Kamikaze Pilots Weren’t All Volunteers

During World War II, thousands of Japanese pilots volunteered to be kamikaze — crashing their planes in the name of their emperor. Now, it appears that not all of the pilots were volunteers. It’s believed that 3,000 to 4,000 Japanese pilots crashed their planes into enemy targets on purpose, but only 10% of those missions were successful. Kamikaze pilots were aged 17 to 24 and were portrayed as 100% willing to die for their country, but now — decades later — research shows that only 60% were eager to sacrifice themselves for the emperor. The rest couldn’t say no because of peer pressure. Pilots were asked to hold up their hands in a big group if they didn’t want to volunteer. Amid peer pressure, hardly anyone was able to say no to the mission. They feared that if they didn't volunteer, their families would be ostracized and their parents told that their son was a coward, which was not honorable but shameful. Then, as fighter pilots, they would be sent to the most dangerous part of the front line where they would still die — but dishonored. As a result, everyone gave the answer which was opposite of what we were really feeling. For Japan's post-war generation, the experiences of former kamikaze pilots are unimaginable, even to their own family members.