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Japanese girl's WWII job: waving goodbye to kamikaze pilots

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By YURI KAGEYAMA and MIKI TODA

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I guess that this is to be expected, a spate of stories about WWII with the 70th anniversary of the end of the war coming up.

She and the other girls were called Nadeshiko, after the fragile pink flowers seen as a symbol of femininity in Japan.

Hence the name being used for the soccer team?

They were ordered to take care of the pilots at the army base in Chiran. Their jobs included cleaning, doing the laundry, sewing on buttons, and saying goodbye.

They were "ordered"? Interesting choice of words, seems to me from what I've read in history and heard from people who lived through the war folks were pretty patriotic back then and there would have been little need to "order" any of these women to do anything.

Those who refused to fly to their deaths were imprisoned.

And given the choice to slit their stomachs or receive worse. I have been led to believe that no one "refused" more than once, and the ones that did died.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

The suicide attacks were very 'successful' - almost 5,000 Americans killed and as many wounded, not to mention the large number of ships disabled. Not all the pilots were as brave as in the stories related in the article. Many had to be carried into their planes as they were too drunk to walk. My guess is they preferred to stay alive rather than become a firefly. Perhaps an application to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site should be reconsidered.

8 ( +13 / -4 )

“We waved and waved until we couldn’t see them anymore. Why did we have to endure such sorrow?”

Beacause of your government and leaders.

20 ( +27 / -8 )

I wonder if the girls that waved farewell to their brave pilots knew that their planes were unable to return or land-there was only enough fuel for a one way trip whilst the landing gear on the planes had also been disabled.....,

8 ( +9 / -2 )

What's with Japan these days and World Heritage sites? Seems like they want everything to be considered a site.

8 ( +12 / -3 )

War sucks. This is another reminder that Japan needs to stay peaceful and the people need to learn from the horrors of these types stories.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I am sure that others will also make this correction, but Chiran is not applying for UNESCO World Heritage status. It is applying for "Memory of the World" status - a status accorded to places such as Auschwitz. It is in no way intended as a glorification of the war, or the tokko pilots.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I saw the exhibition in Chiran, rather then feeling moved I was angry that many innocent young lives were sacrificed because of the war, whether or not they were "ordered", "volunteered " or "persuade by the nation".

Before Japan considers registering another world heritage site, they should really recognise their barbarity and the matters of comfort women, better yet put them accurately in the history textbook. I assume the nuclear bomb dropping and kamikaze pilots were.

1 ( +4 / -4 )

The suicide attacks were very 'successful' - almost 5,000 Americans killed and as many wounded, not to mention the large number of ships disabled. Not all the pilots were as brave as in the stories related in the article. Many had to be carried into their planes as they were too drunk to walk. My guess is they preferred to stay alive rather than become a firefly. Perhaps an application to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site should be reconsidered.

In fact, the "suicide" attacks were completely ineffective. Yes, 5000 US sailors were killed, but at the cost of around 4000 Japanese pilots and planes. Not 1 of the real targets of the kamikaze, US battleships or aircraft carriers, were ever sunk. The only ships that were suck were the smaller ones that at that stage in the war were easily replaced.

Just a complete waste of youth by cowardly Japanese officers who refused to sacrifice themselves in similar missions.

9 ( +11 / -3 )

i wonder how many on this page have experienced war, the comments i read here make it appear none have.

you may volunteer for service , but in that war there were still many conscripts, and these were teenagers in Japan- under the normal age of service.

i gather if the tide was turned you would let the your country be overrun, not having done anything from the messages i read here.

desperate times, desperate measures so sad

5 ( +7 / -2 )

During WWII, young people all over the world stood up against oppression with so many examples so do not reflect the global uprising it was: jews in Warsaw, partizans in Yugoslavia, camp prisoners in Sobibor, resistance in French Vercors or in Hollande...

