September, 2000
About “An Unorthodox Order*”
The last letter by Takijiro Ohnishi, Vice Admiral, Commander in Chief Special Attack Air Corps
by Toshiharu Konada (former Kaiten pilot, Chairman of National Kaiten Association)

The phrase, “an orthodox order” is what Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, Commander in Chief, the First Air Fleet said to himself.  Since its birth, the Japanese Navy had formed volunteer-based “Little-Chance-of-Survival” Units that expected unusually high risks in operations, including Ryojun Port Blockage during Russo-Japan War.  The Imperial Navy had been, in general, prohibiting tactics or weapons that would result in the “inevitable death” of the soldiers.  Special submarines (so-called midget subs by the Allies) were used in the attack of Pearl Harbor at the opening of the Pacific War actually had means of escape and safe return and thus were permitted.  The concept of “human torpedoes” on the other hand, was not accepted as a weapon despite the enthusiasm and strong support of young officers from various units and groups, and an escape device was a condition in developing the prototype.  This practice was because the executives of the Imperial Navy had maintained the above-mentioned tradition until they became desperate and it could not keep it banned any longer.
It was during the operations in the Philippines when “Little-Chance-of-Survival” aerial special attacks began.  A grand naval battle in the Philippines, where the entire forces of the Japanese and American fleets would collide, was about to begin.  Japanese air squadrons that were extremely inferior to that of America’s could come up with no other choices.  This strategy would go against the traditional Naval rule, and Commander Ohnishi described it as “an unorthodox order” with self-disgust.  He later took responsibility for the order by committing seppuku shortly after the end of the War.  This special attack strategy was not supposed to be used repeatedly, but indeed it was routinely executed until the end of the War, because this aerial “body-blow (crash-diving)” method was much more effective than expected and there were no other ways to fight.  
It is a soldier’s duty to continue fighting at his best until the end of a war.  The Commander in Chief and other commanders were well aware that the Tokko special attack was not an ordinarily permitted practice, it would be a   poor and abnormal tactics but the circumstance was such that they could not help employing it.  I would say that their superiors and preceding commanders would have greater responsibilities in leading the Navy to this desperate situation.
The Tokko special attack tactic may be considered unorthodox or unethical but the pilots who plunged into enemy vessels as ammunition were absolutely, in no way, “unethical”.
Commander Ohnishi shared his honest feeling with his pilots in his pre-take-off briefing to the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps, the first unit pilots, “Japan is in grave danger.  The salvation of our country is now beyond the power of the ministers of states, the General Staff, and lowly commanders like myself.  It can come only from faithful spirited young men such as you.  Thus, on behalf of your hundred million countrymen, I ask of you this sacrifice, and pray for your success*”. 
Lieutenant Minoru Hisaiye, a reserve officer, who was killed in a Kaiten [human torpedo] operation wrote in his diary when he volunteered as a Kaiten pilot, “we love our parents, brothers, sisters, friends and fellow countrymen, thus we must admit that the sacrifice of ourselves may be inevitable in order to protect their lives and safety.  Should our home country ever be defeated, our parents and fellow countrymen would not be able to live with safety and comfort.  Would it be not our honor that our sacrifice would bring victory to our country?”  His words were precisely the motivation that was common among us, the special attack corps pilots.
It was not for ourselves the special attack corps soldiers willingly accepted orders of guaranteed death.  There is no way we could have sacrificed our lives, all that we are, for such purposes as medals or fame.  We believed that the sacrifice of one’s life could save thousands of lives of our fellow Japanese.  I must admit that Tokko was unfortunately most effective and efficient tactic in that particular phase of the War.
I am afraid there are only a few Japanese people now who understand the true spirit of the special attack corps soldiers.  Nearly seven thousand young soldiers of Navy and Army combined sacrificed their priceless lives.  I am fearfully concerned that the future of our country would be gravely hopeless, should self-centered people who ignore the sacrifice of special attack corps soldiers be the vast majority.  Am I alone to have such a concern?