Suicide attacks found their roots into despair, pride and glory of the country. They were devastating. From the kamikazes, Hollywood kept only the memory of their scream: banzai.
History has certainly not forgotten the kamikaze (神 風, god and wind, « divine wind »), these Japanese soldiers that did suicide missions during the World War II. They voluntarily crashed their planes and submarines against their enemies. Yes, suicide attacks weren’t only coming from the sky.
The horrifying glorification of kamikaze
Nowadays, kamikaze are somehow glorified, romanticized and idealized. This is forgetting that, if a handful voluntarily flew to their deaths, many were forced into this act of sacrifice in the name of the Japanese emperor. Just take a peek at the data from the war: suicide attacks surely scared the allies, but didn’t slow their progression. Kamikaze were just adding more death to the toll.
Survivors against the historical glorification
Kuwahara is a survivor of the war. And he fought hard to tell his story. The special unit of kamikaze attack (特別 攻 撃 隊) « is not a beautiful thing ». Twice during the war he was sent bearing death, twice to finally return to his base thanks to equipment malfunction.
« It was de facto compulsory to commit kamikaze attacks. Attacks weren’t based on our wills. War always sacrifices the weak. War should not occur ».
As the battle in Okinawa worsen, Kuwahara was transfered to the Kushira base, in Kagoshima.
« My friend asked me to exchange places, because he did not want to die. I could not respond to his request. He fled and never returned « .
Finally, time has come for Kuwahara. On May 3, he received the order to commit a kamikaze attack. He boarded a plane with two other riders and 800 kilogram of explosives. But the engine began to malfunction, producing black smoke. They returned to their base and and were scolded.
A week later he received a second order. This time, oil began to leak from his unit. He landed on Tanegashima and was moved to Taiwan, where he witnessed the announcement of the end of the war. His mother wept with joy when he returned home.
« Our unit chief never boarded a plane, and the soldiers he liked were never ordered to commit such attack. The strong use the weak soldiers like bullets ».
Kuwahara has published a book « Kushira, memory of a special unit member of attack », in which he relates his experience to counter the idealization and glorification of suicide bombers stories. Condemned to disgrace for such a book, he replied:
« It is easy to be intoxicated with romanticized stories, but war is not like that ».