by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon T. Allred
Ten Historical Discrepancies
by Bill Gordon and Yuko Shirako
Article originally published in October 2006 on web site of American
This article analyzes ten significant historical
discrepancies in the book Kamikaze, written by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon
T. Allred. Each discrepancy discussed in this article has three sections: (A)
details from book, (B) historical facts related to subject, and (C)
possibilities to explain inconsistencies between book's statements and
historical facts. Kamikaze was published originally in 1957, but
this article analyzes the book by using the 1982 edition.
The book Kamikaze is an autobiographical account of
Kuwahara's 18 months in the Japanese Army, but some background information on
the relationship between Kuwahara and his coauthor Allred would be helpful to
assess the historical discrepancies contained in the book. Allred wrote the book
Kamikaze in English based on information provided to him by Kuwahara.
They used an interpreter for almost all of their conversations over a ten-month
period starting in the summer of 1955. Allred first wrote out Kuwahara's story
in an 80-page draft. After reading the entire draft written by Allred in
English, Kuwahara corrected any errors and offered additional suggestions. This
account written by Allred was published as an article entitled "I Was a
Kamikaze Pilot" in the January 1957 issue of Cavalier
magazine. After Allred returned from Japan to the U.S., he wrote a rough draft
of the book Kamikaze based on the published magazine article, extensive
notes from his conversations with Kuwahara, and background reading. Allred sent
this book draft to Kuwahara, who only answered a few questions due to his poor
health at the time. The book Kamikaze was published in 1957 without Kuwahara's
making comments on the entire manuscript.
The ten most significant historical discrepancies in
Kamikaze are the following:
1. Hiro Air Base
Book: Kuwahara served in
the Japanese Army at Hiro Air Base from February 1944 to early June 1945 during
his basic training, flight training, fighter training, and fighter squadron
assignment. He returned to Hiro Air Base in late June or early July 1945 after a
week at Ōita Air Base and two to three weeks at a small air base in Formosa. He
remained at Hiro until August 23, 1945.
Facts: The Japanese Army
did not have a base at Hiro or any air bases near Hiro. The Navy had two major
production facilities in Hiro: 11th Naval Aviation Arsenal and Hiro Naval
Arsenal. During WWII, these factories produced various naval planes such as Suisei bombers,
Type 0 Observation Seaplanes, and Shiden-kai fighters. These two facilities also repaired planes and
manufactured aircraft engine and other parts. On May 5, 1945, 148 B-29s
bombed these facilities and destroyed them.
Kuwahara drew a map of Hiro Air
Base buildings in order to assist Allred's writing of the book. This map
supports a statement in Chapter 4 that Hiro Air Base had 48 barracks housing 15
men apiece and "a training ground, school, dispensary, storage houses, plus a
variety of buildings and offices." An American plane took an
reconnaissance photograph of Hiro prior to its being bombed on May 5, 1945. The
photograph shows that the Hiro Air Base buildings drawn by Kuwahara are actually
several buildings of the 11th Naval Aviation Arsenal in Hiro. Chapter 4
describes a "long, narrow airstrip running the full length of the base," but the
photograph shows no such airstrip next to the buildings drawn by Kuwahara. The
Hiro factories did have a short taxiway to the water, where facilities existed
to put seaplanes into the water or to load planes onto ships.
Kure Naval Air Group, based in Hiro from 1931, used an airfield across a small
river from the Navy's factories. Jungo Kaku, a Japanese Navy pilot who during
WWII flew to the airstrip used by the Kure Naval Air Group to pick up a repaired
plane, said in an interview that he has no knowledge of any Army air base
located at Hiro. No fighter squadron was stationed at Kure Naval Air Group's
airfield in Hiro during WWII. A fighter squadron called the Kure Naval Air Group
Fighter Squadron operated from Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture. This
squadron reorganized in August 1944 to become Naval Air Group 332.
Test pilots assigned to the Hiro
naval aircraft factories also used the Kure Naval Air Group airfield for
manufactured and repaired planes.
