopeless. The allure of suicide attacks, which would give the Americans another example of the purity of the Japanese spirit and perhaps a reason to re-think paying the necessary price to achieve total victory, gave Japan's leaders an irresponsible reason to continue the war. The same leaders who went to war with no real idea of how to conclude it successfully were now content to oversee the total destruction of the nation. The kamikaze pilots paid a dramatic part, but a very small part, in this final period of shortsightedness by Japan's reckless leaders.

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Source Cited

Kimata, Jiro. 1998. Nihon tokkōtei senshi (History of Japan's special attack boats). Tōkyō: Kojinsha.


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