S.O.S. Catastrophe: Typhoons and Kamikaze
Produced and written by John Borst
Madacy Entertainment, 1998, 21 min., Video
This ten-segment video series on five tapes covers
historical events from the 1930s to the 1960s, such as the 1937 Hindenburg
disaster, the 1956 sinking of the Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria, and the 1963 cave-in of a Pennsylvania coal mine. The segment entitled
Typhoons and Kamikaze has about five minutes on the typhoon that hit the
Allied fleet in June 1945, and the remainder covers Japanese kamikaze attacks.
The video has a second segment, which covers the bombing of the USS Franklin
by a regular Japanese bomber rather than a kamikaze. The information given by
the segment on kamikaze confuses historical facts and perpetuates myths about
This documentary gives both an incomplete and inaccurate
depiction of Japan's kamikaze operations. The video's history starts in March
1945, with no mention made of the kamikaze attacks that had started in the
Philippines in October 1944. The narrator makes it sound like the Allied troops
off Okinawa in March 1945 could not believe a pilot would purposely fly his
plane into a ship, even though kamikaze attacks had already sunk or damaged
over one hundred Allied ships in the Philippines (O'Neill 1999, 131-2; Ozawa
1983, 88). In another example of misleading information, the narrator describes the beginning
of mass kamikaze attacks by hundreds of planes on the task force off Okinawa,
but then the film clip shows the departure of the five planes in the first
kamikaze unit in the Philippines . The video says the purpose of the Kikusui
mass attacks by kamikaze planes was to stop the Allied task force preparing for
the invasion of Okinawa. However, the first Kikusui attack did not occur
until April 6, and the Okinawa invasion started on April 1.
The video includes some interesting commentary by two men
who experienced kamikaze attacks on their ships off Okinawa and by the director
of the Intrepid Museum in New York City. Their comments about the American side
of the battle bring realism to the video's presentation, but their opinions on
Japanese kamikaze pilots do not correspond with historical facts. A survivor of
the aircraft carrier Intrepid says kamikaze pilots were shackled in
their planes and could not get out, so they had only the option of
crashing into ships. Although it is possible this could have happened in an
isolated instance, the vast majority of pilots willingly gave their lives to protect
their country from the approaching enemy. Another comment is made that the
pilots often had two to three hours of training prior to being sent on kamikaze
attacks. Japanese pilots suffered from severely inadequate training near the
end of the war, but this low number is exaggerated. Most kamikaze pilots had 100 or 200 training
flight hours (Brown 1990, 53; Warner 1982, 78-79).
This documentary's errors on kamikaze history make it a video to stay away
the other segments in this series on catastrophes provide interesting
information with many historical film clips.
1. At 3:05 in video.
Brown, David. 1990. Kamikaze. Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books.
O'Neill, Richard. 1999. Suicide Squads: The Men and Machines of World War II
Special Operations. Originally published in 1981. London: Salamander Books.
Ozawa, Ikurō. 1983. Tsurai shinjitsu: kyokō no tokkō shinwa
(Hard truths: Fictitious special attack myths). Tōkyō: Dohsei Publishing Co.
Warner, Denis, Peggy
Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide
Legions. New York: Van Nostrand