Fightin' Air Force - Kamikaze Pilot
January 1958, Vo. 1, No. 10, 36 pages
"I Was a Kamikaze Pilot," the story's name shown on the comic's cover,
probably comes from an article about Yasuo Kuwahara published a year earlier in
the January 1957 issue of the men's magazine Cavalier . The story's title
inside the comic book gets shortened to "Kamikaze Pilot." This issue of
Air Force has three other stories, all about US Air Force battles against Nazi
Germany. "Kamikaze Pilot" portrays a young man named Yatsuka Togoru who is
totally dedicated to the Emperor. Togoru bravely attacks an American aircraft
carrier but at the last moment gets shot down by an equally courageous American fighter
Yatsuka Togoru joins the Japanese air force in 1941 and receives his
commission in early 1942. He stoically endures pain and punishment inflicted on
him during rigorous training, and he obeys without question commands from his
superior officers. Prior to his selection as a kamikaze pilot, he shoots down
four enemy planes during dogfights. In April 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa,
he gets orders to sink a carrier but ultimately fails in his mission.
An American sailor in the six-page comic's last frame says, "That Jap really
had guts, didn't he?" Although the author depicts Togoru as possessing great
courage, other aspects of his character and personality do not get positively
portrayed. He behaves like an automaton as he immediately obeys a baffling
command from a flight instructor to crash his plane during training. He never mentions his
family but rather displays complete and unnatural reverence to the Emperor with
statements like these:
- "It is a privilege to die for the Emperor, honored Commander!" (when
departs on kamikaze mission)
- "There is my target! I give my life for the Emperor!" (when spots
- "I die for the Emperor! Banzai!" (when about to crash into carrier)
Historical kamikaze pilots frequently mentioned their parents and other
and many kamikaze survivors state that the Emperor did not provide motivation
for their suicide attacks .
This comic has some unrealistic and incorrect elements. Almost all Japanese
pilots who started flying in early 1942 or before had died in battle prior to
1945 kamikaze attacks during the Battle of Okinawa, and the very few survivors
most likely would have flown conventional aircraft or would have served as
instructors or operations officers. The comic states the first "American"
(should be "Japanese") kamikaze pilot in October 1944 sank an American
destroyer, but the sinking by a kamikaze attack of the first destroyer, USS
Abner Read (DD-526), did not happen until November 1, 1944. The story
mentions "thousands of kamikaze planes went down" prior to April 1945, but
actually Japan lost 677 kamikaze aircraft prior to attacks at Okinawa .
Togoru, the name of the story's pilot, does not exist as a family name in
Japanese. The comic book cover shows the pilot in an unrealistic red and white
Rising Sun helmet, but the comic itself has Togoru dressed in a typical flight
helmet used by Japanese pilots.
 This same magazine story in an expanded version was
published later in 1957 as a book entitled Kamikaze. Although published
as a true memoir of a kamikaze pilot, this book turned out to be fiction. See
Ten Historical Discrepancies
for detailed discussion.
 For examples, see Nagatsuka 1973, 157-9,
197-8; Naito 1989, 209; Nihon Senbotsu 2000, 8, 228.
 Yasunobu 1972, 171.
Kuwahara, Yasuo, and Gordon T. Allred. 1957. I Was a Kamikaze
Pilot. Cavalier, January, 6-9, 95-100.
Nagatsuka, Ryuji. 1973. I
Was a Kamikaze. Translated from the French by Nina Rootes. New York:
Naito, Hatsuho. 1989. Thunder Gods: The Kamikaze Pilots Tell
Their Stories. Translated by Mayumi Ishikawa. Tokyo: Kodansha
Nihon Senbotsu Gakusei Kinen-Kai (Japan Memorial Society for the
Students Killed in the War—Wadatsumi Society), comp. 2000. Listen
to the Voices from the Sea: Writings of the Fallen Japanese Students (Kike
Wadatsumi no Koe). Translated by Midori Yamanouchi and Joseph L. Quinn.
Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press.
Yasunobu, Takeo. 1972.
Kamikaze tokkoutai (Kamikaze
special attack corps). Edited by Kengo Tominaga. Tokyo: Akita Shoten.