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No Surrender: German and Japanese Kamikazes
Written by George Kerevan
Produced by Andy Aitken
A&E Television Networks, 2003, 91 min., DVD

Exaggerated, misleading, and incorrect statements fill the narration of this DVD, despite it having been shown on A&E's History Channel. In sharp contrast, the clips of interviews with several military historians and aircraft carrier Intrepid crewmen contain frank, interesting, and accurate remarks regarding the history of Japanese kamikaze and German suicide aircraft.

This program has two distinct parts with little overlap. The first half describes Japanese suicide attacks by planes, kaiten (manned torpedoes), and ohka (piloted rocket-powered gliders). The second half covers German efforts to develop weapons considered by many to be suicide weapons, since pilots had little chance of survival.

In frequent interview clips, Edward Drea, Peter Tsouras, and two other military historians give insightful comments about Japanese kamikaze [1]. The writer of this documentary frequently ignores or twists their reasoned observations. The narration in the Japanese section of this documentary contains constant historical inaccuracies. For example, when describing the first suicide attack, the narrator says [2], "October 1944 - The unsuspecting crew of the U.S. aircraft carrier Franklin calmly watches a lone Japanese plane approaching its flight deck. Its pilot is Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima. . . . For the first time in the war, he's going to deliberately crash his plane into a U.S. warship." However, the historical facts are quite different. Arima took off with a group of about 100 planes, and he did not hit any ship before he was shot down [3]. Also, it is hard to imagine Franklin crewmembers "calmly" watching as a Japanese plane approached.

A few additional examples illustrate the glaring errors found throughout the narration. The documentary refers to Admiral Ohnishi as the commander of the kamikaze units at the beginning of the Okinawan invasion in April 1945 [4], but at that time Vice Admiral Ugaki commanded the Fifth Air Fleet responsible for kamikaze attacks. The film implies the ohka weapon was first used in April 1945 [5], but its first deployment had actually been on March 21,1945 (Naito 1989, 112-8). The narrator incorrectly explains [6], "Spurred on by the success of their pilot counterparts, two young Navy lieutenants, Kuroki and Nishina, propose to their superiors a modification to the Type 93 Long Lance torpedo. This new version would carry a human pilot and would act as a suicide weapon against U.S. carriers and capital ships." They could not have possibly been spurred on by kamikaze pilots, since Navy officials accepted their proposal in February 1944 (O'Neill 1999, 189), eight months before the formation of the first kamikaze pilot unit.

The documentary's puffery is distracting. The "never before seen footage" turns out only to be standard wartime film clips, movie excerpts depicting historical events, a man silently acting as a kamikaze pilot in a room, and a woman giving a similar performance as German test pilot Hanna Reitsch. The film does include some effective models using computer graphics to show how the weapons would have been used. The narrator describes the weapons as "cutting-edge technology, light years ahead of its time," even though most of them never made it out of development and testing. Those weapons that were deployed, such as the ohka and kaiten, had almost no military impact due to design weaknesses and operational failures.

This film perpetuates erroneous stereotypes about kamikaze pilots. The narration mentions "fanaticism," "kill themselves in the name of the Emperor," and "suicidal youth movement" [7], even though one military historian more correctly explains that the Japanese military was "desperate" [8] with few other options to stop the Allied advance. The end of the DVD unfairly shows a kamikaze pilot's face in front of one of the burning World Trade Towers. The narrator never mentions that Japanese kamikaze pilots used suicide attacks as a battle strategy against military targets during a war, whereas the terrorists who steered planes into the World Trade Towers killed thousands of innocent civilians.

Although the military historians interviewed in this DVD have much to offer with their excellent commentary, the inaccuracies and distortions throughout the narration make this a documentary for viewers to avoid.

Notes

1. Drea makes an error regarding the types of students recruited from Japanese universities, when he says (from 4:40 to 4:55 in DVD), "Many of the kamikaze fliers were young students. Many of them had been mobilized in late 1943 and 1944, and they had technical and scientific backgrounds. Thus, they went in for pilot training or other technical military skills." Actually, most university students came from non-technical backgrounds, as explained in Listen to the Voices from the Sea (Nihon Senbotsu 2000, 113), "Those students who were sent to the front because of the end of their deferments in December 1943 were those in law and the liberal arts, plus some from agricultural science. The students in the various fields of natural science, in engineering, medical science, and those in national teachers' training programs, were permitted to continue their studies."

2. From 3:00 to 3:15 and from 3:30 to 3:35 in DVD.

3. See Brown 1990, 17; Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 37; O'Neill 1999, 123-4; Warner and Warner 1982, 84.

4. At 35:20 in DVD.

5. At 36:00 and 40:10 in DVD.

6. From 27:00 to 27:20 in DVD.

7. At 1:00, 1:10, and 24:45 in DVD.

8. At 5:10 in DVD.

Sources Cited

Brown, David. 1990. Kamikaze. Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books.

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

Naito, Hatsuho. 1989. Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell Their Stories. Translated by Mayumi Ishikawa. Tokyo: Kodansha International.

Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinen-Kai (Japan Memorial Society for the Students Killed in the War—Wadatsumi Society), comp. 2000. Listen to the Voices from the Sea: Writings of the Fallen Japanese Students (Kike Wadatsumi no Koe). Translated by Midori Yamanouchi and Joseph L. Quinn.  Scranton: University of Scranton Press.

O'Neill, Richard. 1999. Originally published in 1981 as an illustrated edition. Suicide Squads: The Men and Machines of World War II Special Operations. London: Salamander Books.

Warner, Denis, Peggy Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.