WINGS OF DEFEAT
Internationally, Kamikaze pilots remain a potent metaphor for fanaticism. In Japan, they are largely revered for their selfless sacrifice. Yet few outside Japan know that hundreds of kamikaze pilots survived the war. By the spring of 1945, when all Japanese planes were reassigned to kamikaze (Tokkotai) attacks, Japan could no longer defend its airspace and its naval fleet was demolished. Old airplanes and inadequate training resulted in many failed engines, leaving scores of pilots stranded. When Japan surrendered, hundreds of kamikaze trainees were awaiting sortie orders that never arrived.
Through rare interviews with surviving kamikaze pilots, we learn that the military demanded pilots volunteer to give up their lives. Retracing their journeys from teenagers to doomed pilots, a complex history of brutal training and ambivalent sacrifice is revealed. As U.S. firebombs incinerated its major cities and the country ran out of weapons and fuel, Japan’s military government refused to accept the reality that it could no longer fight. Instead they sent thousands of pilots off to targets nearly impossible to reach. Sixty years later, survivors in their eighties tell us about their training, their mindsets, their experiences in a kamikaze cockpit and what it meant to survive when thousands of their fellow pilots had died. Their stories insist we set aside our preconceptions to relive their all too human experiences with them. Ultimately, they help us question what responsibilities a government at war has to its soldiers and to its people.
Risa Morimoto (producer/director) produced the feature film, The LaMastas in 1998. Since then she has produced, written and directed for film and television. Risa produced the award-winning program Cinema AZN, a half-hour show on Asian film. President of Edgewood Pictures Inc., a motion picture production company, Risa graduated with a Masters in film and education from New York University in 1999 where she served as the Associate Director of the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute. From 2002-2006, she served as Executive Director of Asian CineVision, a non-profit media arts organization. A second-generation Japanese American, Risa studied at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.
Linda Hoaglund (producer/writer) is the film advisor for the Japan Society in New York. Born and raised in Japan, the daughter of American missionary parents, she attended Japanese public schools. A graduate of Yale University, after working as a bilingual news producer for Japanese television, she joined an independent American film production company as a producer. Since 1996, she has subtitled 150 Japanese films. She represents Japanese directors and artists and serves as an international liaison for producers. In 2004, she received a commendation from the Foreign Minister of Japan for her work promoting Japanese film abroad.
Maya Stark (editor) is an accomplished editor of both fiction and non-fiction films. Born and raised in Israel, she moved to the U.S. to pursue a career in the film industry. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts, she has worked on several feature films including Following Rosa and Chooch and television projects for BBC, HBO, and AZN, Logo, Sundance Channel and Here TV.
Francisco Aliwalas (cinematographer) is a Manhattan-based filmmaker. His documentaries, series, and promos have aired on MTV, Discovery Asia, and AZN. Francisco served as director, videographer, and series producer for three seasons of 5 Takes (Travel Channel). Francisco created video web content for Current TV, Google Travel, Ford Models, Aviation Week, General Electric, and Dress for Success. Recently, he won Best Picture, Director, and Editor at MTV World’s 72 Hour Film Shoot-Out and his series for Conde Naste’s Concierge.com titled 24 Hours in… won Best Online Video Series as voted by Magazine Publishers of America.
Jef Castro (animator) As far back as he could remember, Jef Castro never escaped the intense appeal of bright colored illustrations of comic books and morning cartoons. This visual obsession led him to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he received his BFA in Film and Animation. His need for a continued pop culture fix steered him to photo editing at Entertainment Weekly and Vibe Magazine and then on to television as production manager for AZN TV’s Cinema AZN. He storyboarded for commercials, music videos, and feature films as well as illustrated for the graphic novel on Asian American super heroes, Secret Identities.
Joe Wu (art director/animator) is a multi-disciplinary graphic designer and a graduate of School of Visual Arts in Graphic Design and Fine Arts. His breadth of medium include print, web, interactive, illustration, 3D, film, and video. As a jack of all trades, he has worked with film and television designing on-air packaging for MTV On-Air, award-winning program Cinema AZN, and Reel Life on AZNTV. A mainstay in the independent film industry, he art directed the New York Asian American International Film Festival from 2001 to 2007 and designed promotional trailers for AAIFF as well as Media That Matters Film Festival, an online film festival. Joe designed film titles for independent films Outsourced and Election Day. He worked on various design projects for both corporate and non-profit during his tenure at Woo Art International, Inc. as a senior designer/art director in New York. Currently, Joe is a recent transplant as an in-house Motion Graphics Designer at Elastic Creative in San Francisco, California.
