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Kaiten pilot
Yuzo Watanabe

 
Tokkou no Shima 6 (The Isle of Tokkou 6)
by Syuho Sato
Houbunsa, 2013, 184 pages

The sixth volume of Tokkou no Shima (The Isle of Tokkou) covers kaiten pilot Yuzo Watanabe's five-month stay on Otsushima, a small island where a secret kaiten base is located, after he returned alive from a mission since his kaiten weapon had failed to launch. Commander Itakura, head of the kaiten base, and Watanabe share their feelings toward the war and the kaiten program in this book. In actual history, it would have been quite unrealistic for a commander in Itakura's position to express his innermost feelings with a junior officer. Itakura discloses to Watanabe that he understands his feelings after returning alive, since he also returned alive after seven missions as a submarine commander even though most of his fellow commanders had lost their lives.

This volume begins, just as the prior volume ended, with one of the top officers instructing a class of kaiten pilots at Otsushima Base. He explains that he has heard that cowards returned alive form the previous Kongo Unit mission. He tells the pilots, "If the [kaiten's] screw does not turn, try to turn it even by your hands and plunge into a ship." Of course, such motivational advice is not possible to execute for a pilot inside a kaiten human torpedo with the screws on the outside at the rear.

On February 20, 1945, the men at Otsushima Base send off the Chihaya Unit submarines, which carry kaiten weapons on top. Yuzo Watanabe, a kaiten pilot who survived the prior Kongo Unit mission and who now is in a great depression, walks involuntarily into the sea as the others at the base cheer the men who are leaving. The men at the base search for Watanabe and find him floating lifelessly in the water. As he recovers in bed, he pleads with Commander Itakura to let him go another mission so he can die. Itakura tells Watanabe that senior officers in charge of the kaiten program will not permit any pilot who returns to make another sortie because he had been ordered to die in a special (suicide) attack when he first went on a mission. The Chihaya Unit's results are announced with two submarines that disappeared (after the war it was determined that one was sunk by depth charges from an enemy destroyer and another sunk in an attack near Okinawa) and one submarine that was crippled but made it back to Otsushima with the escort of another Japanese submarine.

Itakura informs Watanabe that his hometown has been bombed by B-29s, and it appears there are few survivors. On May 10, 1945, Watanabe is on guard duty when he sees several B-29 bombers fly overhead. They are headed toward Tokuyama, a small city close to the island of Otsushima. A total of 117 B-29s drop bombs on the city. Watanabe becomes very angry and wants to shoot one of the base's antiaircraft guns at the bombers. The other men stop him and explain that shooting the gun will reveal the position of the secret base.

In May 1945, four kaiten units are organized with 11 submarines and 55 kaiten. Japanese sources indicated that these kaiten sank two ships and damaged four others in their attacks, but U.S. sources do not mention any hits or damage by kaiten. Watanabe, while walking through the base at night since he is not able to sleep, meets Itakura. He asks the commander once again to let him go on a kaiten mission, since he feels like a useless soldier by being stationed at Otsushima without being allowed to fight. Itakura tells Watanabe that he found out three days before that Watanabe's entire family had died in the B-29 bombing attack of his hometown. Itakura says that he will name Watanabe as a pilot for a kaiten mission in the last fight for the homeland.

Itakura discloses to Watanabe that orders were received from the high command that now allowed use of kaiten weapons against moving ships rather than the prior rule that they could be used only to attack ships at anchorage. Watanabe can hardly believe his ears. Fellow kaiten pilot Masao Sekiguchi, who had died in battle when his kaiten led three enemy destroyers away in order for the I-53 submarine's crew and kaiten pilots to escape from the enemy, had been hit in the mouth by Itakura a few short months before when he had suggested that kaiten attacks would be more effective if carried out against moving ships rather than just those at anchorage. Itakura tells Watanabe that he feels like the young men who he sent on kaiten missions were his sons. Tears come to his eyes as he talks about kaiten pilots who he has sent to death. Watanabe, ready for his next mission, sharply salutes the commander when he sees his tears.


Commander Itakura tells Yuzo Watanabe that
the Kaiten Special Attack Corps will now
attack moving ships rather than ships at anchor

The Tamon Unit with six submarines, which will carry a total of 32 kaiten weapons, is formed in the first part of July 1945. Itakura tells Watanabe that this will be the last sortie of the Kaiten Corps from Otsushima. The unit includes many pilots, including Watanabe, who have returned from other kaiten missions without being launched in a kaiten. Watanabe gets assigned to the I-53 submarine, the same one he went on before as part of the Kongo Unit. He appears ready and eager to make an attack. After the submarine departs Otsushima Base, Watanabe sketches a self portrait with his hair astray. As he draws alone, he says that he will fight for himself now since he already has lost his parents and three brothers.

The six I-53 kaiten pilots hope to attack U.S. transport ships. On July 21, 1945, seven troop transports, one refrigerated transport, and nine escort ships depart Nakagusuku Bay in Okinawa for Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Islands. Watanabe's heart is burning to make an attack soon. The submarine captain's target area is the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the northern coast of the Philippines. On July 24, a Japanese observation plane detects enemy ships about ten kilometers north of Cape Engao. The I-53 submarine can arrive at the area in about five hours. The last frame of this manga volume shows Watanabe ready and firmly committed to make an attack.

Throughout Volume 6 and prior volumes, the way that the manga artist depicts Watanabe's hair and beard reflects his mental state in general. His hair and beard grow wilder, longer, and more blurred as his mental state becomes more agitated or depressed. In the last part of Volume 6, even though he still has a beard and rather unkempt hair, his appearance looks better after getting assigned as a kaiten pilot in the Tamon Unit. About 20 pages of this volume show graphic drawings of the devastation and suffering caused by the Tokyo fire bombings and the Battle of Okinawa. The author notes that 886,000 people died in the bombings of Tokyo and other Japanese cities by B-29s and that about 65,000 soldiers and 150,000 civilians lost their lives during the fighting at Okinawa.


Kaiten pilot Yuzo Watanabe,
with beard on first row,
receives orders as part of Tamon Unit