Many stood up against evil regimes, even in Italy, even in Germany... But none of that happened in Japan. But while those girls were waving handkerchiefs to suicide bombers, my grandmother's friends (as young as 14-15) were dying fighting the Nazis in clandestine networks in Europe, and young US marines were dying under the kamikazes in the Pacific.

Everybody has always a choice. They had a choice they didn't make. And it is not being insensitive to say that I do not pity them, nor the pilots, nor the handkerchiefs' girls.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

praack - You miss the point so wholly. heres a little nugget from Wiki;

As time wore on, however, modern critics questioning the nationalist portrayal of kamikaze pilots as noble soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives for the country have emerged. In 2006, Tsuneo Watanabe, Editor-in-Chief of the Yomiuri Shimbun, criticized Japanese nationalists' glorification of kamikaze attacks:[42][43][44]

It's all a lie that they left filled with braveness and joy, crying, 'Long live the emperor!' They were sheep at a slaughterhouse. Everybody was looking down and tottering. Some were unable to stand up and were carried and pushed into the plane by maintenance soldiers.

Yes, very noble, wasn't it? (By the way, I'm curious. What war did you serve in?)

4 ( +5 / -1 )

These nadeshiko are yet another example of the insanity that prevailed in Japan during WWII..........

The J-govt & IJA have SO MUCH to apologize for to the world & to their own people, yet we have

Japanese here say Chiran today highlights the horrors and extremes of war, and want their town of 10,000 to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. They have yet to gain even the approval needed from the Japanese government, but an exhibit thousands of miles away suggests there are powerful lessons in the lives lost here 70 years ago.

The J-govt clearly hoping this stuff stays buried.

I find it all rather sad that now almost 70yrs after WWII there is still SO MUCH that Japan hasn't done, doesn't want to do, would prefer we all forget...............

Japan you should be WAY ahead of all this! Decades ago!!

But alas here we are & Japan still forcing itself to pay the price of its stubborn pride!

0 ( +4 / -3 )

Many had to be carried into their planes as they were too drunk to walk

hackney@

What a crap! And how they then flew the aircraft if they were so drunk?

Not 1 of the real targets of the kamikaze, US battleships or aircraft carriers, were ever sunk.

clamenza@

In fact, kamikaze sunk 3 escort aircraft carriers and 14 destroyers. For cruel mathematics of war, not bad for pilots with almost no training.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@clamenza"They were sheep at a slaughterhouse".

This is an example of well-known American propaganda. A rather stupid propaganda, by the way. For instance, if you are a coward and unable to do what heroes of other countries did already, just call them "braiwashed, stupid" etc.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Asakaze - escort carriers and destroyers were a dime a dozen in the US fleet.

yamashi - for your information, the "sheep at a slaughterhouse" quote was from Tsuneo Watanabe, Editor in Chief of the Yomiuri Shimbun

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@massiou81

It appears to be the era of a black mailing and mutual monitoring system, supported by sub-systems ranging from tonari gumi(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonarigumi) system to MP. The recent LDP's revision on the constitution is not only about the article nine but also articles about basic human rights, which reminded me of Kiyoshi Miki and Takiji Kobayashi. Whoever behind the decision, they are determined to bring Japan back to the age of luring the young into wars. Japan is probably becoming one of the black sites of USA while the old habit roaming in the nation for the long time now is coming back, seeing it as an opportunity. Why should younger generations be brainwashed into killing each other for the profit of a handful of people?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

no wonder these stories are coming up because of the anniversary. and the most part looks like the victim-telling story. thats not bad as this is japan.

if they don't want to get out of their comfort zone and balance the story-telling of the war, by also including the aggressor part of it, then expect a viscious cycle of political football (finger-pointing) with your neighbors.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

clamenza - I know. My point is that for pilots with mostly no training, kamikaze proved rather effective.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Messed up on so many levels!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Many stood up against evil regimes, even in Italy, even in Germany...

