Thursday, March 27, 2008


Wings of Defeat

Wings of Defeat In the era of post 9.11, when we hear "suicide bombers," images of horrific explorations in Mideast or Iraq are most likely to come to mind; probably not images of Japanese teenagers. An extraordinary documentary "Wings of Defeat" (USA/Japan 2007, 90 min.) tells the largely ignored stories about kamikaze (神風) pilots, who dove their aircrafts into allies' war ships during World War II.

Toward to the end of World War II, instead of using the air force to protect Japan, Japanese military trained kamikaze (神風) pilots to carry out suicide attacks against allies' force. Many of these pilots are just young boys from high schools. These young men are trained and sent to die for the country and the emperor. A total of 3912 kamikaze pilots died of their suicide attack missions.

After director Risa Morimoto discovers that her uncle was trained as a kamikaze pilot, she begins to investigate the untold stories behind these brave youths. Through candid interviews from survival kamikaze pilots and rare historical footage, the documentary reveals the mindsets of those pilots, the cruelty of war and the government, and the urgency of peace.

It's incredibly sad to learn that many of these young boys are ordered to die as kamikaze pilots, contrary to the belief that they volunteered to die as patriots.

Watching this documentary, it is hard not to make the connection between the kamikaze pilots and the suicide attacks in Mideast, or in New York City. To the victims of these attacks, the attackers are fanatic terrorists. However, on the other side of the table, they are bravery heroes sacrificing themselves for their countries or religions.

Wings of Defeat

This compelling documentary makes me hope that one day, John Lennon's dream comes true when there won't have any kamikaze pilots alike:

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace..."

"Wings of Defeat" was shown at the 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF).


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