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Excerpts from Gordon T. Allred Master's Thesis
The Making of Kamikaze

 

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

Chapter 7
Creative Problems


Some of the initial creative problems were mentioned previously, i.e. the question of "slanting" for a market, the difficulty of knowing how to cope with questions that arose during the writing, without interrupting the thought trend and the mood. I also mentioned how my visit to Hiroshima contributed to a particular feeling and attitude essential, to some of the writing.

In writing the book, the problem of slanting scarcely existed.  I merely wrote the story to the very best of my ability and hoped the publishers wouldn't change it. They didn't. The second question I had previously solved. The evoking of mood played an even more important part in the book’s creation, and there were several other matters that taxed my ingenuity.

Originally, I had contemplated sending the article manuscript to Kuwahara, hoping he could append information that would lend body and significance to the book. Unfortunately, though, he was ill, and in no mood psychologically to write much of anything. There was no recourse but to summon what resources I had and continue writing. I had some extensive notes,  a long original article, an extensive journal on Japan, background reading, and my own memory. That was it. It was helpful to re-read certain books, to gain certain expository information and clarify some of the technical and historical aspects.

While some writers have compared the creative process to labor pains, I found Kamikaze  both a pleasant and thrilling undertaking, despite some of my forebodings. This was true for a number of reason. First, of course, was the natural satisfaction of creating something valuable. In conjunction, there was the sense of contribution. War writing had something special to offer, I felt. Depressing and horrifying though many of the experiences were, there was a strange satisfaction in pondering them – particularly because I was almost able to live some of the events of Kuwahara’s life, thereby gaining greater understanding and perhaps a more full personality.

For me, it was not a sense of direct pleasure in the grisly aspects of battle, but rather an important feelings and insight, a sense of the valor, singular love and camaraderie,  peculiar to men at war. I also felt a certain catharsis, a new, almost indescribable insight into life and death.

Some of these things, Kuwahara indicated, stimulated him to relate his experiences so earnestly, with such animation. Of course, it is only reasonable that the autobiographical war writer realizes these things more fully than the biographical war writer, for the latter is recording second hand. Even so, it seems remarkable that I was able to "live" so much of Kuwahara's life. There often seemed to be what I can only term a coalescing of spirits, something that exceeded the mere psychological rapport so often spoken of. At times I seemed to be losing my identity, very nearly living the part I was writing, as one should play the role he is acting, according to the Stanislovskian theory of drama.

During those long summer mornings I would almost believe myself to be a 15-year-old Japanese boy at times — tides when in all honesty I came near to experiencing a few of his physical sufferings.

If this sounds exaggerated, I must admit too that in some occasions, I experienced none of this, when there was a drab, sick, negative feeling — a complete cessation of inspiration. These periods are marked, at least in some instances, by what appear to be concomitant low points in the book. Again, though, when the spiritual blending was at its best, when, as I like to define it, I was "pleasantly possessed," the words and feelings flowed smoothly onto the paper. I can recall glancing at my watch on several occasions at 9:30 or 10:00, then forgetting time altogether and not emerging from my "trance" until church bells down the hill sounded noon.

The trance referred to was not something induced as a precursor to successful writing. Rather, it was induced as the logical result of becoming more and more steeped in my work as the minutes passed until I had finally become absorbed in the man, Kuwahara.

This rather strange awareness began previously when I was writing the article, Many times, for example, when I only had a general idea of what had transpired in Kuwahara's career, or what certain conversations had been, I wrote whatever seemed best, not merely from guess work, but more from an intuitive conviction that “this is the way it happened.”  When I then read these sections to Kuwahara for verification, it was Surprising how often I had been correct, how many times the writing jibed almost, exactly as it occurred. Kuwahara would occasionally look at me in amazement, or sometimes laugh gleefully, exclaiming “How did you know?”

The following is an example. I had no way of knowing at the time of my writing that this is was what happened, almost to the letter:

At school the following day I informed my friends of the honor that had come to me, and the news spread rapidly. Once again I was someone important, the center of attention. During lunch period I barely had time to eat my sushi cakes because so many people were clustered about, pressing me with questions.

“Did the captain come right to your home?” someone asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “In fact, he stayed for two hours and had dinner with us?”

“Uso!” someone exclaimed. “Honto?”

“Yes, honestly!” I said. “I'm not lying.”

Kenji Furuno, one of the better glider students, plied me with question after question: “Did he just come right out and ask you? I mean, what did he do? Did he tell you that you had to join?”

“He asked me, of course,” I said. “Naturally, we discussed the matter at some length with my father.”

“What did the captain say, though?” Kenji persisted. “Did he just come right out and say,

“Will you please be so kind as to honor the Imperial Army Air Force with your presence?'“

Several students laughed excitedly.

I failed to join them, however. Kenji had suddenly become rather inferior, along with the rest of them. “Captain Mikami told me that I had been chosen to serve his Imperial Majesty and our great country.”

“Yes, but didn't he even give you any time to decide?” another student asked, “Not even an hour or two?”

Almost unconsciously, I eyed him as the Captain eyed me the night before. His smile wavered. “Would you need time to decide something like that?” I challenged.
“Well... I guess not,” he answered lamely.

The preceeding is not to suggest that I possess uncanny powers or profound insight. No doubt a great many authors have developed the ability in question to a far greater degree. Instead, the information is related to indicate the value of intimate association with my main character, and also a thorough attempt to fathom the personalities of others who moved in his life.

