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Ten Historical Discrepancies

by Bill Gordon and Yuko Shirako

Bill Gordon is author of the Kamikaze Images website. The fiancé of Yuko Shirako's mother died as an Army kamikaze pilot on May 4, 1945 (read Yoko's Hopes and Losses for his story).

This article analyzes ten significant historical discrepancies in the book Kamikaze, written by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon T. Allred. Each discrepancy discussed in this article has three sections: (A) details from book, (B) historical facts related to subject, and (C) possibilities to explain inconsistencies between book's statements and historical facts.

The book Kamikaze is an autobiographical account of Kuwahara's 18 months in the Japanese Army, but some background information on the relationship between Kuwahara and his co-author Allred will be helpful to assess the historical discrepancies contained in the book. Allred wrote the book Kamikaze in English based on information provided to him by Kuwahara. They used an interpreter for almost all of their conversations over a ten-month period starting in the summer of 1955.* Allred first wrote out Kuwahara's story in an 80-page draft. After reading the entire draft written by Allred in English, Kuwahara corrected any errors and offered additional suggestions. This account written by Allred was published in the January 1957 issue of Cavalier magazine. After Allred returned from Japan to the U.S., he wrote a rough draft of the book Kamikaze based on the published magazine article, extensive notes from his conversations with Kuwahara, and background reading. Allred sent this book draft to Kuwahara, who only answered a few questions due to his poor health at the time. The book Kamikaze was published without Kuwahara's making comments on the entire manuscript.

(*Note: The interviews began in early 1955 and were conducted daily over a period of 10 months. Initially an interpreter was used, but after three interviews, Allred discovered it was easier to communicate without the interpreter. ALM)

The ten most significant historical discrepancies in Kamikaze are the following:

1.     Hiro Air Base


1.     Hiro Air Base

Book: Kuwahara served in the Japanese Army at Hiro Air Base from February 1944 to early June 1945 during his basic training, flight training, fighter training, and fighter squadron assignment. He returned to Hiro Air Base in late June or early July 1945 after a week at Oita Air Base and two to three weeks at a small air base in Formosa. He remained at Hiro until August 23, 1945.

Facts: The Japanese Army did not have a base at Hiro or any air bases near Hiro. The Navy had two major production facilities in Hiro: 11th Naval Aviation Arsenal and Hiro Naval Arsenal. During WWII, these factories produced various naval planes such as Suisei bombers, Type 0 Observation Seaplanes, and Shiden-kai fighters. These two facilities also repaired planes and manufactured aircraft engine and other parts. On May 5, 1945, 148 B-29s bombed these facilities and destroyed them.

Kuwahara drew a map of Hiro Air Base buildings in order to assist Allred's writing of the book. This map supports a statement in Chapter 4 that Hiro Air Base had 48 barracks housing 15 men apiece and "a training ground, school, dispensary, storage houses, plus a variety of buildings and offices." An American plane took an aerial reconnaissance photograph of Hiro prior to its being bombed on May 5, 1945. The photograph shows that the Hiro Air Base buildings drawn by Kuwahara are actually several buildings of the 11th Naval Aviation Arsenal in Hiro. Chapter 4 describes a "long, narrow airstrip running the full length of the base," but the photograph shows no such airstrip next to the buildings drawn by Kuwahara. The Hiro factories did have a short taxiway to the water, where facilities existed to put seaplanes into the water or to load planes onto ships.

Kure Naval Air Group, based in Hiro from 1931, used an airfield across a small river from the Navy's factories. Jungo Kaku, a Japanese Navy pilot who during WWII flew to the airstrip used by the Kure Naval Air Group to pick up a repaired plane, said in an interview that he has no knowledge of any Army air base located at Hiro. No fighter squadron was stationed at Kure Naval Air Group's airfield in Hiro during WWII. A fighter squadron called the Kure Naval Air Group Fighter Squadron operated from Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture. This squadron reorganized in August 1944 to become Naval Air Group 332.

Test pilots assigned to the Hiro naval aircraft factories also used the Kure Naval Air Group airfield for manufactured and repaired planes.

Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara was actually in the Navy rather than the Army since Hiro and its surrounding area did not have an Army base. However, it seems unlikely that Kuwahara would misidentify his military service branch. The book states specifically in several places that he served in the Army, and he trained to become a pilot of a popular Army fighter named the Hayabusa. Also, the book uses Army ranks to refer to various individuals.

Perhaps Kuwahara was in the group of test pilots associated with the naval arsenals in Hiro. However, these test pilots would have been experienced pilots to test planes manufactured and repaired there. The book states that Kuwahara had his basic, flight, and fighter training at Hiro, but no organization or facilities existed in Hiro for this type of training. The book states that Kuwahara entered the Army at age 15 in February 1944, so he would have been too young to be a test pilot.

