Before proceeding with my proposed article, during the early discussions, I was confronted with the problem of documentation. Kuwahara and I agreed on the necessity of having witnesses provide the stamp of verification to his claims. But this presented a greater problem than might be supposed. I had no idea when the article would be finished, and of course, vary few of Kuwahara's associates during the war were available. They were dead. To complicate matters, it was questionable whether any of his few remaining associates comprehended English well enough to verifyt his account. It appeared that the entire article would have to be translated into Japanese, on the hope that the individuals in question might reply.
Eventually, however, I decided to draft an outline of the story, including salient facts, then have it translated. This was done without delay.
The Foreword to Kamikaze states:
As to the story's validity: both Mr. Kuwahara and I have documents attesting all the basic incidents. Witnesses are: Seiji Hiroi of Osaka, a Kamikaze pilot who knew the protagonist, and Yoshiro Tsubaki, Yokohama, former commander of the Fourth squadron at Hiro Air Base, the man who gave Kuwahara his death orders. Both the editors of Cavalier and the publishers of Ballantine Books have examined those documents.
Following are the facts as presented to these witnesses:
- At the age of 15, Yasuo Kuwahara, while attending Onomichi Middle School, won the Japanese National Glider Championship at Mt. Ikoma.
- Subsequently, in January 1943, he enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Army Air Force.
- He underwent basic and fighter pilot training at Hiro Air Base in western Honshu.
- While at Hiro, he suffered extreme punishment and torture including beatings with ball bats, whippings, blows in the face, etc.
- During his training he witnessed the suicide of several friends.
- He was one of 20 men in his group of 60 to quality as a fighter pilot.
- He at one time pursued an instructor, Sgt. Rentaro Namoto, in the skies above Fakagawa, forcing Nomoto to bail out.
- He flew many fighter missions against the Americans from both Hiro and Oita Bases. He witnessed the deaths of many companions during air combat. As a pilot he aided in the destruction of enemy aircraft. His plane was riddled with bullets many times.
- In January 1945, the first men of his fighter squadron began preparing for suicide missions.
- Following the main destruction of Hiro by B29's, he was transferred to Oita to act as fighter escort far suicide groups off Okinawa.
- During June 1945, after an air battle, he was lost in a storm and forced down at Taihoku Air Base in Formosa. He remained there for approximately two weeks and was able to closely observe the reactions of men just before their death.
- On 28 June, 1945 Capt. Tsubaki, as Fourth Squadron Commander, Hiro Air Base, verbally gave Kuwahara his suicide orders. His appointment with death was scheduled for 8 August, 1945
- He received a two-day pass and was traveling through Hiroshima on his way home when the atomic bomb fell. He was an estimated 2,000 meters from the blast.
- On 8 August, 1945, he made an air reconnaissance of Hiroshima, reporting what he saw
- He was at Hiro when Japan surrendered. There he saw the varied reactions of his comrades, saw fighting among men and officers, witnessed others commit harakiri and other forms of suicide.
- On 23 August 1945, he was discharged and returned to his home.
- Capt. Tsubaki visited him at his home in Kobe during the first part of February 1956 to discuss life during the war.
- He is currently employed with the US Security Forces at Camp Kobe, Hama Koshien (Now at Hq. KQMD, Amagasaki, Hyogo Pref.)
#18 4 Chrome
Kobe City, Hyogo Pref., Japan
SEIJI HIROI (former suicide pilot)
#24, 1 Chrome
Osaka City, Osaka Pref., Japan
(Commanding Officer, Fourth Squadron, Hiro)
4649 Higashihara Akucho Tozukaku
Kanagawa Pref., Japan
Above and beyond this I had convinced myself that Kuwahara was a man of honor who would not varnish the facts. Several times I had prompted him, when a slight alteration in his personal history might have made him appear more valiant, or the events even more dramatic. Always he resisted even the slightest attempts at distortion.
His integrity in reporting the actual events was frequently verified, in relating his fears, humiliations, and weaknesses, as well as his triumphs. This, naturally, was of great value to me from another standpoint. I had gained the confidence of my subject, impressed him with my own sincerity, my willingness to report the facts without betraying his secrets. With this to build on, a close friendship ensued, and consequently the truly human and meaningful elements of the protagonist’s life emerged. This rapport, in other words, gave the account meaning and life it could not have had it otherwise.
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