Tom Lino (sound designer) has been involved in film and film making for 20 years following the progression from film flatbeds and Moviolas to the digital media age of today. His career has included work in production and post-production starting as a picture editor and now working as a sound designer for film and TV. His credits include creating the sound for the animated segment of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. He works closely with FlickerLab, a New York-based animation house. Tom has been the mixer on the PBS show In the Life for ten years and recently has mixed the verite style shows Lesbian Sex and Sexuality for the Here! Network and the upcoming series for LOGO, Be Real. He works and lives in New York and prides himself on his latest accomplishment, raising his three-year old son, Kieran.
Fumiko Hattori (associate producer) is an independent researcher specializing in the WWII Pacific Theater. When she’s not translating news at a leading Tokyo-based TV broadcaster, she’s off on her personal mission to meet with military and civilian war survivors, and to travel around the world to war-related sites on land and in the sea. To better understand the trials of war without risking her life in actual war zones, she’s crawled through dark underground war tunnels, flown a helicopter, fired an AK47 and M16 (on automatic!) and parachuted out of a plane at 14,000 feet. She co-authored “Banzai! Debunking the Kamikaze Myth” (Asia Times Online, October 2004) and “Ex-Kamikaze Pilots Remember Comrades” (Naval History magazine, February 2005). Devoted to passing on history, she is currently carrying out research for a U.S. project to preserve the WWII battle site on the southern Palauan island of Peleliu.
COMMENTS OF SUPPORT FOR WINGS OF DEFEAT
WINGS OF DEFEAT is a remarkably fascinating documentary, as well as a major contribution to our understanding of the history of World War II, from a heretofore untold point of view–that of the Kamikaze pilots whose training and contributions to the Japanese cause have long been shrouded in myth. The compelling stories told by the former Kamikaze, along with riveting wartime footage, personal snapshots and original animation, uncover a chapter of history too long buried under nationalistic and racist stereotypes. WINGS OF DEFEAT is eloquent proof of how archival material and oral history can transform our understanding of the past.
– Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University and Executive Producer, African American Lives
WINGS OF DEFEAT is an extraordinary film, revealing the terrible power of nationalist fervor as it seizes young minds, and makes them both victims and accomplices in the crime of modern warfare. The interviews with the Japanese pilots, now elderly, are poignant and totally compelling. This film is instructive and sobering for anyone caught up in what is considered patriotic duty to one’s country.
– Howard Zinn, Author, A People’s History of the United States
During the Pacific War and for decades after, the Kamikaze were commonly presented as true believers who embraced death without qualm or question. Wartime Japanese propagandists pumped up this myth and most foreigners still take it at face value. Wings of Defeat succeeds brilliantly in puncturing the myth by going beyond the words of war leaders and propagandists to place viewers face to face with elderly Japanese who as young men were prepared to die as Kamikaze. Hand in hand with a critique of the fanaticism of Japan’s leaders, beginning with the Emperor, this remarkable documentary indicts the madness of war itself.
– John W. Dower, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author, Embracing Defeat
By exploring, with heart-breaking precision, the lives of the Kamikaze pilots and the conditions which allowed their sacrifice, WINGS OF DEFEAT not only can be used in classrooms to probe a period in history which is in need of elucidation and discussion, but has the extraordinary educational benefit of allowing students to deal with one of the most burning contemporary issues of our turbulent times: martyrdom and its causes. I hope this important film can receive the support it deserves to reach a wide audience in schools, universities and communities so it can help us all as we confront the issues of young people being marched off to war, cross-cultural misunderstandings, and what happens to a nation enthralled by its own superiority and presumed destiny as a great power.
– Ariel Dorfman, Author, Playwright, Death and the Maiden, Human Rights Activist
So, it turns out the Kamikaze were just teenagers! I could not help but hold my breath at the truth about everything I thought I knew and understood. And also marvel at the heavy burden having been a Kamikaze placed on the rest of these men’s lives. I marvel yet again, at the critical power of education. Both those who attacked and those who were attacked, lived their precious lives, as best they knew how.
It is not humans I hate, but war itself.
