Kamikazefication and Japan's Wartime Ideology

All Ready To Die

Author: David C. Earhart


A number of recent works have focused on the personal experiences of kamikaze pilots, but very little has been published in English on the Japanese government's effort to “kamikazefy” the civilian population in the final year of the Asian PacificWar (1937-45). To illustrate this effort, this article employs images taken from the author's personal collection of over 2,500 Japanese wartime publications (predominantly periodicals). In early 1945, the Japanese government announced a “fight to the death for the home islands,” in which civilian “home-front warriors” would fight alongside troops in the event of an Allied invasion. Civilian combatants were expected to follow the “no surrender” policy hammered into Japanese servicemen and to emulate the kamikaze pilots' spirit of supreme sacrifice. The article begins with a brief discussion of the ideology behind kamikazefication, inviting comparisons with suicide missions in other times and places. Historical context is further established by an overview of media accounts of Japanese suicide missions in the Asian PacificWar, beginning with the mission carried out at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. An analysis of media reportage shows how members of suicide missions were glorified and made into role models for all Japanese, even women and children. Servicemen who died for their country were enshrined at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The article concludes by suggesting reasons why civilians, even those who died fighting in the war, have not been similarly honored.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan

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December 2006