During the 13th century, the Mongolians (who had already conquered China), attempted to launch two seaborne invasions of the island nation of Japan (during 1274 and 1281). Both of these attempts, however, were doomed to failure due to the unpredictable weather that manifests throughout the seas separating China and Japan! On both occasions, these armadas of hundreds of ships ladened with men, horses and weapons were a) swept of course, and b) smashed upon the surrounding rocks and/or sunk without trace by two tremendous (and suddenly appearing) ‘typhoons’ – referred to in the Japanese language as ‘Kami-Kaze’ or ‘Spirit Wind’. This intricate religious and spiritual term (which can also be rendered as ‘God Storm’, ‘Divine Wind’ or even ‘Supernatural Demeanour’, etc) is invariably expressed using two traditional Chinese ideograms – (神風 – Shen2 Feng1).
Within the Japanese spiritualised military code of Japan (known as ‘Bushido’), a ‘Kami’ is a ‘divine spirit’ that inhabits (and empowers) a local shrine, and which represents a natural object or some type of natural process, giving the impression that a ‘hidden’ and ‘mysterious’ would underlies the ‘apparent’ and ‘material’ world. Quite often, a ‘Kami’ (which can imbue and empower weapons such as a sword, spear or archer’s bow, etc), is a ‘God’ with specific but quite often limited supernatural powers that effect only certain aspects and elements of human existence. By approaching these ‘Kami’ (and there are may of them) with the appropriate ritual and respect, the natural processes of the world can be suspended, altered or otherwise changed so as to generate tremendous and sudden change very much at odds with prevailing trends and conditions!
Although ‘Kami’ are very much a unique element of Japanese society, in and of themselves, they are manifestations of thoroughly normal and common aspects of human culture encountered around the world reflective of non-Judeo-Christian traditions (more akin with Celtic pagan beliefs). Although the result of Asian religious and spiritual cultural beliefs, and formulated in ancient times as a means to explain and understand natural processes in the world, the concept of a ‘Kami’ is certainly not a product of mental illness but a perfectly healthy example of how human-beings strove to understand the world during pre-scientific times. As a result, the superstitious element of ‘Kami’ worship is that if the human-being interfaces with the ‘spirit-entity’ correctly, then the inherent ‘power’ of the ‘Kami’ enters the mind and body of the individual which enables the worshipper to achieve incredible or unusual feats in the physical environment!
This is why the Japanese Military Authorities (during late 1944) formulated the idea of ‘piloted’ flying bombs which could be used to attack and sink the ships comprising the encroaching US Naval Fleet as it neared the Japanese Mainland! In the 20th century the enemy threatening Japan was the ‘racist’ (and spiritually ‘inferior’) ‘White’ Americans who needed to be stopped at all costs! A ne ‘Kami-Kaze’ or ‘Divine-Wind’ was need to wash-away the approaching US Naval Fleet and its destructive Airforce! The aeroplanes of the Japanese Naval and Army Airforces would be packed full of explosives and piloted by ‘volunteer’ Navy and Army Officers (usually of Samurai families) toward the US Naval Fleet (negotiating the highly effective US Naval Air-defences) – and then having identified and selected a suitable target – ‘dive’ the aeroplane into that target, hopefully ‘sinking’ or severely ‘damaging’ these vessels and in the process and ‘removing’ these machines from the fighting!
Although this tactic did cause substantial material damage to the US Naval Fleet (and a corresponding psychological damage to the US Servicemen), it was very costly to the Japanese war effort in pilots, machines and vital resources!! The first official ‘Kami-Kaze’ attack occurred in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (during October, 1944) where the Japanese fielded seven-hundred (700) ‘Special Attack’ suicide aeroplanes! Of these, around 26.8% (or just ‘188’) of the attacking Japanese ‘Kami-Kaze’ aeroplanes survived the journey usually from their land bases and penetrated the substantial Air Defences of the US Naval Fleet (with 73.2% – or a substantial ‘512’ – of the attacking Japanese aeroplanes being shot-down en route), with the only around 2.9% (or just ’20’ aeroplanes) of the attacking ‘Kami-Kaze’ aeroplanes ‘hitting’ and ‘sinking’ any enemy ship. This high rate of expenditure of men, machines and resources – together with a very low rate of success – would be replicated across the board whenever the Japanese ‘Kami-Kaze’ sorties were deployed despite the obvious ‘shock’ effect upon the enemy! (Although a small number of ‘Kami-Kaze’ pilots shot-down before making contact with the US Naval Fleet did survive – and were later picked-up alive!)!