– 宮本亜門, Miyamoto Amon, Broadway director
Let’s Find Out
Who dreamed up this strategy and why? Who authorized its implementation, who were sacrificed to it and what did it accomplish? Without answers to any of these specifics, I am terrified by the current atmosphere, in which ideas like “Defending our country” and “Self-sacrifice,” have taken on a life of their What is especially shocking is that Vice Admiral Onishi, who first orchestrated the Kamikaze attacks, declared it an “Appalling strategy.” Why then, was an avowedly “Appalling” strategy kept in place so long? Let us listen then, to the testimony of the people who appear in the film, Wings of Defeat. A human being survived, exists and bears witness. See for yourself what a miracle this is.
– 桐野夏生, Kirino Natsuo, Author
“The images from the American battleships are intense. The instant a Japanese kamikaze plane dove onto their ship, American soldiers were plunged into a living hell. The kamikaze were victims of their own government’s strategy but they were also made into perpetrators who killed living humans. This plain truth is hard to swallow. We allow weapons to be made, battleships to be built, fighter planes to be commissioned, bombs to be manufactured…Who do we think will use them, who will they be used against? Every murder in war is committed by humans against other humans. By calling those involved “soldiers” we delude ourselves that they belong to a species apart and strive to turn our backs on all that misery, but this is unforgivable. This film, by Linda Hoaglund and Risa Morimoto, uncommon true world citizens, tear at our hearts, immune to the forfeiture of human life and show us once again, that the people placed at the frontlines of that “horrible war,” were neither demons nor gods, just human beings, capable of both great rage and humor.”
– 西川美和、映画監督, Nishikawa Miwa, film director
I believe this film will stimulate controversy. I’m confident that this film will spur fervent discussion: “I felt that way, too,” or “No, I never felt that way,” and they will all be right. All the criticisms Japan faces from abroad are based in how Japan behaved back then. But I think that we, the Japanese, have the greatest misconceptions about what happened then. So many twist and bend what happened back then to their own purposes, touting a grandiose future. Real history resides not in textbooks, nor in documents. It is to be found in vulnerable human voices, testifying to the past. The people who worked on this film, seeking out their witness, are commendable. I think it’s time to watch this film and abandon our misconceptions. Let us find suspect those who hold ideological sway over the past. We should express more interest in the lives of others. We are only human, nevertheless, Japanese. We are only Japanese, nevertheless, human.
– 阪本順治，映画監督 | Sakamoto Junji, film director
REVIEWS/ARTICLES (select list)
Video Librarian, January 2009
Military History blog, Jan 9, 2009
Education About Asia, Fall 2008
WWII Magazine, October 2008
Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, September 2008
WBAI, Asia Pacific Forum, July 8, 2008
Japan Now, Embassy of Japan newsletter, May 2008
NPR Morning Edition, Apr 22, 2008
Chicago Tribune [review], Apr 11, 2008
New York Sun, Mar 18, 2008
News Blaze [review], Mar 18, 2008
Reuters, Aug 31, 2007
Nichibei Times, August 9, 2007
Japan Times, July 30, 2007
Yahoo News, July 27, 2007
CNN.com, July 23, 2007
Herald Tribune , July 21, 2007
Japan Times [film review], July 12, 2007
Japan Times , July 12, 2007
The Guardian, July 6, 2007
Variety, April 30, 2007
New York Times, March 30, 2007
Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers
by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, The University of Chicago Press, 2006
Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze
by M.G. Sheftall, New American Library, 2006
