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The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II
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Top Customer Reviews
Contrary to popular American belief, the "Divine Wind" actions were counter to the deeply-held traditions of the Japanese Navy. As the last bastion of the old samurai class, Naval officers viewed a battle death without serious chance to harm the enemy as a disgrace, not an honor. At the time of the first attacks, the Naval Air Corp's aircraft were hopelessly outclassed, their state of repair and readiness was abysmal, and their pilots were woefully inexperienced and sorely lacking in chances for flight time. Faced with these facts, and under pressure from their own men, Inoguchi and Nakajima (with difficulty) secured permission for the first suicide attacks.
The true story is far from the sensationalistic view painted on the History Channel or in War At Sea, and the two former officers paint it with as much dignity as they know how. It begins to dispell the stereotypes of contempt for life and paint a picture of what it was like to be a proud warrior in a cause you had begun to realize you could not win. This is must reading for anyone who wants to understand how it feels at the wrong end of the stick.
It is not only a source-document for military history, containing the recollections of surviving participants in the "Divine Wind" campaign, but has material of profound psychological and even philosophical interest. The (late) Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann called particular attention to the collection of letters from young pilots who had volunteered for the mission of dying in the hope of striking the enemy. This final chapter (followed by statistical appendices on sorties) is, to my (inexpert) knowledge, the largest single group of such documents available in English. [Note, January 2015: It turns out that a collection of such letters appeared several years after I wrote this review; "Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers" edited by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (2006).]
There are also some fascinating reflections from volunteers who survived the war, and faced a difficult adjustment not only to defeat and peace, but to life.
There are now available more detailed accounts of the main Kamikaze effort.Read more ›
Despite some muddy quasi-philosophical musings on these questions by Inoguchi and Nakajima, especially in the concluding chapters, they are for the most part simply avoided lest they shed light on the embarrassing imaginative limits and moral cowardice of those in charge. Because some Japanese at the time had the courage and professional pride to pose similar questions (as, indeed, the book relates) one comes away from reading “The Divine Wind” knowing that “Bushido spirit” (or any other supposedly unique Japanese national characteristic) did not preclude rational analysis of the circumstances and likely outcomes at the time, or fully explain the chosen courses of action. One is also therefore left to conclude that where “special attacks” are concerned Japan’s naval leadership acted in a colossal, months-long fit of pique, reflecting a blinding, furious frustration with their inability to halt or even measurably impede the American advance and with an astonishing lack of concern for the consequences.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was fascinating for me because of two factors. First it described the reasons and techniques for convincing flyers to partake in suicide behavior. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Bruce Abele
Although written in 1958, this is still the best account of the kamikaze pilots. Other books cover the topic as only one part of a larger account of other events like the Okinawa... Read morePublished on July 2, 2014 by D. Croft