By TAKURO YAGI/ Staff Writer
December 26, 2020 at 07:30 JST
“Memoirs of a Kamikaze” is the English translation of a book first published four years ago based on the experiences of a suicide pilot who embarked on seven missions and miraculously survived the war determined to honor his fallen comrades.
Released in September, the book recounts Kazuo Odachi's desire to “tell the truth about my comrades who died at the time.”
He says his testimony is “my way of consoling their souls.”
In postwar Tokyo, Odachi, 93, worked as a police officer and kendo teacher.
The book is based on accounts he told a former prosecutor, who became his friend through their shared love of kendo martial art, and a retired newspaper reporter. Odachi was 87 years old when he started talking about his war experiences.
Born in Saitama Prefecture, Odachi had loved kendo since childhood. At age 16, he joined the Imperial Japanese Navy’s preparatory pilot training course and became a special unit member in October 1944.
After seeing the first kamikaze unit swing into action off the Philippines, Odachi was transferred to Taiwan, where he undertook seven missions, all of them unsuccessful.
He had hoped to end his life by diving on a U.S. aircraft carrier but always returned alive due to fierce fire from U.S. interceptors or poor weather conditions.
Just prior to his eighth flight attempt, Odachi listened to the Aug. 15, 1945, broadcast by Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s surrender.
Resolving to “contribute to society on behalf of my killed comrades,” Odachi made a fresh start by joining the Metropolitan Police Department as a detective after being demobilized and returning home.
Following his retirement, Odachi spent more than three decades teaching kendo to children of elementary and junior high school age.
Odachi spent 70 years jotting down his memories of being part of a special attack unit.
Also depicted in his book is a senior military officer who promised to “follow you guys for sure” but returned to Japan alive, and like Odachi, and endured the cold stares of residents in his hometown unable to fathom how he had been unable to sacrifice his life.
During World War II, the military authorities relentlessly pushed the notion that Japanese should be prepared to give up their lives for the sake of the state.
Odachi said his Navy buddies showed no outward signs of nerves before embarking on their suicide missions, other than to calmly down cups of sake and sit alone with their thoughts on the night before.
They simply felt obliged to protect their homeland and families and had no choice but to take off on one-way missions in planes loaded with explosives aimed at detonating on impact.
They were anything but fanatical nationalists, says Odachi of a common misperception.
His book is currently being translated into German and Romanian as well.
“I want people all over the world to understand the truth of the special attack units,” Odachi said.
Historians describe the Nomonhan Incident, a little-known 1939 Japan-Soviet border conflict, as the starting point of World War II.
A mother of two sons recounts the days when she lived with the novel coronavirus.
The Asahi Shimbun aims “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” through its Gender Equality Declaration.
Let’s explore the Japanese capital from the viewpoint of wheelchair users and people with disabilities with Barry Joshua Grisdale.