 

2.     Kamikaze Attack Date

Book: On June 10, 1945, a squadron of 12 kamikaze pilots flew from Oita Air Base to Kagoshima Air Base for a refueling stop and then sortied from Kagoshima to make an attack on a group of 25 American ships. All pilots died in the attack. They sank one destroyer and one tanker.

Facts: On June 10, 1945, the only kamikaze attacks were made by three fighters that sortied from the Army's air base in Chiran.

Kagoshima Air Base was a Navy air base rather than an Army air base.

Japanese records of special attack force (tokkotai in Japanese) or kamikaze deaths indicate only 12 men sortied from Kagoshima Air Base during the entire war. On March 11, 1945, the 12-man crew of a Type 2 Flying Boat sortied from Kagoshima as one of the lead planes in the kamikaze attack by Ginga bombers on American ships anchored at Ulithi Atoll. An American patrol bomber shot down the flying boat.

Kamikaze planes did not sink any tankers during the war.

Possibilities: Perhaps the 12 kamikaze pilots sortied from another base in Kagoshima Prefecture on a different date. This could be possible based on the large number of kamikaze pilots who sortied from bases in Kagoshima Prefecture during the Battle of Okinawa. It is most likely that the book's date would only be off by a day or two. However, this does not appear to be correct. On June 8, there were the following kamikaze sorties: 6 from Miyakonojo, 3 from Chiran, and 3 from Bansei. These would not be the squadron of 12 planes that sortied from one air base. There were no kamikaze sorties on June 9. On June 11, there were 10 kamikaze planes that sortied from the Army's base in Bansei and 4 from Chiran.  Nine of the planes from Bansei were from the 64th Shinbu Squadron, which could not have been the one mentioned in Kuwahara's book since this squadron never passed through Oita. After June 11, there were no recorded Army or Navy kamikaze sorties until June 21.

Perhaps Kuwahara misidentified the tanker that sank when hit by a kamikaze plane. However, there is no date close to June 10, 1945, when both a destroyer and another type of ship sank on the same date. The nearest date before June 10 when this happened was May 25, and the nearest date after June 10 was June 21.

 

3.     Friends' Deaths as Kamikaze Pilots

Book: Kuwahara's boyhood friend named Tatsuno died as a kamikaze pilot in an attack on an American tanker on June 10, 1945.

Oka, a friend of Kuwahara at Hiro Air Base, made a kamikaze sortie from Kagoshima Air Base sometime in May 1945 about three weeks before June 10.

Facts: Japanese records of special attack force kamikaze deaths do not mention any pilot named Tatsuno who died after March 1, 1945.

Japanese records of Army special attack force kamikaze deaths during 1945 mention one pilot named Oka. However, this pilot sortied from Chiran Air Base on April 16, 1945.

Possibilities: Perhaps Japanese wartime records are incomplete or incorrect. However, the current listings of special attack force kamikaze deaths are considered complete and accurate for the most part, although a very few discrepancies between listings still exist. Japanese researchers have worked for several decades after the war to improve the accuracy of these listings by contacting veterans and bereaved family members. After the end of the war, several challenges existed to ensure a complete and accurate listing of special attack force kamikaze deaths. Some records were burned when surrender was announced. Also, some kamikaze pilots made forced landings on the way to Okinawa and survived on small islands, even though official military records indicated their deaths in kamikaze attacks.

Perhaps Tatsuno and Oka died as escort pilots rather than kamikaze pilots, so their deaths would not be included in Japanese listings of special attack force kamikaze deaths. However, the book states specifically that Tatsuno sortied in a kamikaze squadron on June 10, 1945. Kuwahara witnessed his death as he crashed into and sank a tanker. The book does not clearly state how Oka died, but it strongly suggests that he also died in a kamikaze mission rather than as an escort pilot.

 

4.    Oita Air Base

Book: When American B-29s destroyed Hiro Air Base in early June 1945, Kuwahara moved to Oita Air Base, where he became an escort fighter for kamikaze squadrons. He was there for a few days before he flew his first escort mission in which he accompanied 15 kamikaze planes. He flew escort from Oita for an unspecified number of multiple kamikaze missions prior to June 10, 1945. The kamikaze squadrons escorted by Kuwahara also flew from Oita, since he writes that it was better that he did not form any close friendships at Oita when referring to men selected for kamikaze missions.

Facts: Oita Air Base was a Navy air base rather than an Army air base.