Kuwahara was actually in the Navy rather than the Army since Hiro and its
surrounding area did not have an Army base. However, it seems unlikely that
Kuwahara would misidentify his military service branch. The book states
specifically in several places that he served in the Army, and he trained to
become a pilot of a popular Army fighter named the Hayabusa. Also, the
book uses Army ranks to refer to various individuals.
Perhaps Kuwahara was in the group
of test pilots associated with the naval arsenals in Hiro. However, these test
pilots would have been experienced pilots to test planes manufactured and
repaired there. The book states that Kuwahara had his basic, flight, and fighter
training at Hiro, but no organization or facilities existed in Hiro for this
type of training. The book states that Kuwahara entered the Army at age 15 in
February 1944, so he would have been too young to be a test pilot.
2. Kamikaze Attack Date
Book: On June 10, 1945, a
squadron of 12 kamikaze pilots flew from Ōita Air Base to Kagoshima Air Base for
a refueling stop and then took off from Kagoshima to make an attack on a group of
25 American ships. All pilots died in the attack. They sank one destroyer and
Facts: On June 10, 1945,
the only kamikaze attacks were made by three fighters that made sorties from the
Army's air base in Chiran.
Kagoshima Air Base was a Navy air
base rather than an Army air base.
Japanese records of special
attack force (tokkōtai in Japanese) or kamikaze deaths indicate only 12
men made sorties from Kagoshima Air Base during the entire war. On March 11, 1945,
the 12-man crew of a Type 2 Flying Boat made a sortie from Kagoshima as one of the
lead planes in the kamikaze attack by Ginga bombers on American ships
anchored at Ulithi Atoll. An American patrol bomber shot down the flying boat.
Kamikaze planes did not sink any
tankers during the war.
Possibilities: Perhaps the
12 kamikaze pilots made sorties from another base in Kagoshima Prefecture on a
different date. This could be possible based on the large number of kamikaze
pilots who made sorties from bases in Kagoshima Prefecture during the Battle of
Okinawa. It is most likely that the book's date would only be off by a day or
two. However, this does not appear to be correct. On June 8, there were the
following kamikaze sorties: 6 from Miyakonojō, 3 from Chiran, and 3 from Bansei.
These would not be the squadron of 12 planes that took off from one air base.
There were no kamikaze sorties on June 9. On June 11, there were 10 kamikaze
planes that made sorties from the Army's base in Bansei and 4 from Chiran. Nine of
the planes from Bansei were from the 64th Shinbu Squadron, which could not have
been the one mentioned in Kuwahara's book since this squadron never passed
through Ōita. After June 11, there were no recorded Army or Navy kamikaze
sorties until June 21.
Perhaps Kuwahara misidentified
the tanker that sank when hit by a kamikaze plane. However, there is no date
close to June 10, 1945, when both a destroyer and another type of ship sank on
the same date. The nearest date before June 10 when this happened was May 25,
and the nearest date after June 10 was June 21.
3. Friends' Deaths as Kamikaze Pilots
Book: Kuwahara's boyhood
friend named Tatsuno died as a kamikaze pilot in an attack on an American tanker
on June 10, 1945.
Oka, a friend of Kuwahara at Hiro
Air Base, made a kamikaze sortie from Kagoshima Air Base sometime in May 1945
about three weeks before June 10.
Facts: Japanese records of
special attack force kamikaze deaths do not mention any pilot named Tatsuno who
died after March 1, 1945.
Japanese records of Army special
attack force kamikaze deaths during 1945 mention one pilot named Oka. However,
this pilot made a sortie from Chiran Air Base on April 16, 1945.
Japanese wartime records are incomplete or incorrect. However, the current
listings of special attack force kamikaze deaths are considered complete and
accurate for the most part, although a very few discrepancies between listings
still exist. Japanese researchers have worked for several decades after the war
to improve the accuracy of these listings by contacting veterans and bereaved
family members. After the end of the war, several challenges existed to ensure a
complete and accurate listing of special attack force kamikaze deaths. Some
records were burned when surrender was announced. Also, some kamikaze pilots
made forced landings on the way to Okinawa and survived on small islands, even
though official military records indicated their deaths in kamikaze attacks.
