Tokkō hyōryū (Special attack drift)
by Takayoshi Yasujima
Madosha, 2004, 102 pages
This small photo book tries to capture something of the
spirit and history of the young men who died in Japan's special attack forces.
Takayoshi Yasujima, who has four other published photo books about Japan's war
sites, uses a minimum amount of words in Tokkō hyōryū (Special attack
drift). More than two thirds of the book contains full-page photos with brief
descriptions, and the other pages with text often have just a few lines. The
scantiness of explanation and the inclusion of several photos with only an
indirect relationship to special attack forces detract from the book's value.
The photos have a rather limited focus with most related to
Okinawa, the air base at Chiran, and the kaiten (human torpedo) base at
Otsushima. Although many kamikaze pilots died around Okinawa, the photos of
modern-day Okinawan sky, sea, and land, such as a tropical fish and the sky
with a rooftop in the foreground, have only a tenuous connection to events
during the spring of 1945. The book has very few historical photos of special
attack squadron members. Many photos show monuments, scenery in Chiran and Ōtsushima, and last letters and other items from the Chiran Peace Museum
Kamikaze Pilots and the Kaiten Memorial Museum at Ōtsushima. Less than half of
the book's photos are in color.
Two surviving special attack corps members appear in the
book. Jun Okada was a kaiten (human torpedo) pilot. When the order came to have
kaitens fired from the submarine, his kaiten did not move due to engine
trouble. Two of Okada's fellow kaiten pilots on the same mission died after being launched. Okada
went on a second suicide mission, but he returned after his submarine spotted no
Shigeyoshi Hamazono made a sortie on a kamikaze mission during the Battle of Okinawa,
but he survived by crash landing after a dogfight with American fighters. He
says that a special (suicide) attack was a death sentence and an extreme action
in which a person had absolutely no dreams or hopes. Hamazono further explains:
It was not for my country. I believed I would die
fighting for my family. If I had tough times, there were instances when I
thought it would be a relief if I could just die as soon as possible in a
kamikaze attack. However, I did not want to die.