That is true. There was the July 20th attempt on Hitler's life. No-one in Japan attempted to take out Tojo though. But nonetheless - what these kamikaze pilots had to endure was appalling. I read a report somewhere where if they didn't "volunteer", they were place on round-the-clock combat duty instead

2 ( +2 / -0 )

clamenza - I know. My point is that for pilots with mostly no training, kamikaze proved rather effective.

How? They didn't slow down the US advance at all. In fact, it only helped convinced the US to use the bomb and end the war sooner.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@Asakaze

The stories of some kamikaze pilots being too drunk to walk are actually from oral accounts of war experiences provided by Japanese veterans. It's unfortunate that the WW2 generation are now passing away. We need to hear their experiences to understand the true nature of war. When I was growing up most of my elders had fought. My father, all my uncles, many of my neighbours and most of my schoolteachers had been in the forces. I don't remember anyone being sentimental. In fact, my father, who was RAF ground crew, told a similar story about pilots in the Battle of Britain. Even the bravest young man has a limit. Many pilots were drunk before going into action as that was the only way they could deal with the stress of combat. My uncle, who fought at Arnhem, told how many paratroopers had to be kicked out of the plane, so great was their fear. I could go on and on with similar tales. We need these stories to counter the official histories of the glory and nobility of war.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@clamenza

How? They didn't slow down the US advance at all. In fact, it only helped convinced the US to use the bomb and end the war sooner.

Nothing could stop the US advance, the disparity in resources was way too much. But having lost 4 thousands of their own, kamikaze inflicted more then 5 thousands allied casualties and sunk many ships. With, I repeat, almost no training, it was rather effective. And the US did not need convincing, they would use the bomb anyway, they just needed human guinea pigs to test the effects of nuclear bombing and to show the Soviets "the big stick".

@hackney

I also heard and read a lot of personal stories about the war, very similar to yours. Agreed, all soldiers are humans and have their limits. But I absolutely do not believe your stories about pilots who were so drunk before flight that they could not walk, but nevertheless they flew combat missions. AFTER flights - yes, it was widespread, but BEFORE? Bull...t. If a pilot is so drunk, he just can't fly a plane, and any commanding officer should ground him immediately, because such drunken pilot is a danger to himself, his comrades he is supposed to fly with, and he is simply unable to take off.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

No b@stard ever won a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb b@stard die for his country. by George S. Patton

5 ( +5 / -0 )

massiou81 wrote

Many stood up against evil regimes, even in Italy, even in Germany... But none of that happened in Japan.

I thought that was was the Tokkoutai were doing. It is what they thought they were doing.

Everybody has always a choice. They had a choice they didn't make. And it is not being insensitive to say that I do not pity them, nor the pilots, nor the handkerchiefs' girls.

As far as I know, they made a choice such as which under similar circumstances I would like to make but fear I would be too much of a coward. My keyboard gets wet every-time I attempt to read their letters. I wonder how one can not feel pity for them.

Japan you should be WAY ahead of all this! Decades ago!! But alas here we are & Japan still forcing itself to pay the price of its stubborn pride!

In view of the above comments, perhaps ChIran's time is decades in the future.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@dctokyo2002 "No b@stard even a war by dying for his country. You won it by making the other poor dumb b@stard die for his country. by George S. Patton.

History says that certain nations were winners because of ultimate level of heroism of their warriors. In WWII Soviet soldiers often fought till last hand grenade, then blowing up themselves and bunch of enemy soldiers nearby. Vietnamese soldiers were heroically dying in hand-to-hand combat with American invaders, giving other units an advantage in battle. So, your 'Patton' was just a selfish and poorly educated fool.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

"She and the other girls were called Nadeshiko"

One of the reasons why I have always rejected that stupid nickname for the women's soccer team; it represents women who were forced to say goodbye and/or wait for their 'samurai masters' to come home to them. The men's team are referred to as Samurai, the women as innocent little cherry blossoms who must say goodbye to the brave men as they go off to battle.

