The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II
by Captain Rikihei Inoguchi and Commander Tadashi Nakajima
with Roger Pineau
Naval Institute Press, 1958, 240 pages
Two former officers of the Imperial Japanese Navy tell their
version of the history of the kamikaze attacks. Captain Rikihei Inoguchi served
as senior staff officer to Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, who initiated Japan's
kamikaze attacks against American ships in the Philippines. Commander Tadashi
Nakajima was flight operations officer for the 201st Air Group, which
organized the first kamikaze special attack corps. Nakajima later served on the
staff of the air fleet that launched suicide attacks against the American fleet
around Okinawa. These two eyewitnesses to events surrounding the kamikaze
operations provide many insights into the motivations and feelings of both the
leaders and pilots of the kamikaze units.
Inoguchi and Nakajima first published their account in
Japanese in 1951 under the title Kamikaze Tokubetsu Kogekitai (Kamikaze
Special Attack Forces), and the U.S. Naval Institute published the first
English translation in 1953. Roger Pineau, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II
and the co-author of several books about the war in the Pacific, reorganized
the original text, retranslated some sections, and added footnotes for the
version published in 1958. His thorough research, thoughtful editing, and
accurate translations produced a book that for several decades has been both
popular with a wide audience and valuable to historians. The 1958 version also
contains a five-page preface written by Inoguchi and Nakajima in December 1957.
Both Bantam (1960) and Ballantine (1968) published paperback versions that were
reprinted several times, and the book has been translated to several other
The Divine Wind covers the kamikaze operations from
October 19, 1944, the date of the formation of the first kamikaze special
attack corps, to the end of the war. Inoguchi and Nakajima divide up the
chapters between them, so some chapters cover the same events from each
author's individual perspective. The book's events follow a rough chronological
order, with Part One covering the "Birth of the Kamikaze" in which
both authors participated. Parts Two and Three cover the special attack units
in the Philippines and Taiwan, respectively. Part Four details the last-ditch
efforts of Japan's military to launch suicide assaults against the American
fleet surrounding Okinawa. The last part gives Inoguchi's reflections on the
decision to use suicide tactics to wage war against the United States, and the
last chapter of this part contains several letters from kamikaze pilots.
Some readers may question the objectivity of two former
Japanese Navy officers actively involved in the leadership of the kamikaze
special attack forces. Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney expresses this view in her book Kamikaze,
Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms (2002, 158):
In addition to being decisively one-sided, Inoguchi
and Nakajima's publication is marred by inaccuracies. For example, when citing
letters and diaries, they took the liberty of combining passages written on
different occasions into an entry. These former officers presented their
wishful portrayal as the "real" representation of the tokkotai
[special attack] operation to non-Japanese readers.
Although the two authors certainly had their biases and
Inoguchi during the war even coordinated the suppression of negative publicity
about the kamikaze operations, I believe the authors succeed in their goal to
explain the circumstances under which kamikaze attacks came about and how they
were performed. They acknowledge various criticisms against the kamikaze
attacks, and they try to answer some of these charges by relating their own
experiences. This book has remained for several decades the standard
English-language reference for researchers of the kamikaze operations, and the
lack of any significant criticism of its historical accuracy casts doubt on
Ohnuki-Tierney's assertion that it is "marred by inaccuracies."
Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi played the central role in the
creation of the kamikaze forces. Inoguchi devotes a later chapter to his
accomplishments, personality, and viewpoints. Although Inoguchi respected him
as a leader qualified to direct Japan's defense of the Philippines in hopeless
circumstances, the author does not give only a flattering description of him.
Four days after Ohnishi broached the idea of suicide attacks, he said to his
officers, "We will tolerate no criticism of any kind of the operations
that are about to be undertaken. . . . Stern discipline will be meted out to
anyone who criticizes orders or neglects to carry them out. In flagrant cases
there will be no hesitancy about exacting the extreme penalty" (p. 180).
The kamikaze pilots portrayed in this book generally exhibit
great enthusiasm for their missions, such as one pilot who wrote in a letter to
his father, "Without regard for life or name, a samurai will defend his
homeland" (p. 200). However, one must keep in mind that many comments in the
book represent the officers' observations and opinions of the pilot's reactions
and feelings. Also, military officers demanded obedience and the pilots were
subjected to intense social pressure to meet the expectations of their comrades
and their families. Therefore, the pilots' expressions of desire to dive into
enemy ships should be critically assessed based on the environment of the
times. Although Ohnuki-Tierney criticizes the authors for combining passages
when citing letters in order to create a positive portrayal of the pilots, some
negative comments from the pilots are expressed, such as the following one,
"It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I think of the deceits being
played on innocent citizens by some of our wily politicians" (p. 199).
This history focuses on the Imperial Japanese Navy's
kamikaze operations, starting with the creation of the first official kamikaze
unit. Even though the Army supplied about a third of the kamikaze planes and
pilots, the book has almost no mention of the Army's contribution. Also, the
authors' story of the formation of the first kamikaze unit gives little
background about the military and government leaders' prior support for the
development and deployment of special (suicide) attack weapons. Readers may conclude
incorrectly that the plan for kamikaze plane attacks on American ships came
directly from Vice Admiral Ohnishi when he arrived in the Philippines in
October 1944. Although this book gives details of the desperate military
situation faced by the Japanese at that time, The Sacred Warriors by
Denis and Peggy Warner provides some valuable background on the military
leaders' promotion of special attack operations prior to the creation of the
first kamikaze corps by Ohnishi.
The two authors argue convincingly that the Japanese
military had few options available to them as the Americans began their
invasion of the Philippines in October 1944. Japan had only a handful of
operational aircraft, pilots with limited training and experience, and older
planes that were no match for the American ones. At this point in the war
Japanese pilots had little chance of coming back alive even when they used
conventional attack methods. Since Japan's leaders claimed that Japan would
never surrender, many senior military officers and also pilots supported
kamikaze tactics of imparting as much damage as possible to the enemy since
they were most likely destined to die regardless of the attack method employed.
Inoguchi and Nakajima acknowledge that many people regard such attacks as
barbarous, if not insane, but they try to explain the desperate circumstances
at the time the first kamikaze corps launched attacks against American ships.
Unmatched by any other book, the first-hand accounts in The
Divine Wind reveal the thinking of the leaders of Japan's kamikaze corps.
The book also provides insights into the feelings of the pilots, but some of
this may represent more the observations of the authors rather than the real
emotions of those assigned to fly on suicide missions.
Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. 2002. Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and
Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History.
Chicago: University of Chicago.