Day of the Kamikaze
Written, produced, and directed by Peter Nicholson
Smithsonian Networks, 2007, 75 min., DVD
Also includes Eyewitness Kamikaze
This British-produced documentary presents numerous firsthand accounts from both Japanese and Allied veterans. When
considering quality, emotional content, and variety, the interviews in Day of
the Kamikaze surpass those in any other documentary on Japan's kamikaze
operations. These interviewees, ten from the Japanese side and ten from the
Allied side (see list at bottom of page), describe what happened during Japan's
kamikaze attacks and express their enduring deep feelings toward those events.
The film's interviews cover a wide range of topics and perspectives. Two
sisters of kamikaze pilots who died in attacks express the great grief
experienced by their families. The sister of pilot Nobuaki Fujita describes the
sad wedding ceremony that took place when his fiancée Mutsue became both his
bride and widow in a marriage rite with only his photograph. Although rarely
mentioned in other documentaries on Japanese kamikaze, this film features three
British Navy veterans who experienced kamikaze attacks aboard British aircraft
carriers between Okinawa and Taiwan. The documentary also brings together
American and Japanese perspectives related to the suicide mission of Battleship
Yamato and the attack of the ohka rocket-powered glider bomb that sank the destroyer
Mannert L. Abele.
The name of this documentary, Day of the Kamikaze, never gets explained. The
film covers Japan's aerial suicide attacks from March 11, 1945, the date the
aircraft carrier Randolph was hit at Ulithi in a long-range kamikaze
attack from the Japanese mainland, to the last day of the war when Commander
Ugaki led a squadron of 11 aircraft against the American fleet near Okinawa. The
of the Kamikaze only gets used once in reference to the kamikaze hit on the
aircraft carrier Enterprise on May 14, 1945. However, it seems like this would
not be the date of the Day of the Kamikaze referred to in the title, since the
film pays the most attention to April 6, 1945, the date of Japan's first mass
In contrast to the top-notch interviews, this documentary has the following
four significant drawbacks:
Skips - The DVD's sound skips in many places making it impossible to hear
some words in the interviews. The purchase of a second DVD copy did not help
at all, since the skips occur in the same places. It is hard to believe that
the Smithsonian name would be associated with a product that does not even
meet basic quality requirements. It is quite frustrating when an interviewee
starts a sentence but never completes it due to a DVD sound skip.
Missing History - The narrator incorrectly makes it sound like Japanese
military leaders first decided in February 1945 to use Japanese pilots to
carry out suicide attacks against the Allied fleet. Day of the Kamikaze does
not mention the formation of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps by Vice Admiral
Takijiro Ohnishi in the Philippines in October 1944, and the DVD completely
ignores the over 600 Japanese pilots who died in suicide attacks in the
Philippines and Taiwan from October 1944 to January 1945 .
Ugaki Focus - This documentary asserts that the key to understand Japan's
kamikaze strategy is to understand Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, who commanded
the Navy's 5th Air Fleet in suicide attacks against the Allied Fleet
during the Battle of Okinawa from April to June 1945. Despite this
assertion, the film provides little insight into his background and beliefs.
Reenactments in the film show him frequently writing his diary alone in a
nice Japanese room rather than engaged in battle planning and operations together with his
men in the underground operations room at Kanoya Air Base in southern Kyushu.
Zero Replica - A Zero fighter replica trailing smoke makes an appearance
again and again in the film. Several times this aircraft goes right over
some men supposedly on a ship, but these obviously fake reenactments have
little purpose when there are many historical film clips of real kamikaze
aircraft that attacked Allied ships. Most Zero fighters on kamikaze
missions carried a bomb underneath, but this replica has none. The
documentary erroneously shows the same Zero replica to represent the
aircraft of Shigeyoshi Hamazono, who actually flew a Type 99 carrier dive
bomber (Val) with a fixed undercarriage as part of mass kamikaze attack of
Kikusui (Floating Chrysanthemum) Operation No. 1 on April 6, 1945 .
