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The Kamikazes
Gladiators of World War II The Kamikazes (2002– )
TV Episode
  • Director:
    Charles Messenger
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Charles Messenger
  • Cast:
    Robert Powell,Hirohito,Douglas MacArthur
  • Time:
  • Year:
Episode credited cast:
Robert Powell Robert Powell - Himself - Narrator (voice)

Gladiators of World War II The Kamikazes (2002– )
The Mongol fleets under Kublai Kahn twice attacked Japan, in 1274 and 1281, and both times were destroyed by storms. It was these storms that the Kamikaze groups were named after, "Divine Wind." In 1944 and 1945, the job of the Kamikaze was to dive directly onto American ships and sink them at the expense of their own lives.

This program describes the history of the pilots and their code of Bushido that demanded self sacrifice. There is quite a lot of combat footage, judicially used graphics, and several talking heads, both Japanese and Americans.

The Kamikaze attacks did an enormous amount of damage to our fleets at Leyte Gulf and especially at Okinawa. What began as a spontaneous movement was organized into a precise plan. Pilots were told exactly which ships to attack and how to approach them.

By this time, the Japanese had clearly lost the war. There was little left of the Army, and the Navy had been put out of action at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The air units had lost the cream of their experienced pilots. One of the virtues of the suicidal attacks is that they required little in the way of tactics, only take offs elementary navigation. The supply of pilots and airplanes was finally exhausted and only two nuclear bombs put an end to the carnage.

The pilots themselves were mostly in their teens and prompted to volunteer only by their ideology, not by any wish to die. Once in the air, if the pilot began to doubt the value of his mission, he couldn't very easily turn back. He was in the position of someone who wants to back out of a wedding at the last moment, after the invitations have gone out and the presents have begun to arrive.

There is no hint of fanaticism left among the surviving members of the Kamikaze, not any longer anyway. But our picture of self-sacrificing Japanese warriors may have fit the necessary stereotype -- if you kill someone he must be evil -- but it wasn't true. The rumor among American troops and sailors was that they were hopped up on dope or sake. Instead, they were rational in all respects except that they were in the grip of a nationalistic ideology from which they could never free themselves because their comrades and family held the same beliefs. Nobody wants to be labeled a coward.

And the nature of the men sheds a certain light on how limited our conception of masculinity is. Its range is, let's say, truncated. No "real man" cares about poetry. It's not part of our warrior role. Yet the Japanese Kamikaze left souvenirs, a lock of hair or a doll, for their wives and families, and often some brief heartbreaking poems. And on the evening before a battle, the generals of Ancient Greece wrote poems and discussed philosophy. General Patton was a poet. John Wayne was permitted to recite a poem only once in a film, "They Were Expendable," and only after prefacing it by announcing that it was the only one he knew, just to make sure the listeners knew he wasn't a fairy.