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First of all, let s say that this is really a 4 1 2 star review, not a 4 star review The half star is lost as a result of my personal prejudice against the sort of history that writes Francis Drake walked down the Plymouth street, stroking his beard, and his jewelled sword hilt sparkling in the summer sun in other words, writing history as a novel, and filling in sentences with unverifiable but eminently plausible details Sheftall does this sometimes when describing some historical event First of all, let s say that this is really a 4 1 2 star review, not a 4 star review The half star is lost as a result of my personal prejudice against the sort of history that writes Francis Drake walked down the Plymouth street, stroking his beard, and his jewelled sword hilt sparkling in the summer sun in other words, writing history as a novel, and filling in sentences with unverifiable but eminently plausible details Sheftall does this sometimes when describing some historical events where the information came from secondary sources.For the most part, though, this book is based on primary sources Sheftall s interviews with those who lived through the times he is describing, and we can assume that when he writes a description, this is based on the actual memories of the interviewee.I am in awe of this Studs Terkel like approach, for two reasons Firstly, from a purely linguistic basis Sheftall conducted all these interviews in a notoriously difficult foreign language, which has undergone many changes since the time when the events described took place Terms and nuances in use in the period described may be almost incomprehensible, even to native speakers of today s Japanese Secondly, he was interviewing a somewhat secretive group of people, carrying an enormous burden of emotional and cultural baggage, whom one might expect to act defensively towards any outsider, let alone a foreigner from a country with whom they were at war.The fact that Sheftall not only managed to penetrate this thick shell, but also managed to extract some genuine responses, is a matter for praise of the highest kind It undoubtedly helped as he mentions at one point that he is a graduate of West Point, and the fact that he is an alumnus of an lite military establishment helped to form a bond with these extraordinary people.The personal stories read very smoothly indeed, and though it is not necessary to have a background knowledge of Japanese culture and language to appreciate the finer details of the plot , I definitely felt that it helped me understand a littleAgain, kudos to Sheftall for introducing an alien culture to his readers without condescension or obscurity.So now to the content Most perceptions of tokkthe suicide tactics seem to regard the suicide pilots as either hapless unwilling dupes driven to their deaths by REMFs of the worst kind, or as fanatic Emperor worshippers screaming Banzai as they rode their death chariots to certain flaming oblivion The truth, if we are to believe the survivors, is muchcomplex.Sheftall has explored the psychology of wartime Japan in some depth Certainly there is some truth in some of the stereotypes, but other factors, such as family loyalty, peer pressure, and simple military discipline, also played a part, and Sheftall displays an understanding of these motives that can only have come from the convictions expressed by those whom he interviewed for this book.A sidenote as a non military Briton, it has always struck me how reluctant American armed forces are to accept fatalities in battle The figures for American deaths in the American War in Viet Nam, or the recent Iraqi invasion, for example, are almost grotesquely disproportionate to the numbers of deaths experienced by their adversaries, and even to the numbers for collateral damage caused by the fighting It may be that, since the USA bore the brunt of the Pacific War, and certainly US forces suffered most from the Japanese suicide attacks, this reluctance may be a key factor in the global judgement and condemnation of the tokktactics Certainly, Soviet forces, while not employing deliberate suicide tactics, were willing to risk much heavier casualty rates than the US, and even the British accepted very high death rates in units such as the RAF fighter squadrons in the Battle of Britain the tally ho mentality of going up against overwhelming odds was prevalent In these three cases, Japan, the USSR, and the UK, the home country was in danger of invasion and occupation, where the USA was never under such threat.In any event, Sheftall makes it perfectly credible to the reader that an intelligent young man, with his life before him, could willingly strap himself into a plane that he was barely capable of flying, with the confident hope that he would never return Though he does not praise the tactics or the philosophy behind it, the kamikaze become muchintelligible as the result of his interpretation.The end of the book is perhaps the most disturbing in some ways, as he examines the attitudes of the survivors of these units towards today s Japan, which they regard as having been emasculated by the American victors Again, we most Japanese and foreign residents of Japan are expected to loathe and detest the black sound trucks that make the streets hideous, and I am sure that Sheftall does not agree with all the rants that spew from these people However, he does go a long way to explaining why these views exist, and it is far from being a mindless my country right or wrong or a misplaced sentimentality for the comradeship of men at war For this insight alone, he deserves praise.I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to