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At unveiling ceremony
on October 25, 2004

 
Kamikaze Pilot Statue
Mabalacat Town, Philippines

The town of Mabalacat on Luzon Island in the Philippines unveiled a life-sized kamikaze pilot statue on October 25, 2004. The statue atop a tall pedestal stands in a small lot in front of a wall that shows the Japanese rising sun flag on its right half and the Philippine flag on its left half. The lot also has a torii, traditional Japanese gate, entrance by the street. Other than a sign by the street reading "Kamikaze (Divine Wind) East Airfield," the site provides no information related to the statue or the history of kamikaze pilots in Mabalacat.

At Mabalacat during the night of October 19 and early morning of October 20, 1944, Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi formed the first special attack unit to carry out aerial suicide attacks with Zero fighters each carrying a 250-kg bomb. He named it the Shinpu (often read as Kamikaze) Special Attack Corps, which consisted of 24 pilots divided into four squadrons. On October 25, the Shikishima Squadron led by Lieutenant Yukio Seki took off from Mabalacat Airfield and successfully carried out Japan's first official aerial suicide attack, which sank the escort carrier St. Lo (CVE-63) and damaged several other American warships.

The Mabalacat kamikaze statue generated some controversy in 2004, when it was put up, and afterward. Certain individuals complained that the Philippines should not be honoring and glorifying Japanese kamikaze pilots, since Japan brutally occupied the country during WWII. Mabalacat officials have defended the statue by saying its goal is to promote peace using the lessons of war. More cynical observers point out the true purpose of the statue is to lure Japanese tourists. With the lack of any written explanation at the site of the statue's purpose or the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps' history, it seems quite unlikely that a visitor today would understand the statue's true purpose is to promote peace.

Daniel Dizon [1], a local historian and artist, is responsible for the erection of the kamikaze statue and several other monuments in the Mabalacat area to remember the kamikaze pilots who died. Dizon's interest in the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps began in 1965 when he read an English translation of The Divine Wind (1958) by Captain Rikihei Inoguchi and Commander Tadashi Nakajima. American military personnel who came to his hometown of nearby Angeles in early 1945 talked about Japanese suicide squadrons, but Dizon did not know anything more about them despite living close to airfields from which many kamikaze pilots took off. The stories and last letters of kamikaze pilots included in The Divine Wind left a great impression on him, and he strongly felt that he had to do something so that Japanese kamikaze pilots could be remembered in the Philippines.

Other Filipinos expressed little interest in Dizon's ideas regarding remembrance of Japanese kamikaze, but he worked with Marcos Santos in Mabalacat Town to erect in 1971 an historical marker in front of his house with the following explanation [2]:

Historical Marker - The Birthplace of the Kamikaze

The house of Mr. and Mrs. Marcos Santos is the official birthplace of the famous Japanese Kamikaze organization of World War II. On the early morning of 20 October 1944, Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi founded on the spot the Kamikaze and organized on voluntary basis the very first Kamikaze unit among the young Japanese flyers of the 201st Air Group, First Air Fleet, Japanese Imperial Navy Forces. By the end of the Pacific War, the Kamikaze sunk and damaged a total of 322 U.S. naval vessels and 1,228 suicide sorties were expended.

This original historical marker no longer hangs on the fence along the street, and it has been replaced by a larger sign (see bottom of web page for expanded wording).


Kamikaze pilot statue in front of
wall showing Japanese rising sun flag
(Philippine flag also on left of statue
but only partly visible in this photograph)

Finally in 1974 Daniel Dizon convinced local tourism officials to erect a monument to the Kamikaze Corps at the former site of Mabalacat East Airfield. The monument had a sign in English with the words "Kamikaze First Airfield Historical Marker" and had an inscription in Japanese with the following words, "Airfield where Kamikaze Special Attack Corps aircraft first took off in World War II." However, the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo nearly buried the kamikaze monument in ash. Dizon explained the historical importance of a new memorial to officials at the Mabalacat Tourism Office, and a new monument with the Japanese and Philippines flags engraved on a wall (see photo above) was erected in 2000 at the same site as the original kamikaze monument. In 2004, the kamikaze pilot statue shown above was erected in front of the wall.


Sign by street in front of lot with kamikaze pilot statue

In the past at this site both before and after the erection of the kamikaze pilot statue in 2004, there was a sign with the following wording that did describe the history of the Kamikaze Corps at Mabalacat, but this sign no longer stands in 2009:

This spot is the central frontage of the very first JAPANESE KAMIKAZE AIR FIELD of WWII - The Mabalacat East Airfield. On 20 October 1944, VICE ADMIRAL TAKIJIRO OHNISHI founded the KAMIKAZE at Mabalacat, Pampanga, Luzon Island. The first to volunteer were the 23 fliers [3] of the 201st Air Group, 1st Air Fleet, Imperial Nippon Naval Air Force under CMDR. ASAICHI TAMAI, then stationed at Mabalacat. The first KAMIKAZE group was called the Shimpu [4] Special Attack Corps under LT. YUKIO SEKI. The corps was divided into four units: the SHIKISHIMA UNIT; the YAMATO UNIT; the ASAHI UNIT; and the YAMAZAKURA UNIT. At 0725 hrs. on October 25, 1944, the Shikishima Unit took-off from this airfield led by LT. YUKIO SEKI. His men were SGT. [5] IWAO NAKANO, SGT. NOBOUTANI [6], EM 1/C HAGIME [7] NAGAMINE AND EM 2/C SHIGEO OGURO. At 1045 hrs., on the said date, the unit hit enemy targets near Leyte. LT. SEKI's plane hit first, blowing up the U.S. Carrier St. Lo which sank 20 minutes later. LT. SEKI's men also hit and heavily damaged the U.S. Carriers: Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, Sangamon, Santee, Suwannee and White Plains. This first successful KAMIKAZE MISSION was witnessed then reported here by C/WO HIROYOSHI NISHIZAWA, Japan's greatest ace pilot with 103 kills confirmed. War historians considered LT. YUKIO SEKI as "THE WORLD'S FIRST OFFICIAL HUMAN BOMB!"