Perhaps Tatsuno and Oka died as
escort pilots rather than kamikaze pilots, so their deaths would not be included
in Japanese listings of special attack force kamikaze deaths. However, the book
states specifically that Tatsuno made a sortie in a kamikaze squadron on June 10,
1945. Kuwahara witnessed his death as he crashed into and sank a tanker. The
book does not clearly state how Oka died, but it strongly suggests that he also
died in a kamikaze mission rather than as an escort pilot.
4. Ōita Air Base
Book: When American B-29s
destroyed Hiro Air Base in early June, Kuwahara moved to Ōita Air Base, where he
became an escort fighter for kamikaze squadrons. He was there for a few days
before he flew his first escort mission in which he accompanied 15 kamikaze
planes. He flew escort from Ōita for an unspecified number of multiple kamikaze
missions prior to June 10, 1945. The book implies that the kamikaze planes also
flew from Ōita since Kuwahara writes that it was better that he did not form any
close friendships at Ōita when referring to men selected for kamikaze missions.
Facts: Ōita Air Base was a
Navy air base rather than an Army air base.
During 1945, only ten kamikaze planes made sorties from Ōita Air Base and did
not return. This includes one Ginga bomber on March 18, another on March 20,
and eight Suisei dive-bombers led by Vice Admiral Ugaki after the Emperor
announced surrender on August 15.
Based on Hiro being destroyed in early June and Kuwahara waiting a few
days for his first escort mission, there would have been only one
opportunity in June 1945 prior to the 10th for him to fly an escort fighter
for kamikaze missions. On June 6, 25 kamikaze planes made sorties from Chiran Air
Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara meant another air base in Ōita
Prefecture rather than Ōita Air Base. However, the other two Ōita Prefecture
air bases, located in Usa and Saiki, were both Navy air bases. Also, no
kamikaze planes made sorties from these two air bases.
Perhaps Kuwahara escorted kamikaze planes that made sorties from Chiran on
June 6, 1945. However, the book indicates that the kamikaze squadrons were
at the same base as the escort squadrons.
5. Navy Plane in Army Kamikaze Squadron
Book: Tatsuno flew an
"all-but-defunct" Navy plane, a Mitsubishi Type 96 Fighter, when he led the last
three planes in the 12-plane kamikaze squadron that made sorties on June 10, 1945.
His plane was the only Navy plane in the squadron. Tatsuno was an Army fighter
Japanese records of tokkōtai (special attack force) kamikaze deaths do
not indicate that the Navy's Mitsubishi Type 96 Fighter was ever used for a
no known case where Army and Navy kamikaze planes joined in the same squadron
and made sorties from the same air base.
no known case where a kamikaze pilot trained on an Army fighter and then
switched to a Navy fighter for a kamikaze mission.
Kuwahara misidentified the plane, and it was actually an obsolete Army fighter.
Both the Army's Type 97 Fighter and the Navy's Type 96 Fighter were
single-engine, single-seat planes with fixed landing gear. However, it seems
improbable that an Army fighter pilot such as Kuwahara could not identify all
Army fighters in use during the war.
6. Daily Kamikaze Sorties from Formosan Bases
Book: Kuwahara states
twice that suicide planes made sorties each day during his two- to three-week stay in
Formosa starting on June 10, 1945.
Facts: Navy or Army
kamikaze planes did not sortie from air bases in Formosa from June 10 to 30,
there was some confusion in the dates in the book, so Kuwahara's time in Formosa
was actually earlier when kamikaze planes regularly made sorties. However, although
many kamikaze planes made sorties from Formosa from March to early June 1945,
Japanese records of special attack force kamikaze deaths indicate that there
never were three consecutive days of kamikaze sorties from Formosan bases.
