Who became kamikaze pilots, and How did they feel towards their suicide mission?

Who became kamikaze pilots, and How did they feel towards their suicide mission?


This extended essay is about the Kamikaze pilots who made suicide attacks from the air during the Pacific War. This paper aims to find who the pilots really were and how they felt about their suicide mission. The hypothesis for the research was that any pilot could become a Kamikaze pilot, and that the pilots probably felt scared, yet took the responsibility to carry out their mission.

Most of the investigations were made through primary sources. Since the Kamikaze attacks were made from bases in Kyushu, there are several museums there where information may be found. There, the actual letters and diaries that the pilots had left behind are displayed. Also, fifteen interviews with survivors of the attacks, relatives and other people related to the attacks were made. Since the Kamikaze attacks were made only fifty years ago, a great quantity of documents was available.

The time period in concern is from early 1944 to 1945, and the topic being the Kamikaze pilots, and the region of research was within Japan, mainly Kyushu. The conclusion of this extended essay was that the pilots were ordinary, average young men of the time who volunteered, and that most felt that their dying in such a mission would improve the war situation for the Japanese. However, exactly how the pilots felt could not be fully understood by a student researching the topic fifty years after the actual attack.

In blossom today, then scattered:

Life is so like a delicate flower.

How can one expect the fragrance

To last for ever?

Admiral Onishi Takijiro


During World War II in the Pacific, there were pilots of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy who made suicide attacks, driving their planes to deliberately crash into carriers and battle- ships of the Allied forces. These were the pilots known as the Kamikaze pilots. This essay focuses on how they felt about their suicide mission. Because right-wing organizations have used the Kamikaze pilots as a symbol of a militaristic and extremely nationalistic Japan, the current Japanese respond to the issue with ignorance and false stereotypes and with generally negative and unsympathetic remarks. The aim of this essay is to reveal the often unknown truth concerning the pilots, and above all to give a clearer image as to who the pilots really were. The hypothesis behind the question, «Who were the Kamikaze pilots and how did they feel towards their suicide mission?» is that any pilot devoted to the country, who volunteered and was chosen felt scared, yet took the responsibility to carry out his mission.

Part One

The death of Emperor Taisho may be the point when Japan had started to become the fascist state that it was during the Pacific War. Although the military had been active ever since the Jiji period (1867−1912) in wars such as the Sino-Japanese War (1894−1895), and the Russo-Japanese War (1904−1905), it became extremely active when Crown Prince Hirohito became Emperor Showa. Coup d’etats became frequent, and several political figures were assassinated. By Emperor Showa’s reign, the military had the real authority.[1]

According to those who have lived through the early Showa period (1926−1945), the presence of Emperor Showa was like that of a god and he was more of a religious figure than a political one.[2] In many of the haiku that the Kamikaze pilots wrote, the Emperor is mentioned in the first line.

Systematic and organized education made such efficient «brainwashing» possible. In public schools, students were taught to die for the emperor. By late 1944, a slogan of Jusshi Reisho meaning «Sacrifice life,» was taught.[3]