knowabout Japan, not just the Japan of then, but also that of today Though no one can describe any society with 100 percent accuracy, and perhaps Japanese society isindescribable than any other, this book makes perfect sense to me, and crystallises many thoughts that have been lurking at the back of my mind An absolutely stunning work Not so much a comprehensive telling of the story of the Kamikaze, but rather a series of vignettes, telling individual tales of participants, siblings, and people who worked on bases While some people might object to Sheftall s lack of condemnation of the program, the book seeks to understand those who participated on their own terms A highly valuable addition to any collection on World War 2. Professor Sheftall immersed himself in the world of the surviving Japanese kamikaze pilots 60 years after that nation s surrender, to find the answer to a simple question why did they train to expend their lives in attacks on the advancing American and British forces This book is the lucid, attentive, and sympathetic result of his research, and it defines these aging warriors clearly and accurately Professor Sheftall had several competitive edgeshe has lived in Japan for decades, speaks the Professor Sheftall immersed himself in the world of the surviving Japanese kamikaze pilots 60 years after that nation s surrender, to find the answer to a simple question why did they train to expend their lives in attacks on the advancing American and British forces This book is the lucid, attentive, and sympathetic result of his research, and it defines these aging warriors clearly and accurately Professor Sheftall had several competitive edgeshe has lived in Japan for decades, speaks the language fluently, teaches in a Japanese university, and gained his academic credentials by studying their culture He put these to work in writing this book.Interestingly, the book also addresses a topic that makes it relevant to generations 70 years later the comparison of Japan s Kamikaze pilots to the modern Muslim suicide terrorists, like those who attacked America on 9 11.Professor Sheftall argues that the Kamikaze pilots saw themselves not as the suicide bombersbut as the firefighters who ran into the World Trade Center and perished in their destruction This may seem odd, but the analogy is that the Kamikaze pilots were uniformed and serving members of the constituent armed forces of a sovereign nation, flying clearly marked military aircraft, shedding their lives to attack legitimate military targets of another constituent sovereign nation, whose armed forces were driving toward the Japanese homeland Only the actual kamikazes and the uniformed service members on the ships were at risk of death If a uniformed service member of a sovereign nation tries to destroy an enemy aircraft carrier or assault transport by crashing his plane or torpedo into its hull, he is undertaking a lawful act of war.The terrorists of 9 11, by comparison, did NOT represent any constituent nation or armed force They wore no uniform Their weapons were not clearly marked aircraft of their air force, but illegally hijacked civilian airliners, loaded with noncombatant civilians The terrorists slaughtered the civilian flight crews of these planes, took them over, and smashed them into civilian targets at the World Trade Center, and were prevented from hitting another civilian target by the passengers of Flight 93 The fourth target, the Pentagon, could be argued as a military target, but I won t go there All civilians in the four planes perished in the attacks, as did vast numbers of civilians and emergency response workers on the ground The goal of the 9 11 attacks was not to forestall a military advance The attacks of 9 11 were not an act of warthey were acts of terror.Consequently, the kamikazes of World War II are very different from terrorists of 9 11 The surviving Kamikaze pilots are very aware of this They see themselves as being willing to expend their lives to save their beloved homeland of Japan from invasion by America and its allies.The fact that Japan had launched the war on the United States and its allies without declaration of war, attacking American, British, and Dutch possessions, and proceeded to massacre civilians and prisoners, mistreat and starve PoWs, conduct biological warfare experiments on civilians, and ruthlessly loot occupied territories didn t change the kamikazes situationneither they nor their leadership, having started the war, were going to simply surrender particularly in a culture that regarded surrender as an abomination The war was going on, the war was going badly, the war had to be fought, and if young men had to give their lives to keep the invader off the sacred soil of Japan, so be it.So the Kamikazes saw themselves as giving their lives to save their nation, and analogized themselves to firefighters running up the stairs at the World Trade Center to save the people of their nation Neither succeeded.Professor Sheftall has done his research and his homework, and is familiar with the ground of his subject His writing style is clear and powerful He conveys both the atmosphere and attitudes of the young pilots of 1945 and the aging men of 2002 My major negative criticism of this work is that he gets far too close to his subject, to the point of identifying with them, attending their events as an honored guest, becoming their ambassador and mouthpiece to the Western world and future generations.I can understand writers becoming close to their subjects and identifying with them, but I have some difficulty identifying myself or sympathizing with the kamikaze pilots Yes, they