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17th April 1945

Approximately 200 B-29’s carried out the last raid on Tokyo “causing fairly large fires in the urban areas”. The Japanese claimed the fantastic total of 105 B-29’s a downed or damaged. Another communique issued simultaneously yesterday afternoon said with a note of querulous complaint: “The enemy forces In the southern port of the main Okinawa, island have sustained tremendous blows due to our counter-attacks but now appear to be preparing for further offensive.” This in spite of another fantastic total of 379 warcraft sunk or damaged off Okinawa. A summery of “war results” so far claimed by imperial headquarters, made by the Mainichi, includes 16 aircraft carriers, 17 battleships, 54 cruisers, 53 destroyers, and 47 transports! It is an endurance contest between Japanese capacity for lying and Japanese capacity for believing.

Meantime all the vernaculars are being fed “human interest” stories on the suicide pilots who are credited with these marvellous feats. Here is a collection of typical incidents:

A bombardier, zooming upward after hitting the stern of a battleship, shouts out: “Wash your decks clean and wait for me. I’ll come every day!”

Sublieutenant K, after shooting down seven B-29’s in a single night, explains modestly: “There is nothing special in the technique of attacking B-29’s. I meant to ram myself against the enemy but in the dim moonlight I could not see the planes very clearly.” So he shot them down instead!

The members of the Kamishio (Divine Opportunity) special attack corps, before taking off for a suicide attack, collect all their money, Y400, and leave it behind “in the hope that it will contribute toward the production of better aircraft”.

Five naval cadets meet again at a tokotai base for the first time since a farewell student rally in the outer-gardens of the Meiji shrine in 1943. Four have become suicide pilots; the fifth cannot qualify because of poor eyesight. Before the pilots take off the grounded officer grasps them by the hand. “Fight my share of the fight too,” he cries and, cutting his finger with his sword, stains four ceremonial towels with his blood and gives them to his friends.

A suicide plane, lust after taking off, crashes into the sea. Four members of the ground crew immediately jump into the bitterly cold water and swim out to the wreck. A sergeant follows in a lifeboat with a large hole in the bottom which he has stuffed with his coat. The pilot is rescued. “Thank you for saving me,” he gasps. “I did not want to die alone.”

Before taking off, Lieutenant T. commander of the Shitei special attack corps, instructs his youngsters: “If we find only one aircraft carrier, I shall sink it. Let nobody else ram it. In case you do ram an enemy warship, be sure not to close your eyes.” The lieutenant, a newsman notes, has a wrist watch tied with a cherry-colored ribbon.

A formation of the Shitei special attack corps is about to take off. Solemnly its members tie ceremonial towels over their helmets. They are gifts from a navy captain and on each of them Admiral Toyoda, the commander-in-chief, has written the character “Trust”. The leader explains the objectives. He takes too much time. The take-off is overdue. “I am sorry I delayed you,” he apologizes. “Let us take three deep breaths.” They inhale and exhale quietly and then run off to their planes.

Three suicide pilots wait for the zero hour. Corporal laughs: “I would like to have a bellyful of nice juicy bananas. They steady my nerves. A bunch of bananas is the same to me as a pack of cigarettes to a heavy smoker.” Sublieutenant Y draws his favorite sword out of its jewelled case. His eyes follow carefully every inch of the gleaming blade. “I regret extremely that I will not be in a position to confirm my war-results,” he says slowly. Corporal T says nothing. They enter their cockpits. It is impossible to talk above the roar of the engines. They nod their heads briefly. A paper doll, his mascot, flutters in the vibrating cockpit of Corporal T. In a few moments they are off, like arrows in full flight, never to return”.