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Carriers: Kamikaze
Produced, directed, and written by Luke Swann
Pacific Arts Video, 1990, 22 min., Video

Pacific Arts Video produced a six-tape set called Carriers, a history of U.S. aircraft carriers. The Discovery Channel broadcast this multipart documentary, which includes segments on several World War II topics, such as Coral Sea, Midway, and escort carriers. Episode 8, Kamikaze, presents the basic history of Japan's kamikaze attacks, with the documentary's emphasis being on kamikaze plane damage inflicted on U.S. aircraft carriers.

The video's narrative and footage concentrates on military operations, with little examination of the motivation and feelings of individual Japanese pilots. However, the script does contain an interesting comment about how the Japanese felt about this mission carried out with the expectation of certain death:

The kamikaze attacks were measured by the West as the height of insanity, and the expression "suicide attacks" was used to describe them. Suicide is however the wrong word entirely. There's no connotation of hopelessness or despair about the actions of a kamikaze pilot. He had faith that his actions retained worth and contributed to his country. The kamikaze's death did not give up life or devalue it. The life was passed on to those who remained. [1]

The word "suicide" means the intentional taking of one's life, so a kamikaze attack can be accurately described as a suicide attack. However, the above quotation points out that the attitudes of Japanese and Western people toward suicide differed greatly, so the use of this term can affect a person's judgment of the appropriateness of such attacks.

This documentary contains several historical inaccuracies. For example, the narrator talks about the "lone action of Rear Admiral Arima who had led a dive bomber into the flight deck of the USS Franklin" [2]. In actuality, Arima took off with a group of about 100 planes, and he did not hit the Franklin or any other ship before he was shot down [3]. The video gives the impression that the Franklin was hit later near Okinawa by a kamikaze attack, and in reality a conventional Japanese bomber dropped two bombs onto the Franklin's flight deck [4]. The narrator states the last mass kamikaze attacks called Kikusui (floating chrysanthemum) ended on May 12, 1945 [5], but they actually continued on until June 22 [6].

Although viewers of the series Carriers may want to view this episode on Kamikaze as part of the history of U.S. aircraft carriers, others should search out a documentary that provides a more complete and historically accurate account of kamikaze.


1. From 8:25 to 8:50 in video.

2. At 5:20 in video.

3. See Brown 1990, 17; Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 37; O'Neill 1999, 123-4; Warner and Warner 1982, 84.

4. See Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 141; Warner and Warner 1982, 179.

5. At 15:45 in video.

6. Warner and Warner 1982, 259-263.

Sources Cited

Brown, David. 1990. Kamikaze. Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books.

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

O'Neill, Richard. 1999. Originally published in 1981 as an illustrated edition. Suicide Squads: The Men and Machines of World War II Special Operations. London: Salamander Books.

Warner, Denis, Peggy Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.