Panorama of destroyed Hiroshima after the nuclear detonation in 1945

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I took a history course on the Pacific War, and a large part of the module was dedicated to Kamikaze participation from the POV of the Japanese. Having read through the materials, including the diaries of the suicide pilots, I can say it isn’t entirely accurate to call them “volunteers” because there was an enormous pressure for pilots who were asked to participate to accept.

I recall that some soldiers were required to line up, and asked to step forward should they decline to participate, thus facing humiliation and ostracism from the group should they refuse. There were also many instances of soldiers being deceived into commitment through ambiguous requests, or having requests for non-participation ignored outright.

Aside from that, many of the young Japanese that were recruited expressed a strong antipathy towards the West, and this was linked to Western colonial practices in Asia, as well as the US conduct of civilian bombing against the Japanese (both of which were no doubt played up by the war-time government).

To sum up, here’s an excerpt from one of the [books](http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/619508.html) I read that I found particularly striking:
>At the hall where their farewell parties were held, the young student officers drank cold sake the night before their flight. Some gulped the sake in one swallow; others kept gulping down [a large amount]. The whole place turned to mayhem. Some broke hanging light bulbs with their swords. Some lifted chairs to break the windows and tore white tablecloths. A mixture of military songs and curses filled the air. While some shouted in rage, others cried aloud. It was their last night of life. They thought of their parents, their faces and images, lovers’ faces and their smiles, a sad farewell to their fiancées—all went through their minds like a running-horse lantern [a rapidly revolving lantern with many pictures on it].

>Although they were supposedly ready to sacrifice their precious youth the next morning for imperial Japan and for the emperor, they were torn beyond what words can express—some putting their heads on the table, some writing their wills, some folding their hands in meditation, some leaving the hall, and some dancing in a frenzy while breaking flower vases. They all took off wearing the rising sun headband the next morning. But this scene of utter desperation has hardly been reported. I observed it with my own eyes, as I took care of their daily life, which consisted of incredibly strenuous training, coupled with cruel and torturous corporal punishment as a daily routine.

Sources:

* Cook, H. T. & Cook, T. F. (eds.), *Japan at War: An Oral History*, New York: New Press, 1992, 305-27.

* Hill, Peter, ‘Kamikaze, 1943-5’ in D. Gambetta (ed.), *Making Sense of Suicide Missions*, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005, 1-41.

* Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko, Kamikaze, *Cherry Blossoms and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History*, Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

* Ibid., Kamikaze *Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers*, Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

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