7. Reconnaissance Flight Over Hiroshima
Book: Kuwahara was in
Hiroshima on August 6 when the bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m. He was buried in
debris for nearly six hours, but he managed to climb onto an Army truck to
return the same day to Hiro Air Base, located about 12 miles southeast of
Hiroshima. On August 8, he flew from Hiro in a Shinshitei reconnaissance
plane (Ki-46, Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane) for two hours to
survey the damage caused by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. While flying over
Hiroshima, he learned that Nagasaki had also been bombed. Kuwahara does not
mention that he ever flew in a Ki-46 reconnaissance plane before this date.
Facts: The Ki-46
reconnaissance plane has two engines and a normal crew of two or three depending
on which Ki-46 version.
Japanese pilots in WWII normally
had flight training on a particular plane type prior to making flights. It would
be especially rare for a pilot to switch from a single-engine fighter (e.g., Hayabusa fighter flown by Kuwahara) to a much larger twin-engine plane such
as the Ki-46 reconnaissance plane. The fact that a Ki-46 had a normal crew of
two or three would make this even more difficult for an untrained pilot to fly
the plane alone.
The atomic bomb exploded over
Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, at 11:02 a.m.
Kuwahara flew the Ki-46 reconnaissance plane from Hiro Air Base with a second
crewmember. However, the book provides no hint that he flew in the plane with
anyone else. It is not clear why Kuwahara, heavily injured from the atomic bomb,
would be selected as the pilot for a plane type he had never flown before. There
is no evidence that Hiro had any Ki-46 reconnaissance planes.
Perhaps Allred mistakenly wrote
August 8 as the date of the Nagasaki bombing since it would have been August 8
in the U.S. when it was 11:02 a.m. on August 9 in Japan. However, he correctly
gives the date of the Hiroshima bombing as August 6.
8. Notification of Kamikaze Mission
Book: When Kuwahara
returned to Ōita Air Base from Formosa at the end of June 1945, Captain Tsubaki
told him individually that he would go on a kamikaze mission sometime in the
near future. Kuwahara returned to Hiro Air Base while Tsubaki remained at Ōita.
On August 5, 1945, Kuwahara received written orders that his kamikaze mission
was scheduled for August 8, but there is no mention of the planned sortie base
for his mission. He left Hiro on the morning of August 6 for a two-day home
leave, so it can be assumed that he would sortie from Hiro on August 8.
Facts: Japanese Army
kamikaze pilots who made sorties from mainland Japan normally were notified of their
assignments in a similar manner. First, pilots from the same base were assigned
to a tokkō (special attack) squadron. Almost all of these Army tokkō
squadrons during and after the Battle of Okinawa were called Shinbu Squadrons
with designated numbers (e.g., 60th Shinbu Squadron). Each squadron usually had
between 9 and 12 men, although some squadrons had less or more. Both the Army's
Shinbu squadrons and the Navy's Kamikaze squadrons generally are referred to as
kamikaze squadrons in English, but the Japanese Army never used the term
"kamikaze" to refer to its tokkō squadrons.
After establishment of an Army tokkō squadron, the men in the squadron generally spent several weeks
together in training, often at the same base. When the estimated sortie date
neared (usually about one day to one week prior to the estimated sortie date),
tokkō squadrons flew to bases located in the far southern part of Kyūshū
Island. The Army's main air bases for tokkō squadron sorties during the
Battle of Okinawa were Chiran, Bansei, and Miyakonojō. A tokkō squadron
would receive orders for the exact sortie date at one of the bases in southern
Kyūshū. Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, Commander of the 5th Air Fleet headquartered
in Kanoya until early August 1945, decided the dates and general times for the
mass kamikaze attacks made by the Navy and Army. These dates and times would
then be communicated to commanders at different bases and then passed on to the
pilots of kamikaze and conventional aircraft.