N.B. The Mabalacat Tourism Office (MTO) supports the establishment of Kamikaze Peace Memorial Shrine not for the glorification of the Kamikaze but rather for the use of war history as a tool for the promotion of peace and friendship among nations. This shrine serves as a reminder that the Kamikaze phenomenon shall never happen again.

SGD: GUY "INDRA" HILBERO
HEAD, MABALACAT TOURISM OFFICE


Sign in front of house where Vice Admiral Ohnishi
formed Shimpu (Kamikaze) Special Attack Corps

A short distance from the kamikaze pilot statue along the same road, there is a sign in front of the house where Vice Admiral Ohnishi met to form the Shimpu Special Attack Corps. The sign with tattered lettering reads as follows. Any mistakes in the sign's wording have been shown below.

This house of Mr. and Mrs. Marcos Santos is the official birthplace of the famous Japanese Kamikaze organization of World War II.

Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, Commander of the Japanese Naval Air Forces in the Philippines, founded on this spot and organized on voluntary basis the very first Kamikaze unit.

Members of 201st Air Group, 1st Air Fleet, 23 young veteran pilots were asked if they would volunteer to become suicide pilots.

"In a frenzy emotions and joy [8], the arms of every pilot in the assembly went up in a gesture of complete accord".

"It was early in the morning of 20 October 1944 that an announcement was at once drawn up and posted as soon as the Admiral had signed it, in substance it said:" [9]

"That 201st Air Group will organize a special attack corps and will destroy and disable, if possible by 0725 hours on 25 October, 1944, the enemy carriers in the water coasts of the Philippines." [10]

The Shimpu Attack Unit will be commanded by Lieutenant Yukio Seki. At exactly 0725 hrs. the first Kamikaze volunteers flew from Mabalacat East Airfield and were never to return. "Thus, was born the very first Kamikaze unit that was later joined by several thousands Oriental warriors. This was the "Divine Wind" that subsequently struck dreadful fear, chaos and death to thousands of American sailors".

By the end of the Pacific War, Kamikaze warriors sunk and damaged a total of 322 U.S. Naval vessels, killed more than 10,000 U.S. sailors and 1,228 suicide sorties were conducted.

N.B. The Mabalacat Tourism Office (MTO) supports the establishment of Kamikaze Peace Memorial not for the glorification of the Kamikaze but rather for the use of war history as a tool for the promotion of goodwill, peace and friendship among the nations. This serves as a reminder that the Kamikaze phenomenon shall never happen again.

Guy "Indra" Hilbero
Head, Mabalacat Tourism Office,
Kamikaze Researcher

Daniel Dizon
Kamikaze Researcher

Jose "Ad" Davrit
Kamikaze Researcher


Santos house where Vice Admiral Ohnishi
formed first kamikaze unit
(photo taken on October 25, 2004)

Notes

Fumiko Hattori kindly provided this web page's first two photos and the last photo. All were taken on October 25, 2004.

1. In Chapter 5 of Daniel Dizon's autobiography (2007, 206-52), he explains his interest in the Japanese Kamikaze Special Attack Corps and doing something to remember them. This web page contains information from this chapter.

2. Dizon 2007, 229.

3. Lieutenant Yukio Seki was the 24th pilot of the Shinpu Special Attack Corps. He volunteered later the same night.

4. Shimbu and Shinpu are romanization alternatives for the Japanese characters. Inoguchi and Nakajima (1958) use Shimpu.

5. Iwao Nakano's rank was Ensign.

6. This should read Nobuo Tani rather than the incorrect name of Noboutani.

7. This should be Hajime rather than Hagime.

8. This sentence is from Inoguchi 1958, 10. The sentence on the sign starts "in a frenzy emotions and joy," but the beginning of the sentence in Inoguchi reads "in a frenzy of emotion and joy."

9. This slightly misquoted paragraph on the sign comes from Inoguchi 1958, 13. The actual words in Inoguchi are: "It was early in the morning of 20 October 1944, but an announcement was drawn up at once and posted as soon as the Admiral had signed it. In substance it said:"

10. Here again the sentence from Inoguchi (1958, 13) is misquoted. Inoguchi states: "The 201st Air Group will organize a special attack corps and will destroy or disable, if possible by 25 October, the enemy carrier forces in the waters east of the Philippines."

Sources Cited

Dizon, Daniel H. 2007. Firipin shounen ga mita kamikaze: osanai kokoro ni kizamareta yasashii nihonjintachi (Kamikaze seen by Philippine youth: Kind Japanese individuals engraved in my young heart). Tokyo: Sakuranohana Shuppan.

Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.