MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — During the last year of World War II, Japan struggled to win the battles as the Allied forces advanced upon them.
When conventional tactics became ineffective, Japanese forces resorted to suicidal forms of attacks.
Takijiro Onishi, Japanese admiral with the Imperial Japanese Navy, formed the Special Attack Force and recruited volunteers called Kamikaze to carry out these suicide missions against American anti-aircraft ships and aircraft carriers.
Masayuki Matsumuro, former Kamikaze pilot, sat down with students from Matthew C. Perry High School here March 19 to share his experiences and how one day changed his perception about Americans.
In 1943, Matsumuro, a Hiroshima native, attended the Japanese National Aviation school at the age of 14 and pursued the glider cirriculum.
A year after his enlistment, the Special Attack Force began experimenting with a human guided weapon called “Ohka.”
“The Americans called the weapons baka boom, which meant stupid bomb because anyone who flew them had to be a fool,” said Matsumuro.
Ohka is a human-guided bomb carried underneath a Mitsubishi G4M aircraft and released within range of its target.
The pilot inside of the missile would then glide toward the ship he intended to destroy at high speed. When close enough, the pilot would fire the rocket engine and cause an explosion on impact.
“You had to hit the target within six minutes,” said Matsumuro. “If you took more than six minutes, it was the end of you whether you hit the target or not.”
Matsumuro joined the Kamikaze squad when he was 15, four months before the war was over.
He had been selected to be among the few to carry out kamikaze missions because of the second-class license he had obtained from aviation school.
Matsumuro was given permission to visit his family before carrying out an attack, which would cost him his life. It was a plan that would never be carried out.
On the early morning of Aug. 6, 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped over the city of Hiroshima, causing approximately 100,000 deaths, including Matsumuro’s entire family.
“I left Hiroshima at six in the morning,” said Matsumuro. “Two hours and 15 minutes after I got on the train, the atomic bomb had dropped.”
Matsumuro’s mission was ultimately cancelled and his life was spared.
Among the devastation and loss, Matsumuro grew resentful toward American service members.
One day, while in Osaka, Matsumuro was on a train with his fiancé when two American service members boarded the Japanese car.
“They had been drinking sake or beer,” said Matsumuro. “They bothered my fiancé, showed their money and said things to her.”
“I had to protect her,” he said. “I jumped on them and threw one (service member) into some water.”
Within minutes, American military policemen detained Matsumuro and threw him into American military confinement.
“I thought, oh, this is the end of me,” said Matsumuro. “They’re going to kill me.”
After a week in jail, Matsumuro was given a fair trial, an American lawyer to defend him, witnesses and an interpreter.
According to Matsumuro, he was amazed to see the American soldier admit to being drunk and bothering Matsumuro’s fiancé on the train.
“The next minute, I was set free,” said Matsumuro. “After that, my mind changed about Americans forever.”
After a war fought brutally between America and Japan, a single incident and act of honesty led to a life-long friendship with the perceived enemy.
Originally published: Marines.mil