Kanji Suzuki（鈴木勘次）was born in Nagano, Japan in 1925 where I was born in 1933. He was a patriotic boy, like every Japanese youth than had been, loved his country and voluntarily joined Imperial Navy aviation school when the Pacific War was in full swing. He was 18. A few months before the Japan’s surrender in August 1945, Suzuki was finally ordered to become a member of suicide squadron.
“So, this will be my last flight,” he told himself grasping tightly the control lever of his bomber which had only enough fuel for one way. There were two gunners to fight off the attacking enemy fighter planes at least until the plane reached an American battle ship. The Suzuki’s plane was immediately met by some 15 enemy Grumman fighters in the Okinawa sky.
“Don’t waste your bullets in trying to shoot down enemy planes. Just counterattack them when they come too close to us!” the pilot ordered his gunners. “This is not a dog fight. We must jump into an aircraft carrier.” The pilot knew that the exterior bulkheads of American ships have recently been reinforced to sustain the impact of suicide Japanese planes. He chose to jump into the ship’s command center on the bridge.
Suzuki knew his plane was becoming a honeycomb by the hails of bullets coming from the American ships and Grumman fighters and his control lever had lost maneuvering power and the plane’s fuel tank is releasing a white trail of leaking gasoline. Then he saw a huge dark grey wall of the enemy ship in front of him. He cried out “Banzai Emperor! We made it!” He didn’t say to his two gunners to bail out. Bailing out is a shameful thing.
The suicide pilot was dreaming; he was floating in the sea, everything is in the dark and he felt no pain. This must be the heaven. He heard noisy exchanging sounds of unrecognizable language. He slowly opened his eyes, in the mist of sight he saw a white low ceiling
The room smelled something mixed with paint scent he had never smelled before, and where is this vibrating engine sound coming from. I knew it was a successful suicide attack. I must be dreaming, Suzuki told himself.
A red face with brown hair wearing a white clothing was looking down on him holding some paper written in English. He looked like an American sailor. Impossible, my plane had successfully stormed into an American ship. I must be in Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo now.
When Suzuki realized that it was not a dream but he was a breathing human being then he noted that his jacket had a large POW mark. The American soldier told him the war was over. “Why don’t you go up to the deck. You can see your home land,” he suggested by hand gestures. Suzuki saw the beautiful Mount Fuji above the blue horizon. He remembered the sweet sea breeze coming from Japanese soil.
“I failed to die for the country and came back to my motherland holding a disgraced name of a survivor of prisoner of war. I was one of the honorable suicide squad of the Imperial Japanese Navy,” Suzuki muttered, and he didn’t know if he were happy or miserable.
Re: “特攻からの生還“ 鈴木勘次、2005
By Nam Sang-so, Seoul, September 23, 2018
P.S. In Nagano, Japan, I was one of the chosen physically fit boys who were pre-designated to be recruited to serve for the Japanese special force but the war ended before I reached the age. Instead I served three years for the Korean Navy attached to the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet on the East Sea in the Korean Campaign. I then had been employed by an American architect and engineering firm and served for the U.S. Forces at K-6/Camp Humphreys, U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison, and then U.S. Navy Seabees in Vietnam, all together for 25 years.