Kamikaze was prevalent during the latter stages of World War II, which was part of a ritual suicide with the meaning coming from the Japanese word divine wind. This originated from the Japanese defense of their home islands from the Chinese and Moghul Emperor Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, the 13th-century conqueror. The word kamikaze was first used in 1281 and had a more cultural and significant meaning to the Japanese being a culture of warriors like the Vikings of northern Europe and the chivalric culture of the medieval knight. These subculture warrior groups were dominant in the late dark ages to the late medieval period, with the Vikings from the late eighth century until the Norman conquest in 1066 CE, then the Knightley culture from 11 century CE until the early 15th century. However, there is a crucial difference that the Japanese do not come from an Abrahamic religion, being the main religions of Christianity and its subgroup, as well as the faiths of Islam and Judaism, are heavily against ritual suicide in the teachings of the mainstream religion.
The kamikaze and the practice of Seppuku sometimes referred to as hara-kiri, is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. It was initially reserved for samurai in their code of honor. Other Japanese people also practiced it during the Shōwa period to restore honor for themselves or their families. The first part of the Shōwa, from Hirohito’s enthronement in 1926 to the end of World War II in 1945, is known as the early Shōwa period. It is noted principally for the rise of militarism in Japan, Japanese aggression in China and elsewhere in East and Southeast Asia, and the country’s wartime defeat. This is relevant to understanding the impact of the kamikaze because they were not just the suicide bombers of the 21st century and early 20th century that were responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001. These Japanese people were a culture of warriors deeply ingrained in the tradition of honor concerning their understanding of war. In practical terms, this meant that the American strategy during the Second World War was to avoid combat with the Japanese Imperial Army during the war, which lasted from the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. For the Japanese, during the conflict in mainland Asia, they won the war in China. Because of this, the United States and its allies, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union’s deaths would have been immense if it came to a land war in China and the Japanese home islands.
What this meant was that the United States pursued a different Avenue to victory in the Pacific, which was the atomic bomb estimated to kill roughly 70,000 to 135,000 people in Hiroshima, and 60,000 to 80,000 people in Nagasaki. This is relevant because, during the American War against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945, they realized that the costs of a conventional war were too immense to contemplate. That’s why General Douglas MacArthur’s campaign in the Pacific and Admiral William “Bull” Halsey Jr Halsey’s commander of the aircraft carrier Enterprise and the seventh American Fleet were primarily focused on supporting Douglas MacArthur’s island-hopping campaign and focusing war on the Japanese Navy and avoiding significant engagements against the Japanese Imperial Army. Gen Douglas MacArthur, the commander of Allied forces in the Pacific, often complained that the Pacific theatre was seen as a sideshow compared to the war in Europe.
The American strategy to combat kamikaze tactics during the Second World War was to have a group of destroyers supporting the carriers and other ships of great importance to the war effort because the Americans had seven aircraft carriers at the start of the war in comparison to the Japanese eight. America commissioned 26 new fleets and light carriers toward the war’s end. Japan commissioned eight. Over the entire war, the Allies commissioned 181 carriers of all types compared to Japan’s total of 19. The kamikaze tactics were ultimately a colossal failure that wasted the lives of Japanese fighter pilots. It was a mark of desperation and not ultimately resilience; this was a fate that Isoroku Yamamoto, the Commander of the Fleet that attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and Commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Japanese Navy. It was the Japanese weakness behind the surprise attack; this happened because Yamamoto could only guarantee the Imperial Japanese Navy six months of total victory due to his spending time in the United States and truly understanding the industrial capabilities of the United States. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945, stated that “I thought of a remark . . . that the United States is like a ‘gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lit under it there is no limit to the power it can generate. ‘
Ultimately, Japan’s kamikaze and warrior culture are interlinked because mindset and culture were the reason for the rapid Japanese industrialization and imperial expansion after Commodore Matthew Perry opened up Japan for trade in 1852. It is also the reason after the American occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952 that the Japanese could re-industrialize within 30 years and even come close to surpassing the American economy in the 1980s. The resilience and commitment in the Japanese culture are responsible for the Japanese’s success and ability to adapt to foreign techniques. However, this also gives the nation massive weaknesses regarding kamikaze culture. It was the Japanese inability to adapt and face reality responsible for its defeat in the Second World War and the contemporary reason for its internal problems today, with the Japanese now having more people and adults in diapers than babies.
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