Only search Kamikaze Images

The Kamikazes: The History of Japan's World War II Suicide Pilots
by Charles River Editors
Charles River Editors, 2015, 44 pages

This hodge-podge of information about Japan's suicide pilots gives no name as the author other than Charles River Editors, which advertises itself in the book's front as providing "superior editing and original writing services across the digital publishing industry, with the expertise to create digital content for publishers across a vast range of subject matter." An Internet search could locate no specific information about Charles River Editors such as persons' names or location, but it appears that by January 2020 they already have churned out about 2,500 books on mainly historical topics. Quantity does not equal quality, which is seriously missing from this mishmash about Japanese kamikaze pilots. Based on the number of books published by these anonymous editors, the sloppy documentation approach, and the many errors, it is hard to imagine that Charles River Editors spent more than a few days in researching, writing, and publishing The Kamikazes.

This small book without any page numbers lists a bibliography of about 20 sources, but many paragraphs do not reference where the information was obtained. It appears that several bibliographic entries, which include five Japanese sources, came from other sources that reference these works rather than the author's actually researching directly certain listed sources. The primary references used to put together the book appear to be Max Hastings' Retribution: The Battle for Japan (2008) and Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney's Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers (2006). One reference to Inoguchi and Nakajima's Shinpū Tokubetsu Kōgekitai no Kiroku (1963) gives p. 463 even though the book only has 254 pages (p. 9 - Since The Kamikazes lacks any page numbers, the page numbers used for this review had to be determined by counting.). It is unlikely that the Charles River Editors have any Japanese background with the common word sake (rice wine) misspelled as saki (p. 4) and with the name of Rikihei Inoguchi, author of one of the bibliographic entries, given incorrectly as Ren'ya (pp. 9, 13).

The book erroneously portrays kamikaze pilots as frequently not supporting the military's suicide attacks. However, these statements have no references as to sources with nothing to be found on the Internet to support such claims. For example, the Charles River Editors assert the following with no reference and with no evidence that mentions this on the Internet (p. 20):

Of course, the prospect of certain death also scared off some of the pilots as the moment approached. For example, the crew of the USS Luce, a destroyer off Okinawa, took prisoner three kamikaze pilots, including a Korean and a former student of the University of California at Berkeley who was fluent in English. All had decided to ditch their aircraft in the ocean rather than crash them.

The paragraph below provides another example of unsupported claims regarding kamikaze pilots by the Charles River Editors (p. 38):

A few preferred to take their chances with capture rather than to end their own lives, so they ditched their planes in the ocean and surrendered to the Americans.

This above sentence signifies that Japanese pilots intentionally tried to save their own lives rather than complete their suicide missions, but no instances or even references are provided. In contrast, My Personal History: Two Lives tells the story of Lieutenant Kaoru Hasegawa, who was shot down and rescued by Americans, but he was dedicated completely to success of his suicide mission with no thoughts of intentionally trying to save his life.

In one case, the Charles River Editors use an unsourced quotation from writer Tsuneo Watanabe, who was not a pilot or part of the Special Attack Corps (p. 22). It comes from an interview with him published in the February 10, 2006, edition of The International Herald Tribune [1]. The quotation gives a fallacious description of the environment experienced by kamikaze pilots without any examples and not confirmed by Special Attack Corps members who survived.

"It's all a lie that they left filled with braveness and joy, crying, 'Long live the emperor!' They were sheep at a slaughterhouse. Everybody was looking down and tottering. Some were unable to stand up and were carried and pushed into the plane by maintenance soldiers."

The book's writing and organization at times seems disjointed, which may come from slapping together information quickly from a limited number of sources. Some sentences leave you wondering why they are even included, since there is no follow-up to them. There are various factual errors throughout the book, since just because something has been published by someone else in a book does not mean that it is true. For example, the book at various points refers to Tsuchiura Naval Air Base as a tokkōtai (Special Attack Corps) base with descriptions of two men's experience there (pp. 20, 22, 40), but Tsuchiura actually was a naval air training base (mostly for initial training required for pilots) that never had any tokkōtai squadrons organized or assigned there. In another instance, the Charles River Editors claim that Vice Admiral Ōnishi made the following statement in October 1944 soon after the first major success of special attacks on October 25 (pp. 13-4):

Success also appears to have inspired Ōnishi to spin elaborate fantasies of national salvation; meeting with Captain Inoguchi Ren'ya in a Manila air-raid shelter to coordinate recruitment of further volunteers, Ōnishi asserted: "If we are prepared to sacrifice twenty million Japanese lives in special attacks, victory will be ours."

Although Ōnishi made this statement, the date for this was August 13, 1945, after the two atomic bombs had been dropped and as discussions were taking place at the highest levels of the Japanese government as to whether the war should be ended [2]. In October 1944, he would not have made such a statement right after the major success of the first special attacks, since at that point in the war Japan was not as desperate as they were on August 13, 1945. This inaccuracy appears to be just one example where Charles River Editors appropriated information, whether correct or not, from Max Hastings' Retribution (2008) without any reference.

The Kamikazes has quite a bit of historically accurate information taken from a few sources, but the number of errors and instances of bias towards the motives of the kamikaze pilots in such a short book make it a history to avoid. Readers interested in the real history of kamikaze pilots should consider Rikihei Inoguchi and Tadashi Nakajima's The Divine Wind (1958) and Robin Rielly's Kamikaze Attacks of World War II (2010).


1. "Publisher dismayed by Japanese nationalism" <https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/10/technology/10iht-MOGUL.html> (January 12, 2020).

2. The date of August 13, 1945, for these words from Ōnishi is found at several Japanese Internet references such as the following one: Tokkōtai no umi no oya: Ōnishi Takijirō kaigun chūshō (Parent of Special Attack Corps creation: Navy Vice Admiral Ōnishi Takijirō) <https://ameblo.jp/tank-2012/entry-11910507036.html> (January 12, 2020).