were patriotic Yes, they were brave Yes, they upheld their culture Yes, they followed the laws and rules of war, as humanity tries to codify that insanity.However, I cannot sympathize too much with the Kamikaze pilots because I cannot help but forget that their cause, while patriotic and heroic, was not just a bad causeit was an evil one.As I write this, I have at hand several books on the ordeal of the American, British, Australian, Canadian, Dutch, Indian, and New Zealand PoWs under the Japanese Mistreating them is not the word Horrific barbarity is aappropriate term The Japanese did not hesitate to starve, behead, and ruthlessly exploit their PoWs, building airfields, laboring in shipyards and coal mines, and, of course, constructing the vile Railway of Death in Thailand and Burma The Japanese also used their PoWs for the biological warfare experiments at Harbin as mentioned , conducted sadistic medical experiments on them some while alive , and even practiced cannibalism, as depicted in Mark Bradley s Flyboys This is not a heroic cause This is not the behavior of a civilized nation There is nothing honorable in fighting for leadership that endorses, empowers, and enforces such policies.In addition, the Japanese were not fighting to liberate Asia, as their propaganda claimsthey sought to replace Western colonialism with a new form of slavery Asian women were hauled off as comfort girls, raped and flung into prostitution to entertain Japanese troops Asian civilians were dragooned into the Death Railway alongside the PoWs, when PoW labor was in short supply The Japanese cold bloodedly butchered hundreds of thousands of residents of Nanking upon its conquest and have denied doing so ever since , and conductedbiological warfare experiments on civilians They also financed their war effort by turning hundreds of thousands of Manchurians and Chinese into opium addicts.Consequently, while I can respect the situation of the Kamikaze pilots, I find it difficult to sympathize with them They fought for a bad cause.That being said, however, Professor Sheftall s book is probably the definitive work on this subject, which deserves greater readership in the West Most of our accounts of the battles with the Kamikaze come from the Americans and British who endured the attacks we have virtually none from the Japanese side, for obvious reasons.In an age when suicide bombing is increasingly becoming a normal means of communication for people and organizations with penknives to grind, ranging from Al Qaeda in New York and Washington to Adam Lanza in Connecticut, it is important that we understand why human beings would find it not only necessary, but desirable to deliberately train to and commit attacks that will take their lives.Granted that the Japanese Kamikaze pilots are different psychologically from the suicide bombers of today, there are still important lessons we will learn from reading Professor Sheftall s book The modern suicide bomber is often a displaced and desperate young man, who is covering his hopelessness and despair with an act of bravado, believing that his death will make him a posthumous inspiration and martyr for his cause.That seems to be a common thread with terrorists and extreme radicals of many nations, cultures, and ideologies I have noticed such behaviors and views in the lives and writings of neo Nazis and the Symbionese Liberation Army Both of them prattled about dying in battle against their ill defined but massive enemies, and becoming statues in every town Even Joseph Goebbels told his aides, in the Third Reich s final days, about how they should bear up so that people did not hoot and whitle when they appeared on screen There are threads of commonality to suicide bombers and radicalism, and the Kamikaze corps, while not being a manifestation of radicalism, is an exemplar of that commonality at some levels They should be studied.It is tragic that we do not study history enoughonly from Barbara Tuchman s lantern on the stern can we determine the direction of the waves before us It is appalling thatpeople know about Kim Kardashian than Henry Clay, Snooki than Otto von Bismarck, and about twerking than the Middle Passage It amused me that the number one Internet search after 9 11 was Nostradamus, as if that medieval poet and astrologer could predict the weather, let alone the future.Perhaps George Orwell was right Who controls the present, controls the past Who controls the past, controls the future Full disclosure Professor Sheftall and I are high school classmates We had the same writing teachers We were not friends then, and we are absolutely NOT friends in any way now Professor Sheftall has openly and privately stated his disdain and dislike of me as recently as 2003, ridiculed and attacked me, my character, and my writing, and publicly demanded that I be silenced forever Nor did I purchase the book I read it in bookstores, doing so carefully, and put it back on the shelf.I have reviewed this book purely as a professional journalist, part time historian, and holder of an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School for Social Research, one of the nation s most prestigious such programs That and 2.50 gets me a ride on the New York Subway Regardless of my personal feelings for Professor Sheftall and his for me, I am not going to let them impact on my views on his writing.The book is outstanding, and a definitive work on the subject I hope that he is able to produce a follow on work, interviewing other Japanese World War II service members, before they die, and look forward to its success That being said, I would not let him enter my home This is a four star book.But I had to take