Kuwahara's assignment to a kamikaze mission did not follow the general pattern
of other Army kamikaze pilots. However, it seems extremely odd for a pilot to
receive written orders regarding a kamikaze mission. The book does not mention
whether a tokkō squadron including Kuwahara had been formed or whether
Kuwahara would sortie solo from Hiro. The cancellation of the scheduled kamikaze
mission on August 8 is never discussed, even though Kuwahara had enough energy
to fly a two-hour reconnaissance flight over Hiroshima on the same date.
9. Training and Squadron Assignment at One Base
Book: Kuwahara had his
basic training, flight training, fighter training, and fighter squadron
assignment all at the same base in Hiro.
Facts: Japanese Army
pilots generally went to different air bases for their basic training, flight
training, and training on a specific type of aircraft. For example, Yukio Araki,
who died in a kamikaze attack from Bansei Air Base on May 27, 1945, did his
basic training at Tachiarai Air Base, his flight training at Metabaru Air Base,
and his training on an Army Type 99 assault plane in Pyongyang, Korea. In
another example, Kisaku Hisatomi, who died in a kamikaze attack from Chiran Air
Base on May 11, 1945, did his basic training at Kurume Reserve Officer Training
School, his flight training at Kumagaya Air Base, and his training on a Type 97
Fighter at Kakogawa Airfield. The Army did have different types of pilot
training programs, but pilots in each of these different programs almost always
went to more than one air base.
Kuwahara joined a special Army air base that included all levels of training and
also regular squadrons. The book refers to several of Kuwahara's friends who
stayed at Hiro during their entire training. However, Army kamikaze pilots who
made sorties in 1945 had a completely different training history where they went to
more than one base.
10. Date for Bombing of Hiro Air Base
Book: One day in June
1945, 150 B-29s pulverized Hiro. Kuwahara transferred to Ōita Air Base, where he
stayed until June 10, 1945.
Facts: On May 5, 1945, 148
B-29s bombed the Navy's arsenals in Hiro and destroyed them.
Kuwahara made a mistake of one month when he mentioned the bombing of Hiro by
B-29s. He writes in Chapter 25 that he had known a woman named Toyoko in Ōita
for several weeks. Since he made a sortie from Ōita Air Base on June 10, 1945, he and
Toyoko could not have known each other for that long unless he actually moved to
Ōita in early May. He writes in Chapter 27 that he had been away from Hiro for
less than two months. This statement would be true if he had left Hiro on May 5
since he returned to Hiro at the end of June or early July.
These ten historical discrepancies certainly move Kuwahara and Allred's book
to the category of fiction even though the book has been recognized for almost
50 years as an autobiographical account. In September 2006, Allred wrote that
two of Kuwahara's high school acquaintances in Hiro contended in 1998 "that he
had never won a national glider championship or been in the Japanese Army Air
Force." They said, "Kuwahara was merely one of many students drafted by their
government to support the war effort on that country's military bases." This
article provides substantial additional evidence to support their statements.
Kuwahara most likely worked at the Japanese Navy's aircraft production
facilities in Hiro and almost certainly never flew an Army plane.
Yuko Shirako is the coauthor of this essay. The fiancÚ of her mother died
as an Army kamikaze pilot on May 4, 1945 (read
Yoko's Hopes and Losses for his
This article was written in October 2006 based on the sixth
edition of the book published in 1982. A couple of changes have been made in the
2007 edition that affect the historical analysis in the article. First, the 2007
edition gives the full name of Tatsuno as Tatsuno Uchida (2007, p. 7), whereas the
1982 edition only used the name of Tatsuno. This addition of Tatsuno Uchida adds
more confusion, since both Tatsuno and Uchida are family names. All others in
the Army are referred to by their family names, but the 2007 edition uses
Tatsuno throughout the book other than the first mention of his name. This
mixing of family names for others in the Army with one given name (Tatsuno) does not make
sense. The second change that affects the article's historical analysis is the
omission in the 2007 edition of the sortie date from Ōita Air Base of Tatsuno's
kamikaze squadron. The 1982 edition specifically indicates the date as June 10,
1945 (p. 162), but the 2007 edition does not mention a date.