During our initial interviews, I was sorely ignorant regarding the Japanese mind, culture and complex mores, and quickly realized the need for some background information on my part if the proposed story we ever to reach print. Accordingly, I began to read. A long bibliography seemed superfluous. I read approximately thirty books on Japanese society and upon various phases of the war in the Pacific Theater while simultaneously interviewing and writing. On occasion, following a regular work day, I interviewed and wrote for an additional six hours.
The reading included such books as Ruth Benedict's Chrysanthemum and the Sword, a socio-anthropological study of the Japanese during World War II; Robert Merrick's Laughter in Hell. American prisoners of war at Umeda and Osaka; Michihiko Hachiya's Hiroshima Diary, a doctor's account of the atomic bomb and its consequences at Hiroshima; Hanama Tasaki's Long the Imperial Bay, and The Mountains Remain, the first involving a Japanese soldier's experiences in China, the second, his return and adjustment to post-war Japan; F. T. Milner's History of World War II, etc. Later, during the writing of Kamikaze. I read a dozen or so war books, including Martin Caidin's Samurai and Zero, both about the Japanese air war. This latter reading was undertaken to corroborate and correct certain of my own impressions, and to provide me a “feeling” for the war book market in general.
Having read, all told, some forty books and a score of articles on this subject, I am sure my research was comparatively light, as attested by the research section in Part Two of this thesis.
However, I did feel the strong need for the research mentioned. There ware so many phases of the war I was totally unfamiliar with. In addition, it seemed to me that few books demand such a complete and intimate comprehension of both the over-all picture and innumerable technological details, all sorts of minutia, as do war books. These are the things wars are made of.
Furthermore, in the case of war writing, there are usually a great many authorities on the subject. If a man decides to write about the Battle of the Bulge or the Battle of Midway, for instance, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of men ranging from generals and admirals to seamen and privates, who may be authorities on some phase of this subject.
While Kamikaze deals with a number of highly technical problems, it is basically a human document. Hence my problem became one of first understanding Kawahara the man, second, understanding the Japanese society in which he moved. There are undoubtedly errors in Kamikaze. However, it is not likely that they will be discovered from reading other books (so far as westerners are concerned).
Since Kamikaze is a unique account, the critics will largely be Yasuo Kuwahara and the Japanese people --military and civilian-- whose spirits I have attempted to reveal.
The following paragraph is revelatory:
Going home. Never before had life seemed so dreamlike. I was among a people strange even to myself. As yet the enemy had taken no unfair advantage of our surrender. And, surprisingly enough to many of the Americans, the people at large were already resigned to a new order. The emperor had spoken. They were a laughing people because of their relief, a crying people because of their joy, their bitterness and their sorrow. Many awaited the invasion with trepidation. Others merely felt curiosity. But more than anything, there was a growing happiness. The war had ended. (Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon T. Allred, Kamikaze (New York, Ballantine Books, Inc., 1958), p. 186.
The conclusions drawn here are not merely Kuwahara's, but those of seven other Japanese men and woman, none of whom could fully agree on what the general outlook was. The reason for this, I have concluded, is simple, there was no “general outlook.”
Aside from interviewing and reading, my research embraced two additional undertakings: (1) my own travels; (2) a descriptive journal, approximately 100,000 words, of personal experiences in Japan, intimate descriptions of scenes and impressions.
For example, in order to write convincingly about some of the geography in Kamikaze. I made an air journey over the island of Honshu, journeyed to Onomichi, Kuwahara's home town, and spent a day in Hiroshima. There I visited the Atomic Casualty Commission to obtain facts about the bombing, traveled about the city, and spent two hours in the Atomic Museum, taking pictures and observing the mementos of that horrifying August 6, 1945.
Although the city has long since been rebuilt, the museum with its many reminders of destruction: charred clothing, bones, melted bottles and tile, smashed implements and vehicles, provided some realization of what happened.
In all the consternation of that dread day, the Japanese retained the presence of mind to take pictures. And, of course, pictures were later taken of the radiation effects on the populace. In addition, the massive number of photographs in the museum were distinct enough to give a certain sensory awareness of what occurred. Hiroshima after that bomb, was literally a blackened, flaming rubble pit.
The visit had its desired effect.. The museum provided the feeling I needed in order to write the chapter “Hiroshima,” involving Kuwahara’s ironical salvation from death and the suicide war. And the city, as I viewed it from World Peace Tower, still seemed subdued. A pall seemed to hang over Hiroshima, that no amount of reconstruction, time, sun or new generations would ever fully dispel.
Thus I returned to Camp Kobe in a sober, somewhat morbid mood. This was precisely what I needed, for I was convinced that no amount of outside reading or querying of my protagonist could provide the essential “feeling.”
It would have been helpful to have visited every major location in Kuwahara’s war career, but it was impossible. I felt that Hiroshima was especially important, because what occurred there transcended all previous human experience.
It was raining when I arrived back at Camp Kobe. I secluded myself in an empty barracks by a guttering oil stove, and with the patter of rain on the roof, wrote the entire chapter. Since that time I have altered only a word or two. “Hiroshima.” in the book is almost verbatim what was written during those gray, moody, creative hours immediately following my return.
The chapter, the entire book, because of my own involvement, is something of a suffusion of knowledge and remembranceKuwahara’s and my own.
Chapter 1 - Conception of a book
Chapter 2 - Interviewing and Querying
Chapter 3 - Research
Chapter 4 - Documenting
Chapter 5 - The Rough Draft
Chapter 6 - The Book Begins
Chapter 7 - Creative Problems