off three stars because the author did something unforgivable like a Hollywood hack writing about a serial killer, he fell in love with his subjects.However, the surviving Kamikazes and families of kamikazes do give extremely frank and honest accounts, and they probably wouldn t have opened their dark hearts had the author not loved them so unconditionally, so I ll give back one star.Further, his admiration for his subjects gives him a very strong This is a four star book.But I had to take off three stars because the author did something unforgivable like a Hollywood hack writing about a serial killer, he fell in love with his subjects.However, the surviving Kamikazes and families of kamikazes do give extremely frank and honest accounts, and they probably wouldn t have opened their dark hearts had the author not loved them so unconditionally, so I ll give back one star.Further, his admiration for his subjects gives him a very strong identification with them You get the impression he would very much have liked to be a kamikaze Getting inside their minds like that, while distasteful, allows him to tell their stories effectively, so he gets another star back.That makes three stars, although it really is a four star book This is an interesting and different sort of book on the subject It s not written as a historical analysis It does include some of that, of course, but it also includes a lot of personal memories from people actually involved in the kamikaze activities as interviewed by the author The author s own impressions are given, and this makes the entire book a littlealive than most others of its general nature.He addresses the origin of the kamikaze movement in WWII and notes that it actually This is an interesting and different sort of book on the subject It s not written as a historical analysis It does include some of that, of course, but it also includes a lot of personal memories from people actually involved in the kamikaze activities as interviewed by the author The author s own impressions are given, and this makes the entire book a littlealive than most others of its general nature.He addresses the origin of the kamikaze movement in WWII and notes that it actually had no precedent in Japanese history There may have been isolated instances of kamikaze like behavior, but no organized mass attack concepts as there were during the war Public relations were also part of its origin, trying to convince people this was a glorious thing these men were doing.He notes that some of the Japanese leaders did want to drive the white man out of Asia, and some were concerned about Japan not having enough natural resources to continue its war in China As things went from bad to worse, Japan began to run out of military options Nothing they did could seem to stop the inexorable movement of American forces closer and closer to the Japanese mainland The Japanese Navy had been basically sunk and was no longer a major factor in the war effort.He also writes about how, in the last part of the war, the quality control in production was so low that there was a major problem.The author again goes into the PR importance of the kamikaze, a sort of trickle down effect If they succeeded, it would raise the morale of the military As the common people heard about the successes, which were often blown way out of proportion , then they would get excited and work harder for the war effort.The Leyte Gulf battle had an effect on the growing support in the military for the kamikaze In that battle the Japanese lost four aircraft carriers, three battleships including the Musashi, the sister ship of the Yamato , six heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, twelve destroyers, and four submarines The main thing to keep in mind about this is that the Japanese could not afford to lose such numbers of ships since there was no way that they could replace them The U.S ship building was capable ofthan replacing ship losses, but the Japanese couldn t, so as one group would get stronger, the other would naturally get weaker and that s exactly what happened.One of the great things the author does is detail the revisionist approach to history The Japanese revisionists holds that Japan was threatened by the colonial powers, that they wanted to free Asia from whites and from the Soviet threat, the Nanking massacre and similar things didn t happen, and so on.He goes into the daily lives of the kamikaze, showing the types of things they were doing in getting read for their own expected deaths.The author also goes into the Oka flying bombs and how a lot of those ended up at the bottom of the ocean when ships carrying them were sunk by U.S subs The end result of the Oka program was one U.S ship sunk and six damaged, with the loss of 375 Oka crewmen counting the crew in the planes carrying the Oka to their launch point , and 55 Oka pilots.An interesting point is that one of the pilots saw, while out walking, women training with bamboo spears The Japanese government was going to use all the people they could to repel the expected U.S invasion, even if they were almost untrained and had only bamboo spears to fight with I think if that had happened it would have increased the hatred for the Japanese tremendously, proving to people in the U.S that the Japanese were all totally fanatical, and the only thing to stop them was total annihilation Killing Japanese civilians would have become as completely acceptable as killing their regular soldiers There s also lotsin the book This is one of the best, maybe the best book that examines the topic of the kamikaze, especially since it does so from so many different angles, including