"The source of the building’s name is a 19-year-old pilot named Saburo Miyagawa. He had promised Torihama he would come back as a firefly, and right about the time his plane sank into the ocean, a particularly big glowing bug flew into the garden of Torihama’s restaurant."

Where do they make this stuff up? It's a nice fiction, for sure, but there is NO way they could know that, even if it's true. And I'm tired of this whole take on every little thing symbolizing everything else. How many things now represent the "fleeting life of a Japanese" (especially samurai, soldier, or kamikaze pilot)? cherry blossoms, cicadas, fireflies, etc. And ANOTHER world heritage site??

yamashi: "History says that certain nations were winners because of ultimate level of heroism of their warriors."

Japan lost, and to fly off and commit suicide for absolutely no reason is stupidity, not bravery, so in a way you might be onto something. Kamikaze pilots are to be pitied, not glorified, because they were duped into thinking they were doing something meaningful when all they were doing was dying for a pathetic cause that would be lost anyway. These museums and exhibitions need to fuel anger and ensure this kind of stupidity never happens again, and yet some politicians and posters on here have even literally suggested that young people today need to take note of the kamikaze pilots' "bravery" (stupidity) and "love of country", etc., and should emulate them. That is just plain sick!

4 ( +7 / -4 )

May there be peace and harmony on Earth!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For those who are interested, the museum mentioned in this article is located in the small town of Minamikyushu south of Kagoshima.

In the end, the whole kamikaze effort completely failed to blunt the Allied onslaught against Japan. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was proven fight: he lived in the USA as a naval attache in the early 1920's and seeing American industrial might first hand, knew very well that if Japan got into a war with the USA, that sheer industrial might would overwhelm Japan--which it did for real during World War II.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Raymond Chuang,

Then why did Yamamoto decide to attack Pearl Harbor? He was the one who designed and commanded the attack.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A good example of how politicians will happily sacrifice the lives of others, being too cowardly to lead by example. Today we see the same thing in the middle east: the big beards urging the young to blow themselves up, whilst they hide in a bunker.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

smithinjapan, remember some of them were locked up in prison, not all were brain washed! or were they just as brave to stand up to and what they believed in? or were they just cowards? I don't suppose they are around to ask them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Meiyouwenti: "Then why did Yamamoto decide to attack Pearl Harbor? He was the one who designed and commanded the attack."

Pressure, and orders, same as the kamikazi. The only difference is that he knew better whereas the kids were often brainwashed into honestly thinking they were doing something good and worthwhile. Yamamoto knew it was a mistake, and I believe he is quoted as saying as much.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Many stood up against evil regimes, even in Italy, even in Germany... But none of that happened in Japan.

There were communists in Japan who stood up and were imprisoned. This is why the Allies had such anxiety during the postwar occupation: They had the absurd balancing act of reinstating war criminals, denouncing the war while at the same time denouncing the j-coms who'd been at the forefront of the domestic anti-war movement and had been imprisoned by those same war criminals.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Raymond Chuang,

Although the emperor spoke in a rather old fashioned Japanese with a peculair imperial accent, most Japanese could understand that the emperor was saying that Japan was surrendering to the Allied forces.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One of the reasons why I have always rejected that stupid nickname for the women's soccer team; it represents women who were forced to say goodbye and/or wait for their 'samurai masters' to come home to them. The men's team are referred to as Samurai, the women as innocent little cherry blossoms who must say goodbye to the brave men as they go off to battle.

Hence much of the ignorance that people have regarding the word and what it means and refers to.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Now wait, the ladies soccer team does have pink patterned socks that could represent the actual flower in a tastefully chosen blue vase. I find myself involuntarily drawn to those optically striking socks whenever Nadeshiko is on TV.

