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Kamikaze pilots warn of horrors of war

TOKYO--Kamikaze pilot Yutaka Kanbe should have died nearly seven decades ago.

It was only Tokyo's surrender on August 15, 1945, that saved him from the fate of thousands whose suicide missions came to define Japan's unrelenting pursuit of victory in the closing stages of World War II.

But as the 91-year-old faces his own mortality again, he worries that a rightward political shift under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and a recent film glorifying Kamikaze missions, are proof that the horrors of war have been lost on generations of younger Japanese.

“It was crazy — I cannot support the idea of glorifying our mission,” the former navy pilot said of young men ordered to crash their planes into Allied ships.

“Japan could go to war again if our leaders are all like Abe. I'm going to die soon, but I worry about Japan's future.”

“Kamikaze” pilots — the term means “divine wind” — were heroes in wartime Japan where their deadly sacrifice in the name of Emperor Hirohito and the nation made front-page headlines.

The squadrons were formed near the end of the conflict in a desperate effort to prevent an Allied victory. About 4,000 died on missions that sent chills down the spine of many enemy combatants, although most were shot down before reaching their targets.

“Should never happen again, but peace does not come without costs”

There are no official figures on the number of surviving Kamikaze pilots and the squadrons have largely faded from memory, with little mention in contemporary school textbooks.

But a film called “The Eternal Zero”, based on a best-selling novel, catapulted the squadrons back into the minds of the public earlier this year.

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