War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War
by John Dower, Pantheon Books, 1986
Japan at War: An Oral History
by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook, The New Press, 1992
Tokko: Gedo no Tosotsu to Ningen no Jyoken
by Morimoto Tadao, Kojinsha, 2005
by Hidaka Kotaro, Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 2004
by Hamazono Shigeyoshi, Chiran Tokko Heiwa Kaikan, 2003
Zerosen ni Kaketa Otoko: Hamazono Shigeyoshi Monogatari
Minami Nippon Living Shimbunsha, 2003
Gakuto Shutsujin: Senso to Seishun
by Ninagawa Jukei, Rekishi Bunka Library #43, 1998
Kamikaze Tokkoutai Shutsugeki no Hi: Ningen Seki Taai no Saigo no Kotoba
Taiheiyo Senso Documentary, No 23, Kyo no Wadaisha, 1971
by Bando Kazutoshi, Heibonsha, 2004
Ima Tokkotai no Shi wo Kangaeru
edited by Shirai Atsushi
Iwanami Booklet, No 572
Showashi: 1926 – 1945,
by Bando Kazutoshi, Heibonsha, 2004
TERAO/LEVINE FAMILY FUND
SARAH CHANG | NAKAMURA AYAKA
TAIYO NA | DAVID YAEGASHI
Former Kamikaze Pilots
ENA TAKEHIKO | HAMAZONO SHIGEYOSHI | NAKAJIMA KAZUO | UESHIMA TAKEO
USS Drexler Survivors
EUGENE BRICK | HENRY CHRISTENSEN | JOSEPH HAAS | FRED MITCHELL | DUKE PAYNE
ARAKI KAZUTSUGU | JOHN DOWER | HIDAKA KOUTAROU | HIRATA SOUEI | KAKU JUNGO | KAMITOMO NORIAKI | KITAHARA ISAO
MIURA TOSHIMI | MIURA KAZUHITO| MORIMOTO TADAO | EMIKO OHNUKI-TIERNEY | SASAKI TAMANO | SATO FUKUO
SUGAI TERUKO | SUNADA KIMIKO | SUNADA HIROSHI | TORIHAMA AKIHISA | WATANABE KUMI
Producers would like to thank
JANET HOAGLUND | MICHAEL KATO | YOICHI KAWAKITA | NORIKO AND HISANORI MORIMOTO
MACHIKO POSNER | JOHN AND LIGIA SEWARD | DAVID WILLCUTTS | CHIKA YOSHIDA
ABE FUJIKO | AIHARA HIROMI | JEFF BREZ | CINDY CHAO | SUZY ELMINGER | ENA MIZUKO | JOEY FORSYTHE | FUCHIGAMI IKUKO
ATSUSHI FUNAHASHI | NATSU FURUICHI | FURUKAWA TAKUICHI | CAROL GLUCK | PAUL GRIFFIN | ED HALTER | HANAI HIROMI
HASHIGUCHI SADANOBU | HOEST FAMILY | IMATO HIRONORI | NILLIE IMURA | IMURA FAMILY | DAVID JANES | AVI KASTORIANO
KORE-EDA HIROKAZU | KAZUMA MAETAKENISHI | TAMAMI KUBO | HARUKA KUGA | SUE LEE | KEN LEVIS | STEVEN MALLORCA
MATSUNAGA YUKIO | MINETOMA MASUO | THE PEOPLE OF MISHIMAMURA | T. MIZUNO | MORIYOSHI HARUYO | MORONAGA YUJI
OGURI KEN’ICHI | OKAMOTO HIROFUMI | HAROLD MOSS | OOI HIROTSUGU | OOYAMA TATSUO | OOYAMA HIDEHITOYARON ORBACH
ORITA MORIHIKO | GEORGE PACKARD| BRIAN PALMER | DON PALMER | SAITO SHIGEMITSU | SAKAMOTO JUNJI | SAKURAI FAMILY
SAPANA SAKYA | SASAKI FAMILY | SATO SANAE | SHIBATA KATSUYOSHI | SHIMIZU KAZUKO | SHIRAKO YUKO | SHIRAKO YOKO
KEIJI SHONO | SHIII YUKIKO | SUDA SHINAKO | SUNADA FAMILY | TANAKA NAOTO | JOHN WALTER | JOHN WOO | ROGER WOO
JAMES YAEGASHI | EMI YAMASAKI | YASUNAGA KATSUMI | PAMELA YATES & PACO DeONIS | AGNES ZELLIN
All our patient family and friends
“Doki no Sakura” Arranged and performed by NURIT STARK Published by JASRAC
“Honshirabe” Arranged and performed by PERRY YUNG
Bansei Tokko Peace Museum
Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots
Tachiarai Peace Memorial Museum
Kanoya (Maritime) Self Defense Force Museum
Yokaren Museum, Oita
USS Drexler Alumni Association
Archival Footage and Photos
Hiroshima Peace Museum
Kjeld Duits Photography
National Archives and Research Administration
Select images courtesy of David C. Earhart and the David C. Earhart Collection of Primary Sources from the Pacific War and Japanese Media Representations of World War II: Imaging War by David C. Earhart
Ishikawa Koyo, Tokyo firebombing
Kikuji Shunkichi, Pilot cadet training
Matsushige Mitsuo, (Chugoku Shinbun Archives) Hiroshima, August 6, 1945
Yamahata Yosuke, Nagasaki City, August 10, 1945
Poster photo provided by WALTER J. ZELLIN
This project was funded in part by
New York Council for the Arts
Center for Asian American Media
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
English Subtitles: LINDA HOAGLUND
©2008 Edgewood Pictures, Inc.