This meant that to have any tangible effect, each ‘Kami-Kaze’ attack had to ideally involve around hundreds aeroplanes (each manned by a single pilot) – with each aeroplane (a Japanese ‘Zero’) carrying a 250 kg bomb! Even with the highest standards of bravery exhibited by each individual ‘Kami-Kaze’ pilot – this only ensured that a handful of ‘Kami-Kaze’ would make it to the US Naval Fleet and fulfil the ‘honour’ (as they saw it) of smashing their aeroplane (and body) into the iron and steel decks of the US (armoured) ships! The ‘Kami-Kaze’ pilot would prepare days prior to his final journey. He would say ‘good bye’ to his family, write his ‘Will’ and ‘Death Poem’ before having his head shaved (like a Buddhist acolyte preparing to leave the world). In accordance with the rules of Bushido – the ‘Kami-Kaze’ pilot was ‘fast’ the night before each attack (to ‘purify’ the intestines) and other various ablutions to the various religious shrines! The two swords he carried would both be sharpened and his senses honed with hours of martial arts practice and meditation performed prior to take-off! A final ‘purification’ ritual at the side of the runway would see a small drink of ‘Saki’ being imbued for the good of the emperor – the attack would begin! (For a historical study of the distortion of Japanese Zen before and during WWII – see Brian Victoria’s ‘Zen At War‘).
A number of interviews exist regarding how surviving US Veterans from WWII viewed the ‘Kami-Kaze’ pilots. A good primer for this attitude lies in John Dower’s ‘War Without Mercy‘ – a very careful and exact examination of how the US government deliberately ‘racialised’ the conflict – depicting the Japanese people of being ‘spiritually’, ‘politically’ and ‘culturally’ inferior and worthy of eradication as a race! Japan, of course, as a nation, had been ‘modernising’ following the Western model since at least 1868 – copying the British Navy and the US Land Army! Japan even mimicked the totalitarian and draconian manner in which the ‘White’ Europeans administered their colonies throughout Asia (all very different to the manner in which their home countries were administered)! Although Imperial Japan was ‘fascist’ – and its ‘racist’ behaviour throughout China and Asia atrocious – it is also correct to say that its behaviour (or at least elements of it) had been perpetuated throughout Asia by the Europeans for centuries! A major contributing factor to the Pacific War was that Japan (as a non-White country) had no right to behave like a ‘White’ country in Asia and expect to be treated with ‘equality’ by the ‘White’ colonial powers it was mimicking!
It is unsurprising, therefore, to encounter US testimony describing what happened when the shattered body parts of the ‘Kami-Kaze’ pilots were discovered on the often battered decks of US ships! One sailor reported finding the ‘tongue’ of a ‘Kami-Kaze’ pilot amongst the wreckage of the inner wiring of the US ship – with every other part of his body blown to pieces! this ‘tongue’ was fed to the Seagulls. When skulls, arm-bones and leg-bones were discovered – they were invariably ‘cleaned’ and posted back-home to family and friends as ‘souvenirs’ – with Life Magazine even placing one such example upon their front page! Such ‘Kami-Kaze’ body-parts were ‘crafted’ into knife-handles or parts of walking-sticks, etc, with no one questioning the obvious ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’ implications of this American behaviour! The 2001 documentary series entitled ‘Hell in the Pacific’ captures the ‘horror’ of this time period!
When studying Chinese-language historical texts exploring WWII and the ‘War in the Pacific‘ between the US and Japan, I came across a very interesting snippet of information that I have not seen recorded in Western sources. Obviously, due to the millions of deaths caused in China between 1931-1945 – the Chinese historians certainly do not favour Japanese fascism and were ‘allies’ of the West in its fight against Imperial Japan! Since 1945, and the price paid by Japan in its defeat to the US, is that it has become a ‘colony’ of America in every aspect. Modern China rejects Japanese ‘capitalism’ just as strongly as it rejects Japanese ‘fascism’! In this light, it is interesting to learn that the day after Japan’s ‘Surrender’ to the Americans (August 15th, 1945), the conquering US Military Authorities ‘targeted’ the ‘Kami-Kazi’ Special Attack Group and had the surviving (and ‘preparing’) Pilots rounded-up at gun-point and placed in a US-constructed ‘Concentration Camp’ situated at ‘Fukuoka’ on the northern shore of Japan’s Kyushu Island.
The ‘new’ Pro-US Japanese government immediately began a process of ‘demonising’ the ‘Kami-Kaze’ Pilots and berating their bravery and sacrifice! This sudden change in policy led to many Senior ‘Kami-Kaze’ Officers committing ritual suicide in protest. In the meantime, records surviving from that time in Japan record that at least one hundred surviving ‘Kami-Kaze’ Pilots ‘in training’ were transferred to the US Military Concentration Camp at Fukuoka for severe ‘Re-Education’ purposes! Those who survived this process describe it as comprising of continuous psychological and physical torture that lasted for around one-month and which was administered by uniformed US Servicemen! This sounds very similar to the contemporary US torture carried-out in Iraq (and other places)! Those now former ‘Kami-Kaze’ Pilots who survived this ‘Re-Education’ process were ‘discharged’ back into Japanese society whilst the US Authorities (with the collusion of the ‘new’ Japanese Authorities) ‘watched’ these men everyday – ensuring that their employment, health and housing opportunities remained very basic and at an impoverished level of existence. These former ‘Kami-Kaze’ Pilots received no pension, no back-pay and were not allowed to attend any Remembrance Ceremonies or have any Monuments constructed to ‘Remember’ the sacrifice of the ‘Kami-Kaze’ Pilots – despite the US Military Authorities ‘filming’ a number of these attacks (so ‘shocked’ were the Americans to encounter this tactic)!