Let's not get all PC with renaming the team the Butch Butchers or something nutty.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

70 years have past but we haven't learnt how to say no to each other even on a simplest thing. We like shopping and completely forgot the government is not a gift from afar but elected out of ourselves.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

pan lost, and to fly off and commit suicide for absolutely no reason is stupidity, not bravery, so in a way you might be onto something. Kamikaze pilots are to be pitied, not glorified, because they were duped into thinking they were doing something meaningful when all they were doing was dying for a pathetic cause that would be lost anyway. These museums and exhibitions need to fuel anger and ensure this kind of stupidity never happens again, and yet some politicians and posters on here have even literally suggested that young people today need to take note of the kamikaze pilots' "bravery" (stupidity) and "love of country", etc., and should emulate them.

Agreed

1 ( +2 / -1 )

smithinjapan Japan lost, and to fly off and commit suicide for absolutely no reason is stupidity, not bravery, so in a way you might be onto something. Kamikaze pilots are to be pitied, not glorified, because they were duped into thinking they were doing something meaningful when all they were doing was dying for a pathetic cause that would be lost anyway.

1 Japan has no chances to win this war from the beginning. Nobody contradict to this simple idea. Not Japanese not American historians. For example Japan had some chances against British Empire. And very good chances. Japan Empire vs British Empire - it can be very interesting war. Two equal opponents.

Japan vs USA it's just not serious. By strong political and economical reasons - for example oil embargo - Japan should attack. But it was forced solution.

2 The result was predictable . After the first successes tide turn back. So Japan should protect itself against massive American advance.

But US Navy was much more stronger and up-to-date especially in aviation. And Japan has no more good pilots as much as needed in this war. Air supremacy come to Americans irretrievably.

American aircraft carrier groups coming closer and closer to Japan. US submarines successfully hunting for Japan merchant ships. American heavy bombers starts to burn Japanese cities.

3 It was no escape. So kamikaze (by the way NOT only pilots) were best solution in such situation. You need years to prepare good pilot capable to attack ship in high sea by bomb or torpedo. But even rookie has some chances in suicide attack. In plane or in torpedo...

It was a hard time to Japan and heavy losses was something quite normal. Both at the front and in the rear. For example 10 th March 1945 about 100 000 peoples were killed in Tokyo by airstrike . ( purely military action ??)

So in such times and in such country - kamikaze Corps was quite normal solution .

4 For me it's a very strange when at the same time people said that using A-bomb against non-military targets it's OK, but kamikaze Corps is not.

All crazy in their own way... Japanese way is not worse than American.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Asakaze: I agree with u. USA will do anything to end something, even if it means killing a bunch of innocent people. America has the largest nuclear writings known on earth. Russia and the Iran close second, but the American gov is constently threatening to unleash them if need be. And I can't remember but I think there was something I read or watched saying that America still has some atomic weapons or something.

I started to cry when I read the part of the departing gifts and about the one pilot giving the young lady his wallet knowing he wasn't coming back. :(

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japanese Military stupidity started the war and continued relentlessly until the very bitter end with flying human bombs. Oh yes, the military idiots who could accept Hirohito's belated surrender killed themselves after a failed coupe. They prefered that Japan "shatter like a jewel" rather surrender. Well, these dingbats have been reborn. Not as fireflies but as Abe and his fellow LDP miltarists.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Just when you think you are getting even a slight grasp on this country, its people and their culture, you read about something like this.... I don't know what to say. We all have the stereotypical image of the Kamikaze pilots and what they did, but this ceremony of young girls waving good bye to the pilots.....well I just can't imagine that happening anywhere else in the world. Not going to write about war today, just reflect on the sacrifice....of the ones who gave their lives and of the people who had to watch them go and not come back.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Flying a plane while drunk most probably varied from pilot to pilot. My father (WWII) soldier had the reputation of being able to drive a truck while drunk. After a night in the pub his mates would have to carry him to the truck and once behind the wheel was able to get them back to barracks. I suspect piloting a Kamikaze plane on it's one way journey was far easier than driving an army truck along English country lanes in the dark without lights, so I personally don't doubt that some of those "pilots" could have been drunk or very drunk and Dad (95) would agree.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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