Although the film for the most part accurately relates the history of kamikaze
operations during the ten Kikusui mass kamikaze attacks during the Battle of
Okinawa, there are a few glaring errors. For example, the narrator states :
Pilots are only informed of their selection one or two days before the
sortie. Their commanders don't want them to dwell on their fate.
Numerous examples can be cited to show this statement to be completely false.
Army special (suicide) attack squadrons were formed on average two or three months prior to
their final sortie . For example, the Army's 27th Shinbu Squadron was formed
on February 14, 1945, but did not take off on its suicide mission from
Miyakonojo Air Base until June 22 . The 64th Shinbu Squadron was formed on
April 1, 1945, but did not sortie from Bansei Air Base until June 11 . Navy
kamikaze squadrons in the Battle of Okinawa also were formed several weeks in
advance, although some of the early squadrons of veteran pilots were formed in
the Philippines just a few days before their final missions. The pilots of the
Navy's ohka flying glider bomb in the Thunder Gods Squadron highlighted in the
documentary were selected in October 1944, but the ohka weapon did not get used in
battle until March 21, 1945 . The Shiragiku Special Attack Unit
was formed at
Kochi Naval Air Base on March 3, 1945, but Shiragiku training planes flew in
suicide attacks for the first time on May 24 . The squadron of Shigeyoshi
Hamazono, one of the Navy kamikaze pilots interviewed in the documentary, did
not wait as long as some, but even in his case the kamikaze squadron was formed
more than a week prior to his actual mission. His special attack squadron was formed at
Hyakurihara Air Base on March 26, 1945, and he took off from Kokubu No. 1 Air
Base toward Okinawa on April 6 .
Another inaccurate statement in the documentary relates to the timing of the
establishment of radar picket stations around Okinawa to defend against
kamikaze attacks :
The damage inflicted by the mass air attack at Okinawa on April 6th forces
the Allied High Command to reevaluate how to protect the fleet from the
onslaught of kamikazes. The strategy developed is to put out a protective ring
of destroyers that are called radar picket stations.
Admiral Turner's plan to protect the American fleet supporting the Okinawan
invasion included radar picket stations from long before April 6, 1945. From March 26 on, each
radar picket station had a destroyer or a destroyer minesweeper with a
fighter-director team to detect approaching Japanese aircraft and to provide
advance warning to the main fleet .
The documentary presents a simplified and distorted view of how kamikaze
pilots were selected for their missions. The following two excerpts from the
To succeed it will require convincing hundreds, even thousands, of young
pilots to sacrifice their lives on one-way missions.
When pilots step up, they are given a stark choice. They can sign their names
next to the words "eager" or "very eager."
Many special attack pilots were given no choice to join suicide squadrons and
instead were assigned or ordered to such squadrons . Even when given a choice to
volunteer, pilots often had to make the choice immediately in front of their
comrades such as being asked to step forward to volunteer ,
so it was unlikely that anyone would refuse with such peer pressure and with
societal expectations being that they would give their lives for their country.
The film mentions that pilots would step up to the front of a group and sign
their names with either "eager" or "very eager," but this method was rarely, if
The documentary has a few other minor flaws. The DVD cover advertises that
the film "shows you one of the world's only intact Kamikaze planes on display at
the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.," but this plane never
shows up anywhere. The narrator incorrectly pronounces some of the Japanese
names (e.g., Yoshio pronounced as Yashio). The credits mention the non-existent
Kokubu Air Base Museum. Excerpts from Commander Ugaki's diary 
are presented throughout the film, but sometimes these excerpts have been edited
and do not reflect his exact words.
The DVD's second documentary, Eyewitness Kamikaze, has much the same flavor
as Day of the Kamikaze without the interviews on the Japanese side. Some
interview clips are the same between the two films, and the Zero fighter replica
makes an annoying appearance several times also in Eyewitness Kamikaze. This
first third of this second documentary features the attack on the destroyer
Laffey by multiple kamikaze aircraft, which does not get mentioned in Day of the
Kamikaze. Eyewitness Kamikaze lacks discussion of the historical context of
Japan's kamikaze attacks, but the interviews of Allied veterans provide insights
into the thoughts and feelings of the men who fought against Japan's kamikaze
Although the documentary Day of the Kamikaze has some major historical
and production flaws, the superb interviews of participants on both the Japanese
and Allied sides make this a fascinating film.
