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Novel by Canadian Author
Kerri Sakamoto

Books - Fiction

Novels with kamikaze pilots as key characters have a wide variety of perspectives and approaches. Some take place during World War II, while others use flashbacks from the postwar period. Some novels focus more on battle action, whereas others concentrate on characters and relationships with very little actual wartime action. All of the books cover issues and topics other than Japan's wartime suicide attacks.

Several novels do not present an accurate history of Japan's kamikaze operations and often do not portray the pilots in a realistic manner. However, a couple of these novels (The Seventh Stone by Nancy Freedman, One Hundred Million Hearts by Kerri Sakamoto) provide many insights into how World War II and the actions of the kamikaze pilots affected their loved ones left behind. The novels also deal with the feelings of kamikaze pilots who survived the war even though many comrades died in suicide attacks.

In contrast to several of the novels, Riding the East Wind by Otohiko Kaga provides a convincing historical portrayal of kamikaze pilots, specifically the Japanese Army pilots who carried out suicide ramming attacks against American B-29s near war's end. The book presents varying opinions regarding suicide attacks, including an Army pilot who believes that continued development of a high-altitude conventional fighter would be more effective than suicide ramming attacks. Riding the East Wind has realism and historical authenticity that lets readers learn in a documentary fashion about events and life in wartime Japan. Kaga depicts believable characters based on real people and events. His experience as a cadet in the Junior Army Academy as a teenager also helps provide an accurate depiction of Japanese Army life.

John Mannock's novel, The Sen-Toku Raid, succeeds as a first-rate action story that involves several types of special attack weapons developed by the Japanese Navy. Not only does the book have suspense, memorable characters, and surprising twists, the author in most cases accurately portrays events and suicide weapons such as the kaiten (manned torpedo), shin'yō (explosive motorboat), and ōka (manned rocket-powered glider).

The novels reviewed in this web site section present a wide range of portrayals of kamikaze pilots. Nancy Freedman's book, The Seventh Stone, presents the most positive portrayal. Although the two pilots in this novel may have experienced fear and had reservations about the military effectiveness of the attacks, they volunteered willingly to die for their country. During the war and after, others considered these two kamikaze warriors with admiration and pride. In contrast to the positive image in The Seventh Stone, the pilot in The Last Kamikaze does not get a chance to take off on his mission of death before the war's end. He retains a deep hatred of Americans, and more than four decades after the war's end he associates with terrorists and becomes an accomplice in several murders in order to exact his revenge against Americans.

The 1954 novel Away All Boats by Kenneth Dodson has gritty wartime realism and memorable officers and crewmen of the attack transport Belinda that make this novel one that was selected by the U.S. Naval Institute to be published in 1996 for its series "Classics of Naval Literature." The novel also was turned into a film released in 1956. The Belinda gets hit by three kamikaze aircraft on April 6, 1945, but the ship manages to make it to Kerama Rettō without sinking.

Kamikaze by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon T. Allred has been considered since its publication in 1957 as a personal narrative of Kuwahara's 18 months in the Japanese Army Air Force, including his assignment as an escort pilot to kamikaze squadrons and finally as a kamikaze pilot. However, the article Ten Historical Discrepancies (October 2006) analyzes major inconsistencies between the book's statements and historical facts to explain why this book should be considered fiction rather than an autobiography. 

The following list ranks my top recommendations based on characterization, plot development, believability, and historical accuracy.

  1. Dodson, Away All Boats
  2. Kaga, Riding the East Wind
  3. Mannock, The Sen-Toku Raid
  4. Park, When My Name Was Keoko
  5. Freedman, The Seventh Stone
  6. Searls, The Hero Ship

The following novels with kamikaze pilots or other special attack weapon (e.g., kaiten, shin'yō) pilots as key characters also have individual book reviews on this web site: