About “An Unorthodox
by Toshiharu Konada
(former Kaiten pilot, Chairman of National Kaiten
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,
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?