The last kamikaze: two Japanese pilots tell how they cheated death

Hisao Horiyama first learned how he was due to die from a simple slip of white paper. On it were written three options: to volunteer willingly, to simply volunteer, or to say no.

But as a 21-year-old airman caught in the thick of Japan’s faltering war with the allies, he knew there was only one choice. Without hesitation, he agreed to fly his plane into the side of a US warship.

With that one act of destruction, he would end his life and the lives of many others, in the name of his emperor as a member of an elite, and supposedly invincible, group of young men whose sacrifice would deliver victory to Japan: the kamikaze.

  • Drunk_by_Noon

    I always enjoy reading stories such as this, if only for the human interest element of historical events.
    No matter how sympathetic the storyteller, I always have to remind myself that the Imperial Japanese were at least as vicious and depraved as the Nazis ever were.
    I’m happy that he never went on his Kamikaze mission, as that also likely saved the lives of many U.S., Australian, and British sailors, were he successful.

    • favill

      I think the Japanese were worse than the Nazis. My grandmother told me stories of atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese not only on the POWs (which there are historical accounts) but also the civilian populations of their conquered territories. The most gruesome one was where the Japanese rounded every Filipino male of fighting age in her neighbourhood, marched them to Santo Tomas University…then proceeded to behead every single one them–it took them all night to accomplish this. One of her neighbours went to the university grounds the next day and found her (the neighbour) son’s body and head. This was done by regular Japanese troops just as they were leaving Manila. There weren’t any stories such as these about the Wermacht…stories about the SS perhaps–but not the Wermacht.

      • They did commit atrocities on a grand scale, China suffered immensely under their rule.

    • It is fascinating and worrisome.

      Worrisome because too many across the spectrum of political belief can’t grasp that sufficiently motivated individuals are capable of doing immense damage. In Japan it was religious nationalism, in Germany the religion of Nazi socialism.

      People today do not understand what we are up against in the war with Islam, our secular society has no understanding of religious fervor. Of how deep it runs within the human psyche and forms an individual’s core identity.

      As a result we have experts ranting on about root causes and Parkas.

      • pike bishop

        The Japanese and the Germans had a far better claim to being a “master race” than do the islamists. They don’t even make their own small arms and ammunition let alone heavy weapons and airplanes.
        I do not see how they win. They will create a lot of havoc though.

  • Hard Little Machine

    The Guardian waxes nostalgic at the prospect of suicide bombers targeting Jews.