Modelling-ABC by Wilfried Eck

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Ki-84 from "57. Special Attack Unit" (J. Army), Chiran 1945


A6M5 from 201 Wing (J. Navy), Mabalacat 25.10.44

Profile: Srecko Bradic


Profile: Srecko Bradic




"Fanatics, brainwashed or forced to participate in a mission with no return  following an order of the emperor."

That's all nonsense!

Mistake No. 1: Tenno Hirohito was emperor - sovereign - of Japan.
Not at all. In Japan the Tenno was considered as descendant - son - of Amaterasu, goddess of the sun.  Divine, spiritual, far away from daily business. Head of Japan in a more mystic almost religious way.
In reality Japan was ruled by military leaders since hundreds of years. Even after the "Shogun" , the formal administration was disbanded in 1868 politics were still entirely made by military leaders.  Especially after world war I military thinking and its influence in daily life was omnipotent. Even children were taught to die for the Tenno was sweet and honorful.
Ordering self sacrifice was neither in the competence of the Tenno nor was it his outspoken will.  When he was told about the first such attack he appreciated the success but mourned the fate of the pilot.
But it would be an error to say the behavior of Tenno Hirohito was without any fault. When he personally declared capitulation against the outspoken will of some members of his war cabinet he showed that it was possible - though without precedence - to overrule his stubborn administration. Many lives could have been spared.
Mistake No. 2: Kamikaze pilots were ordered to do so.
Sometimes indeed. But not generally, only in a later stage of the war, and solely by  Army commanders, not in the Navy.   As the war ended before all Army-recruited personnel had been "expended",  there were some left to tell how they got into the "Kamikaze"-Corps. Sad stories. - But not representitive for the whole affair. One sided investigation or simply ignorance of facts hides the true story.
In the Navy there was no need for orders, brainwashing or the else. There were more real volunteers than needed. Contrary to the Army the Japanese Navy could afford the "luxury" of rejecting married applicants, first and only sons.
The idea of self sacrifice to avoid defeat was born in the ranks of the Navy, not ordered from above.
"Bushido", the codex of warriors in the middle ages, had not only survived into the 20th century it had also spread into civilian life. Loyality (esp. obdience to orders) and disregard of pain or death being the most prominent, and were of high regard. This lead to a generally accepted and expected "victory or death".
Mistake No. 3 "Brainwashed fanatics"
Neither an Army nor a Navy pilot wanted to die. Like their counterparts on the Allied side they were eager to live and love, drink and drive. They weren't  fanatics, just desperate young men. They did what they thought to be necessary  to save Japan.
Tutorial (military influenced) education and Japanese propaganda inevitably led to an enthusiastic patriotism in universities and high schools which prompted quite a few teenagers to volunteer. Influenced since their childhood they were proud to do so. Somehow they were brainwashed indeed.


Why then?

Simply to defend their country and their families. Deposition of the godly Tenno - unthinkable! To see mothers and sisters raped by gruel Americans (Japanese propaganda) even more so.
To understand the motivation that led to a warfare unheard of, one has to take the military situation into account. By mid 1944 it was desparate.
In 1942 Japan had held a vast territory. China, Indochina, Burma, and large parts of the pacific ocean. The next goal being Australia. Then came the battle of Midway. Japan not only lost four aircraft carriers, but with them hundreds of well trained pilots. In 1943 the battles in the Solomon islands chain were costly again. More veteran pilots were lost, replacements had to be taken prematurely from training.  They fell even quicker (not at least due to the flimsy construction of their aircraft). In the US there was no lack of well trained pilots,  superior aircraft and -carriers left the factories in a steadily growing stream.  Japan lost island after island. When in spring 1944 also the Marianas fell victory for Japan was out of question, especially so because an all out attempt had ended in great loss of materiel and personnel. Hundreds of pilots (including the last carrier capable ones) were lost in one day ("the great Marianas turkey shoot"). Afterwards there were only very few capable pilots left.
Aircraft (and pilots) are vital in an environment  where small reefs and islands are separated by hundres of miles of sheer water. The posession of an island with an airfield on it allows control over sea and land around it (measured by aircraft range). Therefore the Allied warfare in central pacific relied almost entirely on aircraft carriers, hitting at will whatever Japanese stronghold could be used as staging point for the next operation. On the other side Japan having had lost most of its carriers was glued to each of its islands, not knowing which one was the next target for US strike forces.
By 1944 also the Army branch of the Jap. armed forces (having fought in New Guinea and adjacent  inslands) had be driven back to the Philippines. Also with great losses.
In Western eyes ordering a meagerly trained pilot to fight a 10.1 supremacy in an elderly aircraft would be called murder. But there was no choice. As surrender was out of question they had to fight to get an acceptable peace treaty at least.  When they left the airfield they were sure only a few would come back (if any). They fell like flies.
To defend the Philippines  against the "big blue blanket" (US carrier based aircraft) the Japanese Navy had a mere 27 aircraft (30 to other sources, but this doesn't make it much better).
That fighting could mean death was deeply imposed in every Japanese soldier. If it led to victory death was justified. This was the old Samurai tradition every soldier lived after. Furthermore "Bushido" had influenced Japanese thinking so much that surrender would be loss of honour (worth more than one's life), but also a disgrace with ever lasting shame on the family. Last not least many Japanese believed in Buddhism, where death was simply a transition from one life into an other (the warrior being reborn in "Yasukuni", some sort of "Walhall", where one met the heroes of former times and savoured the very best).
In the result: When you were killed anyway (without having achieved anything) then it made some sense indeed to go for the carriers (where all these threat came of) and aim with the own aircraft to the last. In Samurai tradition this was a most honorable way to die (and gain victory).
Due to their unprotected wooden decks US aircraft carriers  were very vulnerable. Especially so because in the hangar deck one level below there were not only aircraft fully gassed up but also all sorts of ammunition to be loaded for the next mission. If they were heated by fire they would blow up.
In the result the first "Kamikaze"-mission was flown Oct. 25th 1944. Many were to follow.

More about Bushido and Samurai:
More about Samurai:

Usual fate of Jap. air attacks. This time Marianas operation June 1944

More on page J - "Kamikaze"