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 .
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
, "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 . Also, it is
hard to imagine Franklin crewmembers "calmly" watching as a Japanese plane
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 , 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
, but its first deployment had actually been on March 21,1945 (Naito 1989, 112-8).
The narrator incorrectly explains , "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" ,
even though one military historian more correctly explains that the Japanese military was
"desperate"  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.
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.
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
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