military, historical, psychological, sociological, and personal Excellent and well research story of kamikaze pilots in WW2 Interviews with surviving pilots gives an accurate picture of the mindset of the Japanese nation during the war I recommend reading this along with Fly Boys. The best part of this book is the 10 or so individual stories, mini biographies really, in the book The author interviewed most of these people in person and relates their stories pretty effectively I was afraid initially that some of this work was going to assume to much, and I think in the beginning some of his portrayals show that the author is writing into some of the charactersthan he could know about their inner thoughts and attitudes of some of the people Several people died befo The best part of this book is the 10 or so individual stories, mini biographies really, in the book The author interviewed most of these people in person and relates their stories pretty effectively I was afraid initially that some of this work was going to assume to much, and I think in the beginning some of his portrayals show that the author is writing into some of the charactersthan he could know about their inner thoughts and attitudes of some of the people Several people died before the author began writing so not comfortable with his deeply personal relation of their experience, motives, or thoughts If you are interested in getting into the heads of the people who volunteered for Air or Naval kamikaze duty the mini biographies in this book are the best way I ve run across to get there The author points out that the surviving kamikaze volunteers veterans associations push a white washed version of the war to the younger generation of Japanese One where they blame accounts of torture or war crimes on propganda and the lies of enimies Many of these piolots were probably never around POWs like other members of the Japanese armed forces But there are to many eye witness acounts and evidence to excuse their white washing The author notes it and does not point out this version of correct history is wrong though he stops short of agreeing with it *READ PDF ⇹ Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze ⇟ In the last days of World War II, the Japanese unleashed a new breed of warrior They were the kamikaze idealistic young men believing there could be no greater glory than to sacrifice their lives in suicide attacks to defend their homeland But what of those men who took the sacred oath to die in battle and lived Soon after the attacks, ethnographer MG Sheftall was given unprecedentedly intimate access to the cloistered community of Japan s last remaining kamikaze corps survivors The result is a poignant and unforgettable glimpse into the lives and mindsets of former kamikaze pilots who never completed their final missions I picked up this book hoping to learn about the history of the kamikaze program However, it seems Sheftall s goal was to examine the mind of the young kamikazes and the culture that created the phenomenon The end result was something between an historical account and a book on mid twentieth century Japanese society Sheftall told the story of the kamikazes through ten or so men and a group of women who lived through the kamikaze program Although I found the historical information such as the I picked up this book hoping to learn about the history of the kamikaze program However, it seems Sheftall s goal was to examine the mind of the young kamikazes and the culture that created the phenomenon The end result was something between an historical account and a book on mid twentieth century Japanese society Sheftall told the story of the kamikazes through ten or so men and a group of women who lived through the kamikaze program Although I found the historical information such as the wide variety of kamikaze specific vehicles including planes, gliders, speed boats, and torpedos interesting, I now realize that the why behind the story was probablyinteresting In hindsight, I wish Sheftall had spendtime addressing the psychological propaganda put forth by the Japanese government and less time on the religious beliefs of the Japanese people Though by no means an action packed story, this book was an engaging read based almost entirely on firsthand accounts from men who expected to diethan 50 years before this book was published This is a must read for anyone interested in the Pacific War, Japanese culture or language Sheftall s insight comes through like a bell in this book of firsthand interviews with Japanese men and women who experienced the war.He introduces us to men who trained for kamikaze missions giving us a look at them as human beings and not the typical crazed lunatics they are often portrayed as in old movies We also meet those who supported them and learn how they felt about the war.I also read, write This is a must read for anyone interested in the Pacific War, Japanese culture or language Sheftall s insight comes through like a bell in this book of firsthand interviews with Japanese men and women who experienced the war.He introduces us to men who trained for kamikaze missions giving us a look at them as human beings and not the typical crazed lunatics they are often portrayed as in old movies We also meet those who supported them and learn how they felt about the war.I also read, write, and speak Japanese In the past 25 years I have interviewed 97 Japanese WWII army and navy veterans so can say from experience that Sheftall knows his stuff He is also a gifted creative writer This book is not a dry, boring textbook but reads like a suspense noveland the best part is its all true This is one of my favorite books on the Pacific War