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The Fate Of Kamikaze Pilots Who Survived & Didn’t Die For The Glory Of Japan And The Emperor

Prior to the beginning of the Second World War, hardly anyone in the United States knew virtually nothing about Japan, or it’s people and customs. To everyday Americans, Asia (or the ‘Orient’ as it was called), was a strange land filled with people and customs that were completely alien to the average American.

The Shinto religion profoundly influences many Japanese. It is their emotional mainstay, although it has neither common commandments nor scriptures. Over time, the Shinto religion became involved in the state activities, which led to the development of shrines where the gods are worshipped.

Shinto coexists with Buddhism and a mixed practice of these two religions is common. According to Shinto, human beings are part of nature and can live only because nature is our parent. Mankind should live in the ‘way of the gods’. The worship of ancestors is an important value in Shinto.

The Shinto attitude towards suicide is somewhat ambivalent. Shinto believes that humans return to nature after death, suicide does not constitute an exception, and suicide as a sacrificial act is condoned.

Every individual must make sacrifices in order to maintain social harmony. The cultural precedent for rational suicide in Japan is the ritualistic suicide (seppuku) of the samurai warrior.

In view of the tide of the war turning beyond Japanese control, air commanders proposed the desperate act of suicide-crashing enemy ships with their planes.   The name, Kamikaze, means Heavenly, or Divine, Wind.  The name was resurrected from Japanese history stemming from the 16th Century tale of a Mongol emperor whose fleet was sunk or turned by “the gods” who sent a heavenly wind.

In addition to the suicide tactic, the planes were sometimes loaded with bombs and extra gasoline tanks before flown into their targets.  The pilots were also young men who offered themselves as volunteers for their mission.  The pilots performed a special ceremony of drinking sake and eating rice before flying.

They were also given medals and a Katana sword during these ceremonies,   the pilots also carried beloved possessions to be treasured upon death.

The fact that the Kamikaze pilots would volunteer for such missions showed that they would rather die than be defeated. In dying, they, like the Samurai, would bring honor to themselves, to their family, and to their country.  In the beginning many volunteered for the program, but near the end of the war, many pilots were ‘forced’ to become a Kamikaze.

Here is what happened to kamikaze pilots that returned alive:

1. Their reputation was ruined

The allies occupied Japan for seven years after the war ended and did everything they could to ruin the kamikaze pilot’s reputation.

2. Initially, the new Japanese government wasn’t supportive either

In fact, it even promoted the allies’ idea that kamikaze pilots were indeed crazy fanatics and too reckless to think about themselves.

3. Japanese society thinks about kamikaze pilots indifferently

 The Japanese people think of these pilots indifferently and sometimes with disdain.

4. It was hard for the pilots to find a job or even get to school

The pilots were stigmatized in the years following the war.

5. A stigma also appeared for these soldiers called “Special Attack Unit Syndrome”

It means these people couldn’t return to normal life since the idea of dying with honor possesses them. Thus, they’re incapable of finding a new goal.

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