During 1945, only ten kamikaze planes sortied from Oita Air Base and did not return. This includes one Ginga bomber on March 18, another on March 20, and eight Suisei dive-bombers led by Vice Admiral Ugaki after the Emperor announced surrender on August 15.

Based on Hiro being destroyed in early June and Kuwahara waiting a few days for his first escort mission, there would have been only one opportunity in June 1945 prior to the 10th for him to fly an escort fighter for kamikaze missions. On June 6, 25 kamikaze planes sortied from Chiran Air Base.

Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara meant another air base in Oita Prefecture rather than Oita Air Base. However, the other two Oita Prefecture air bases, located in Usa and Saiki, were both Navy air bases. Also, no kamikaze planes sortied from these two air bases.

Perhaps Kuwahara escorted kamikaze planes that sortied from Chiran on June 6, 1945. However, the book indicates that the kamikaze squadrons were at the same base as the escort squadrons.

5.     Navy Plane in Army Kamikaze Squadron

Book: Tatsuno flew an "all-but-defunct" Navy plane, a Mitsubishi Type 96 Fighter, when he led the last three planes in the 12-plane kamikaze squadron that sortied on June 10, 1945. His plane was the only Navy plane in the squadron. Tatsuno was an Army fighter pilot.

Facts: Japanese records of tokkotai (special attack force) kamikaze deaths do not indicate that the Navy's Mitsubishi Type 96 Fighter was ever used for a kamikaze attack.

There is no known case where Army and Navy kamikaze planes joined in the same squadron and sortied from the same air base.

There is no known case where a kamikaze pilot trained on an Army fighter and then switched to a Navy fighter for a kamikaze mission.

Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara misidentified the plane, and it was actually an obsolete Army fighter. Both the Army's Type 97 Fighter and the Navy's Type 96 Fighter were single-engine, single-seat planes with fixed landing gear. However, it seems improbable that an Army fighter pilot such as Kuwahara could not identify all Army fighters in use during the war.

 

6.     Daily Kamikaze Sorties from Formosan Bases

Book: Kuwahara states twice that suicide planes sortied each day during his two- to three-week stay in Formosa starting on June 10, 1945.

Facts: Navy or Army kamikaze planes did not sortie from air bases in Formosa from June 10 to 30, 1945.

Possibilities: Perhaps there was some confusion in the dates in the book, so Kuwahara's time in Formosa was actually earlier when kamikaze planes regularly sortied. However, although many kamikaze planes sortied from Formosa from March to early June 1945, Japanese records of special attack force kamikaze deaths indicate that there never were three consecutive days of kamikaze sorties from Formosan bases.

7.     Reconnaissance Flight Over Hiroshima

Book: Kuwahara was in Hiroshima on August 6 when the bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m. He was buried in debris for nearly six hours, but he managed to climb onto an Army truck to return the same day to Hiro Air Base, located about 12 miles southeast of Hiroshima. On August 8, he flew from Hiro in a Shinshitei reconnaissance plane (Ki-46, Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane) for two hours to survey the damage caused by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. While flying over Hiroshima, he learned that Nagasaki had also been bombed. Kuwahara does not mention that he ever flew in a Ki-46 reconnaissance plane before this date.

Facts: The Ki-46 reconnaissance plane has two engines and a normal crew of two or three depending on which Ki-46 version.

Japanese pilots in WWII normally had flight training on a particular plane type prior to making flights. It would be especially rare for a pilot to switch from a single-engine fighter (e.g., Hayabusa fighter flown by Kuwahara) to a much larger twin-engine plane such as the Ki-46 reconnaissance plane. The fact that a Ki-46 had a normal crew of two or three would make this even more difficult for an untrained pilot to fly the plane alone.

The atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, at 11:02 a.m.

Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara flew the Ki-46 reconnaissance plane from Hiro Air Base with a second crewmember. However, the book provides no hint that he flew in the plane with anyone else. It is not clear why Kuwahara, heavily injured from the atomic bomb, would be selected as the pilot for a plane type he had never flown before. There is no evidence that Hiro had any Ki-46 reconnaissance planes.

Perhaps Allred mistakenly wrote August 8 as the date of the Nagasaki bombing since it would have been August 8 in the U.S. when it was 11:02 a.m. on August 9 in Japan. However, he correctly gives the date of the Hiroshima bombing as August 6.

8.     Notification of Kamikaze Mission

Book: When Kuwahara returned to Oita Air Base from Formosa at the end of June 1945, Captain Tsubaki told him individually that he would go on a kamikaze mission sometime in the near future. Kuwahara returned to Hiro Air Base while Tsubaki remained at Oita. On August 5, 1945, Kuwahara received written orders that his kamikaze mission was scheduled for August 8, but there is no mention of the planned sortie base for his mission. He left Hiro on the morning of August 6 for a two-day home leave, so it can be assumed that he would sortie from Hiro on August 8.

