Kamikaze Instructor Meets War Veterans
Oct 8, 8:54 am ET
By Peter Graff
LONDON (Reuters) - A man who trained Japanese kamikaze pilots had a friendly meeting with some of their former targets in London Monday -- but at a time when suicide air attacks have a new meaning, not all were quick to forgive.
Hichiro Naemura, who volunteered to be a kamikaze bomber pilot but was ordered to train others before carrying out his own suicide mission, visited London's Imperial War Museum to help present a book in which he served as a source.
"I am deeply moved that I am standing here greeted by the former adversaries I fought 57 years ago as friends," he told a gathering of war veterans, museum staff and journalists.
Kamikaze, or divine wind, was the term given to Japanese suicide pilots who were trained to aim their bomb-laden planes directly at allied ships toward the end of World War II.
"All kamikaze fliers were fun-loving ordinary young men, the type you might meet on the streets of London or Tokyo," Naemura wrote in remarks prepared for the event promoting the book "Kamikaze."
"These young men chose to join the ranks of suicide pilots out of patriotism, willingness to sacrifice their lives for the good of the crown, motherland and their families."
In the end, Naemura was never ordered to carry out a kamikaze attack, although he flew many non-suicide missions.
He said the pilots were nothing like the hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States last year, because they only struck military targets.
David Nash, a torpedoman aboard the HMS Formidable warship, which was struck twice by kamikaze, recalled the "terrific" noise of the planes crash landing from down in the torpedo room, and being blinded by dust after the impact.
Yet he said he had met Naemura with "no animosity at all."
"They were doing their job and we were doing ours," he said.
But Ron Wren, a veteran who wore an enamel badge of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center alongside his World War II medals, said the mission of the Japanese kamikaze was "nothing but terrorism, just like al Qaeda or the Palestinian suicide bombers."
"It is unnatural to kill yourself. It's even more unnatural for a person, an adult of the age when instinct tells you that you should nurture young people, to train them, or brainwash them, to kill themselves," he said.
His ship, the HMS Kenya, was never struck by a kamikaze, but had to shoot down three of them.
"When I got out to the Pacific and heard that they don't only drop their bombs, they dive (into ships) with their aircraft, I was terrified. But after we shot a few down, we realized they were only aircraft."