Re-examining the kamikaze pilots of World War II
By Torunn Sinclair

More than two million Japanese servicemen died in World War II... a little more than 1,500 of the men were kamikaze pilots. During the World War II, kamikaze pilots were known to Americans as Japanese suicide pilots. Mostly, the Japanese pilots would crash their planes into ships because they ran out of ammunition. The Japanese military servicemen crashed their planes as a last-ditch attempt to try to win World War II during October 1944 and August 1945.

The story of kamikaze pilots' is often misunderstood because of their willingness to kill themselves.

Bill Gordon hopes to enlighten Americans about the intention of kamikaze pilots. He holds a master's degree in Japanese and wrote his thesis about the pilots.

"If you were a Japanese pilot in World War II you had almost a 100 percent chance you were going to die," Gordon said. "The idea was if you were going to get shot down anyway why not make it more effective."

He stressed that kamikaze pilots were often uncomfortable and scared with the orders they were given because of the imminent death that awaited them at the end of their missions.

"These were not stupid men," he said. "Many of them had the equivalent of what we would call an Ivy-league degree. They honestly thought they were performing their duty."

According to a survey of 451 kamikaze pilots done during a three-month period in 1945, the majority of pilots surveyed said they were performing this duty for "honor."

Gordon was not surprised by this fact because of their country-first mentality.

"Our perception and their perception is so different," Gordon said. "They were just doing what they thought was best for their country and they didn't want to disappoint their families."

Hatsuho Naito shared kamikaze pilots' last letters in his novel, Thunder Gods. The majority of death letters written by the kamikaze pilots mention family and the honor it will bring to the pilot and his family.

Gordon cited Americans' cultural upbringing as a reason U.S. pilots did not agree with the kamikaze cause.

"We were brought up to love our country," he said. "Their families (the Japanese families) consider them heroes because they did as they were told."

The faces of the kamikaze pilots