Facts: Japanese Army kamikaze pilots who sortied from mainland Japan normally were notified of their assignments in a similar manner. First, pilots from the same base were assigned to a tokko* (special attack) squadron. Almost all of these Army tokko squadrons during and after the Battle of Okinawa were called Shinbu Squadrons with designated numbers (e.g., 60th Shinbu Squadron). Each squadron usually had between 9 and 12 men, although some squadrons had less or more. Both the Army's Shinbu squadrons and the Navy's Kamikaze squadrons generally are referred to as kamikaze squadrons in English, but the Japanese Army never used the term "kamikaze" to refer to its tokko squadrons.

After establishment of an Army tokko squadron, the men in the squadron generally spent several weeks together in training, often at the same base. When the estimated sortie date neared (usually about one day to one week prior to the estimated sortie date), tokko squadrons flew to bases located in the far southern part of Kyushu Island. The Army's main air bases for tokko squadron sorties during the Battle of Okinawa were Chiran, Bansei, and Miyakonojo. A tokko squadron would receive orders for the exact sortie date at one of the bases in southern Kyushu. Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, Commander of the 5th Air Fleet headquartered in Kanoya until early August 1945, decided the dates and general times for the mass kamikaze attacks made by the Navy and Army. These dates and times would then be communicated to commanders at different bases and then passed on to the pilots of kamikaze and conventional aircraft.

 

Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara's assignment to a kamikaze mission did not follow the general pattern of other Army kamikaze pilots. However, it seems extremely odd for a pilot to receive written orders regarding a kamikaze mission. The book does not mention whether a tokko squadron including Kuwahara had been formed or whether Kuwahara would sortie solo from Hiro. The cancellation of the scheduled kamikaze mission on August 8 is never discussed, even though Kuwahara had enough energy to fly a two-hour reconnaissance flight over Hiroshima on the same date.

 

9.     Training and Squadron Assignment at One Base

Book: Kuwahara had his basic training, flight training, fighter training, and fighter squadron assignment all at the same base in Hiro.

Facts: Japanese Army pilots generally went to different air bases for their basic training, flight training, and training on a specific type of aircraft. For example, Yukio Araki, who died in a kamikaze attack from Bansei Air Base on May 27, 1945, did his basic training at Tachiarai Air Base, his flight training at Metabaru Air Base, and his training on an Army Type 99 assault plane in Pyongyang, Korea. In another example, Kisaku Hisatomi, who died in a kamikaze attack from Chiran Air Base on May 11, 1945, did his basic training at Kurume Reserve Officer Training School, his flight training at Kumagaya Air Base, and his training on a Type 97 Fighter at Kakogawa Airfield. The Army did have different types of pilot training programs, but pilots in each of these different programs almost always went to more than one air base.

Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara joined a special Army air base that included all levels of training and also regular squadrons. The book refers to several of Kuwahara's friends who stayed at Hiro during their entire training. However, Army kamikaze pilots who sortied in 1945 had a completely different training history where they went to more than one base.

 

10.  Date for Bombing of Hiro Air Base

Book: One day in June 1945, 150 B-29s pulverized Hiro. Kuwahara transferred to Oita Air Base, where he stayed until June 10, 1945.

Facts: On May 5, 1945, 148 B-29s bombed the Navy's arsenals in Hiro and destroyed them.

Possibilities: Perhaps Kuwahara made a mistake of one month when he mentioned the bombing of Hiro by B-29s. He writes in Chapter 25 that he had known a woman named Toyoko in Oita for several weeks. Since he sortied from Oita Air Base on June 10, 1945, he and Toyoko could not have known each other for that long unless he actually moved to Oita in early May. He writes in Chapter 27 that he had been away from Hiro for less than two months. This statement would be true if he had left Hiro on May 5 since he returned to Hiro at the end of June or early July.

 

Concluding Thoughts

 These ten historical discrepancies certainly move Kuwahara and Allred's book Kamikaze to the category of fiction even though the book has been recognized for almost 50 years as an autobiographical account. In September 2006, Allred wrote that two of Kuwahara's high school acquaintances in Hiro contended in 1998 "that he had never won a national glider championship or been in the Japanese Army Air Force." They said, "Kuwahara was merely one of many students drafted by their government to support the war effort on that country's military bases." This article provides substantial additional evidence to support their statements. Kuwahara most likely worked at the Japanese Navy's aircraft production facilities in Hiro and almost certainly never flew an Army plane.

William Gordon & Yuko Shirako

September 2006

 

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