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The Last Kamikaze
by M.E. Morris
Random House, 1990, 350 pages

Many trained kamikaze pilots stood ready to make suicide attacks when the Emperor announced Japan's surrender on August 15, 1945. Saburo Genda, a Zero fighter pilot in this novel, settles into the cockpit and starts his engines in preparation for a kamikaze attack to avenge the death of his parents caused by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. At the last moment his flight is stopped. After Genda gets out of his plane and listens to the Emperor's surrender message, he vows to someday strike back at the Americans in memory of his parents.

M.E. Morris, the author of three previous thrillers and an experienced U.S. Navy aviator, tells the story of Genda's attempted revenge in 1991, the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During the American occupation after the end of the war, two American soldiers rape his new wife, who then commits suicide. Genda goes on to become a captain with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), but he holds a continuing hatred toward the American military for the rape of his wife and the bombing of his parents. With the assistance of terrorists in the Japanese Red Army, Genda steals a restored Zero fighter and flies across the Pacific to attack a military target at Pearl Harbor. George Sakai, a nisei (second-generation Japanese American) who works for the U.S. government as an antiterrorism expert, leads the investigation to apprehend Genda and his Red Army associates, who commit various acts of terrorism before Genda takes off for Hawaii.

The author depicts a very disturbing image of a kamikaze pilot who will commit any act of terrorism or bloodshed to accomplish his final goal of making some type of spectacular strike against the American military. Before Genda departs in the restored Zero fighter for Hawaii, he and his terrorist allies are involved in setting off a car bomb that results in several casualties, shooting a Tokyo policeman in the head, shooting down a commercial airliner that crashes into a business area and causes over 500 deaths, murdering a graduate student to get a boat for an escape, killing two island tourists, and murdering two Americans to get the Zero fighter. Genda sees himself as a man of honor, a true patriot of Japan, and a samurai warrior whose final act of vengeance will be one of great achievement and honor. Even George Sakai, the antiterrorism expert, and one of Genda's Red Army associates seem to grow to admire his unsettling code of honor focused on vengeance. After Genda finally decides to plunge his plane into Pearl Harbor, Sakai is "very proud of his Japanese heritage that placed such a high priority on the honor and dignity of life—and death" (p. 349).

Genda's troubling code of ethics and sense of honor in this fictional work have little connection to the beliefs and actions of the kamikaze pilots who made attacks on Allied ships from October 1944 to August 1945. First, the kamikaze pilots made attacks against military targets during war, and they did not indiscriminately murder innocent civilians. Although they grieved deeply if family members were killed by American bombings, very few were motivated by vengeance. Finally, those pilots who had joined kamikaze units recovered after the end of the war and went on to lead normal lives.

The description of the kamikaze pilots' night before their planned attacks is pure fantasy. Each of the four pilots in Genda's squad is shown to a separate room in a sleeping hut on the perimeter of the airfield. A geisha girl for each young man comes in to serve a feast and to sing songs. Next, another young girl enters Genda's room to pour a "clear thin liquid" over his naked body and then have sex with him. Although some young kamikaze pilots may have visited brothels, the Japanese military did not provide women to the kamikaze pilots prior to their departures. Morris states on the Acknowledgments page that he is indebted to Hatsuho Naito, author of Thunder Gods, for providing insight into the hearts and minds of the kamikaze pilots. However, Naito's book has no mention of such a glamorous last night for pilots.

The Last Kamikaze is an exciting thriller with several memorable characters, but the novel's mixing of terrorism's tactics with a kamikaze pilot's values makes it a very disconcerting book.