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Ripley's Believe It or Not! True War Stories
The Last Kamikaze
Ripley Enterprises, June 1967, 36 pages

Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, who as commander of the Fifth Air Fleet led many mass kamikaze attacks against Allied ships near Okinawa, was the last kamikaze. After he heard the Emperor's message of surrender, that same evening he led a group of eleven Suisei ("Judy") dive bombers to make kamikaze attacks. However, after a final radio message from Ugaki on his way to Okinawa, he and his group were never heard from again. This comic book of "True War Stories" has a distorted and historically incorrect nine-page story about Japan's kamikaze attacks and Ugaki's last mission.

This comic depicts Ugaki and other Japanese in a very negative light. Whereas Americans in this comic all have normal flesh-colored skin, Japanese military men have light greenish-yellow skin. Ugaki is described as a "fanatical warrior" with a "blind, fanatical wish to die," and his last message is termed a "berserk farewell." The story does not provide any support for such statements. Near the end of the comic, Ugaki sends a radio message that he has sighted the American fleet and plans to crash into them. The story's final comment is, "But strangely, a search of U.S. Naval archives shows no record of a kamikaze attack on August 15th, 1945--believe it or not!" This makes it sound like Ugaki lied about carrying out a kamikaze attack. The truth is that although Ugaki did send a radio message, there was no mention that he had sighted the American fleet (Ugaki 1991, 665-6). The location of Ugaki's death never has been determined with certainty, but he most likely crashed without finding any ships (Ugaki 1991, 664; Warner and Warner 1982, 316-7) or was shot down by American night fighters near Okinawa (Hoyt 1993, 210).

The writer of "The Last Kamikaze" mixes up historical facts. The comic says that off Okinawa the first kamikazes caught Americans by surprise, even though in history the first kamikaze attacks happened six months earlier in the Philippines. The Japanese never had air bases on Okinawa for kamikaze sorties, but the comic mistakenly says that the Japanese moved kamikaze planes and pilots from Okinawa to Kyushu. The first frame of the comic shows Japanese ships being sunk in July 1945, but in real life the Japanese Navy had been destroyed three months earlier in April with the sinking of the battleship Yamato and several escort destroyers.

Although Ripley's Believe It or Not! comics supposedly contain true stories, "The Last Kamikaze" strays far from reality.

Sources Cited

Hoyt, Edwin P. 1993. The Last Kamikaze: The Story of Admiral Matome Ugaki. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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.

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