Only search Kamikaze Images

Kamikaze: To Die For the Emperor
Written and directed by Hugh O'Neill
Produced by David McWhinnie
Castle Communication, 1991 [1], 55 min., Video

Videos such as this one cause a distorted and incomplete picture of Japan's kamikaze operations. The narrative contains several inaccurate and misleading statements. This documentary has nonstop film clips, but many do not go with the narrative, and some are repeated. The video will give viewers little insight into the motivations and personalities of Japan's kamikaze pilots. The narrator's reading of English is excellent, but he mispronounces many Japanese words.

The visual images and narration in Kamikaze: To Die For the Emperor many times do not correspond with the historical facts. For example, the narrator states that on October 21 the first kamikaze took off, and the screen shows about fifty planes in the air. He then says the planes returned, only to be attacked on the ground by U.S. fighters [2]. The facts are that only three planes in this kamikaze unit took off on October 21, and the U.S. fighter attack destroyed five planes on the ground before the first three kamikaze planes took off [3]. In another example, the narrator says that all pilots in a Navy unit volunteered to make kamikaze attacks, but the screen shows men with Army caps lined up [4].

This video contains other blatant errors. The two supposed Japanese characters for kamikaze ("divine wind" in Japanese) are shown [5], but the first character does not even exist in Japanese [6]. The beginning part of the video describes the attack on the aircraft carrier Franklin in October 1944 by a lone aircraft piloted by the first kamikaze Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, and the screen shows the crash of a plane into a carrier and then a burning plane on the flight deck [7]. The real story differs greatly from the fantasy shown in the video. The video narrator says the ship's radar picked up a lone plane, but actually Arima led a group of about 100 planes, and the ship's radar picked up about 20 to 30 of them. Only one plane, with an unknown pilot, got anywhere near the carrier Franklin, and antiaircraft fire shot it down. This plane splashed about 100 feet from Franklin, but a wing section did end up on Franklin's flight deck [8].

The video's explanations are sometimes misleading. The documentary lasts nearly one hour, but the narrator has only a couple of sentences about the kamikaze plane attacks on Allied ships around Okinawa. Much more than half of the kamikaze attacks occurred near Okinawa, but the video focuses most of its attention on the attacks in the Philippines. Another misleading section of the video relates to two groups of pilots who were referred to informally as kichigai (madmen) and sukebei (lechers). In Yasuo Kuwahara's supposedly true account published in 1957 of his experiences as an Army kamikaze pilot, the kichigai fully supported suicide attacks, whereas the sukebei saw no purpose in death for death's sake [9]. The narrator confuses the definitions of these two groups, and he labels all pilots who flew conventional (non-suicidal) missions as sukebei. In actuality, pilots labeled as kichigai and as sukebei flew both kamikaze and conventional flights in Kuwahara's book, which turned out to be fictional [10].

Anyone interested in the facts concerning the history of Japan's kamikaze operations should avoid this video.


1. The video case has two copyright years: 1990 and 1991. The case also gives two copyright holders: Video Treasures and Castle Communications. The video itself has inconsistent copyright information. The basic data included at the top of this page and on the Bibliography web page is from the video itself, not the video case.

2. From 20:35 to 20:45 in video.

3. Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 51-53.

4. At 19:15 in video.

5. At 19:30 in video.

6. It appears that the video's makers combined the two characters for a rarely used Japanese word for "god" (joutei) to make one character that does not exist in Japanese. The use of these two characters as the word for "god" is common in Chinese, so it is possible that this is how the video's makers created this character.

7. From 3:55 to 4:40 in video.

8. Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 37; Warner and Warner 1982, 84.

9. Kuwahara and Allred 1957, 116.

10. The book Kamikaze by Kuwahara and Allred was considered for many years to be a true account of an Army kamikaze pilot, but evidence indicates that Kuwahara's account is fictional (refer to Ten Historical Discrepancies of Kamikaze by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon T. Allred).

Sources Cited

Inoguchi, Rikihei, Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Kuwahara, Yasuo, and Gordon T. Allred. 1957. Kamikaze. New York: Ballantine Books.

Lambert, John W. 1997. Bombs, Torpedoes and Kamikazes. North Branch, MN: Specialty Press.

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