Portrayal Of Kamikaze Pilots In The Film Wings Of Defeat

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Herbert Hoover, who served as the president of America, once claimed that “Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. ” During the Pacific war, the Japanese military government demanded thousands of young pilots to volunteer as Kamikaze forces to die for their nation. Kamikaze forces were the group of an army who were sent off to commit suicide air attacks against the enemy. These Kamikaze pilots were commonly described as an ardent believer of the emperor who embraced death without questions. Nowadays, most foreigners portray Kamikaze pilots as ‘unthinking patriotic zealots’ for the emperor.

The movie ‘Wings of Defeat’ revealed the true images of these Kamikaze pilots by interviewing survivors of the war in their eighties. By directing the film ‘Wings of defeat’, Risa Morimoto had a chance to retrace her uncle’s footstep. It was a shock for Risa Morimoto to learn that her uncle ‘Tsunade Toshio’ was one of Kamikaze pilots. Born and educated in New York, she had a negative concept about Kamikaze like other foreigners. Ultimately, the film helps the audience to break down their stereotypes about Kamikaze and to question what responsibilities a government at war has to its soldiers and citizens. Kamikaze attack first started off in 1944, when America attempted to take the Philippines back.

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Attacking the American colony, Japanese government legitimized that they are emancipating Asia from western colonialism and imperialism. Opposing America, Japan’s national identification changed to the militaristic nation as a leader in Asia. As this idea permeated the nation, Tsunade Toshio joined army pilot cadet academy like many other young men. He thought it was the right thing for men to do. But the reality was harsh. One of the survivors, Ena Takehiko recalled that as the Kamikaze pilot, they always had a glimpse of death at their face. When they were on a mission, on the outside they were all smiling. But they were crying inside, thinking ‘it's my turn next, and I will never be able to come back again’. From the outside, the attack looked courageous, but for individual pilots, it was a painful order. Kamikaze pilots all experienced we-hood through the shared task. They were ordered to dedicate themselves to their country. When one of the pilots was sent on a mission, the other pilots felt sympathy and fear at the same time, since they were a community of soldiers fighting for Japan. Still, the parades and unstoppable victories of the Japanese army seemed glorious. This attracted more young boys to join the pilot cadet academy. At the time, the group identity of Japan was centered on sacrificing lives to protect Japan from threats. During the 19th century, the Japanese government re-identified citizens to serve for their nation through education. They learned that the nation should be served by citizens. Being educated, everyone in Japan was ready to die for their country. This works as an example of us-hood discussed by Mr. Thomas Eriksen. Us-hood in Japan invoked through the conflict with America, the external enemy.

At the critical moment of war, Japanese has educated that the American army is dangerous and volatile. This enemy image of America enhanced the group identity of Japan. Like Simmel’s rule, the degree of America’s threat as external pressure allowed the Japanese to sense internal solidarity. Some of the people recruited in the military including young students knew that they couldn’t win against America. However, the government ordered them to fight. It was because Japan couldn’t accept the fact that it could no longer fight even though their main cities were destroyed. In the navy attack pushed by the government, 3000 were boy pilots out of 4000 dead pilots. Most of them were inexperienced, therefore didn’t even know how to fly in formation. Nakajima Kazuo, as the survivor, confessed that he felt conflicted about the Showa Emperor saying that “Why couldn’t he have ordered the war to end sooner?”. I also thought it was a reckless plan to send pilots to targets nearly impossible to reach. I found out that most of these young pilots were well-educated human resources who may have been able to lead the future of the country. Some of the young soldiers were able to speak and understand literature written by foreign languages like German and French. The government lost many talented young people with the ineffective plan.

As professor John Dower pointed out, although The soldiers realized that their efforts were vain, but still they were all driven by a sense of mission. What motivated them to go and fight was we-hood. Their motives weren’t purely about devotion to the emperor. They have seen their beloved homeland being tortured by the American army. Their uniqueness of being Japanese and patriotism lead them to go to war. When they were feeling a sense of we-hood, the nationalism became important. They were willing to fight off against American’s immoral act. In the sequel documentary ‘Wings of Defeat: Another Journey’, American navy soldiers named Fred Michell and Gene Brick had the opportunity to meet with the former Kamikaze pilots in Japan. These four people were once forced to sacrifice their lives for their country. Recurring their war memories, they learn to tolerate each other. They were told to regard each other as enemies. this is the ‘culture of war’ like Professor John Dower stated.

During the war, both American soldiers and Japanese soldiers created their own ‘band of brothers. ’ This enclosed world shaped the way they identify themselves. In the documentary, they get off from this band of brothers, sharing the guilt of the survivor. Although they weren’t from the same country, they feel united with each other as the survivor of the war. At this moment, these four people experience us-hood. They were all former soldiers fighting for their country. At the same time, they witnessed a terrible battlefield, where they were ordered to kill each other. Sitting together, they come together with a sense of humanity and philanthropist. This resulted in them to feel intimate and feel mutual respect. Watching both films, I was able to challenge my stereotype about Kamikaze pilots.

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