Remembering Japan's kamikaze pilots

tags: World War II, Japan, Kamikaze




Japan hopes to immortalise its kamikaze pilots - a squad of young men who crashed their aircraft into Allied ships in World War Two - by seeking Unesco World Heritage status for a collection of their letters....

"Kamikaze" - it is a word that has become synonymous with all that is crazy, fanatical and self-destructive. I remember as a young schoolboy in Britain learning about the kamikaze pilots. To me, what they had done was inexplicable. For long afterwards, it coloured my view of Japan, and it left me with a nagging question: how did it happen? What caused thousands of ordinary young Japanese men to volunteer to kill themselves?

I had long dreamed of asking a kamikaze pilot that question. And so it was that last week I found myself ringing the bell of a comfortable-looking house outside the city of Nagoya in central Japan. Moments later, striding out to meet me came a small, energetic and very neatly dressed old man, a wide smile on his face.

Tadamasa Itatsu is a spritely 89-year-old with twinkling eyes and a firm handshake. He cancelled his tennis game because I was coming, he tells me....



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