Day of the Kamikaze
Thunder God Squadron - Hiroshi Shinjo (Unit Captain), Morimasa Yunokawa (Unit
Chief Naval Aeronautical Engineer (involved in development of ohka missile) -
Navy Special Attack Pilots - Yoshio Hashimoto, Shigeyoshi Hamazono
Army Special Attack Pilot - Tadamasa Itatsu
Battleship Yamato - Masanobu Kobayashi (Gunner)
Sister of Nobuaki Fujita (Navy Special Attack Pilot who died in battle on May
14, 1945) - Masuko Morioka
Sister of Masaaki Tokito (Navy Special Attack Pilot who died in battle on April
6, 1945) - Ryo Maeda
Commander Ugaki's daughter-in-law - Fusako Ugaki
USS Randolph - Jim Verdolini (Radioman)
USS Mannert L. Abele - Herb Lewis (Gunner), Roy Andersen (Electronics
USS Bunker Hill - Dean Caswell (Pilot), Ed Duffy (Gunner, TBM Avenger)
US Marine Corps - Dick Whitaker (Rifleman)
HMS Indefatigable - Stuart Eadon (Fire Direction Officer)
HMS Formidable - Keith Quilter (Pilot)
HMS Victorious - Ray Barker (Petty Officer Writer)
USS Laffey - Ari Phoutrides (Quartermaster)
1. Ozawa 1983, 78.
2. Minaminippon Living Shinbunsha 2003, 91, 151.
3. 26:25 to 26:33.
4. Osuo (2005, 195-216) indicates the formation
and sortie dates of special attack squadrons that carried out suicide attacks
from March to July 1945.
5. Osuo 2005, 196.
6. Osuo 2005, 200.
7. Naito 1989, 11-2.
8. Mikuni 2001, 271-2.
9. Hamazono 1998, 43-4; Minaminippon Living
Shinbunsha 2003, 86.
10. 45:10 to 45:30.
11. Morison 2001, 178.
12. 8:25 to 8:35; 9:10 to 9:19.
13. Ozawa 1983, 131-2.
14. Imamura 2001, 99.
15. Ugaki 1991.
Hamazono, Shigeyoshi. . Suiheisen (The
horizon). No publisher given.
Imamura, Shigeo. 2001. Shig: The True Story of an American
Kamikaze. Baltimore: American Literary Press.
Mikuni, Yudai. 2001. Kouchi kaigun kokutai: Shiragiku
tokubetsu kougekitai (Kochi Naval Air Group: Shiragiku special attack unit).
Minaminippon Living Shinbunsha, ed. 2003. Zerosen ni kaketa
otoko: Moto tokkoutaiin - Hamazono Shigeyoshi monogatari (Man who soared in
Zero fighter: Story of former special attack corps member - Shigeyoshi Hamazono). Kagoshima City: Minaminippon Living Shinbunsha.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. 2001. Victory in the Pacific, 1945. Originally
published in 1960 by Little, Brown & Company. Edison, NJ: Castle Books.
Naito, Hatsuho. 1989. Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell
Their Stories. Translated by Mayumi Ishikawa. Tokyo: Kodansha
Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kougekitai no kiroku (rikugun hen)
(Record of special attack corps (Army)). Tokyo: Kojinsha.
Ozawa, Ikuro. 1983. Tsurai shinjitsu: kyokou no tokkou shinwa
(Hard truths: Fictitious special attack myths). Tokyo: Dohsei Publishing Co.
Ugaki, Matome. 1991. Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome
Ugaki, 1941-1945. Translated by Masataka Chihaya. Edited by Donald M. Goldstein
and Katherine V. Dillon. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.