After ten months of arduous interviewing I knew Kuwahara very well. I had thought about him, read with him in mind, traveled to places he’d lived, even dreamed about him. I like to think that I became Kuwahara to a certain extent, and by so doing was able to write with a spontaneity and accuracy which would have been impossible otherwise.  After all, aside from this important identification, I only had notes to go on so far as the basic thread of his experience was concerned. Such notes by themselves were never more than a mere skeleton in my estimation, and never could be. I hoped that by interjecting my own personality into these bones however, that they would begin to take on flesh, pulse and breath.

Upon completing the rough draft, of which I had made carbons, I forwarded one copy to Ballantine, another to Kuwahara, hoping that he might read it over for errors, making emendations, suggestions, etc.

To my consternation, his answer was long delayed. When it came, I discovered that he was still very ill, that he had scarcely been able to get through the manuscript. He’d answered a few questions, and that was all.

Because of Kuwahara’s indisposition, I could only guess at some of the answers, while others had to be deleted. Some I was able to gain by referring to certain of books previously mentioned, on war history, aeronautics, on Japan etc. A great many seemingly small questions consumed an astonishing amount of time – tenacious little “ticks” man of which seemed all but insolvable.

Consider, for instance, the following paragraph:
Kamikaze, The Divine Storm, represented our entire suicide onslaught, one inflicting the heaviest losses in the history of the United States Navy, scoring hundreds of direct hits on its vessels. This included attacks from the oka bomb also – a one-man glider launched from a mother plane.


A simple paragraph, one might say. What’s the problem? The problem involved the “oka bomb.” In the original article, I had referred to “baka bombs.”  According to both Milner’s History of WWII, and Kuwahara, the “baka bomb” was a one-man monoplane, launched from a mother or carrier plane, rocket propelled. Kuwahara had admitted, however, that he had never seen any of these missiles himself. Having no other verification on the matter at the time, I described that as “baka” in my article to Cavalier. 

When the story appeared in print, “baka” had been altered to “oka,” and further stated that the missile in question was an explosive-laden “glider” rather than “rocket propelled.”

At the book’s completion, though, I was still dubious. Who was right? After searching further, without success, I wrote Cavalier, asking where it had obtained its facts, something I should have done sooner. Cavalier, coincidentally, referred me to Ballantine’s (my own publishers), who in turn cited Martin Caidin’s Zero, which I then read in its entirety for its wealth of information in this field, stated that the better appellation was oka, and that the bomb only functioned as a glider although rocket propelled models were in the planning stages before the war ended. That was the best I could do. The problem was solved so far as I was concerned.

As another example of the detail problem, note the following passage which was wrought only after much letter writing and  almost ludicrous confusion:

I executed an Immelmann, righting at the top of my loop just in time to see the Hellcat explode into nothingness. Uno cut a high, crying  arc along the cloud fringe. He had clouted
it dead center with his 25 mm cannons. Victim number six for Uno, and I felt cheated.

The problem? The caliber of guns on the Hayabusa 2. Apparently Kuwahara had misunderstood my first letter requesting an answer to this, for his reply was totally irrelevant. In response to my second urgent request, he sent me a nicely cataloged booklet on Japanese WWII aircraft. Unable to read Japanese, I sought friends who could, but unfortunately none of them could interpret the military tables and nomenclature identifying each plane. A third letter to Japan revealed that the “advanced” Hayabusa 2 had a 25 mm cannon, or cannons. How many? I still didn’t know. Perhaps in the anxiety and confusion of trying to get a book to press I’d forgotten to ask.

Further, Kuwahara was not clear as to when he’d flown the advanced model and when he’d flown the regular, nor did I ever ascertain what caliber guns equipped the original. But my time was up. In the book I had no recourse but to let Kuwahara fly the advanced model whenever it seemed most logical and expedient for him to do so.

One final example of bedeviling little problems follows from the chapter entitled "Hiroshima.""

When I was less than half a mile from the General Headquarters a tiny speck separated from the silver belly above and the plane moved off, picking up speed. No bigger than a marble, the speck increased to the size of a baseball. A parachute. Speculations were being made.

This was how I depicted Kuwahara's encounter with the Atomic bomb at Hiroshima. It was surprising to learn that so much confusion could exist regarding such a well-known incident. One history of the war indicated that two B-29's appeared just prior to atomic bomb explosion over Hiroshima, that first disappeared, leaving the second to lay its lethal egg before following. The account describes a “clear, sunny” day. Kuwahara, on this other hand, was only aware of one plane.  This, however, wasn't necessarily a contradiction,  since one of the planes was said to have  departed ahead of the other. But he did state emphatically that it was a “cloudy" day.

This may have been a simple problem of perspective;  a day described as sunny by a man thousands of feet in the stratosphere, might have very well appeared cloudy to another on the earth.  Both Kuwahara and the American sources I examined, however, maintain that the bomb descended by parachute. This seems well established.  Even so, despite such positive evidence, a placard in the entrance to the Atomic Museum in Hiroshima stated the bomb fell, “trailing a long, red sheet of flame.”

I decided to tell the happening through the eyes of Kuwahara, feeling convinced that he had given an accurate portrayal.

These two examples may provide the prospective war book author some idea of what may be encountered when coping with the technical aspects of war.

Conversely, in writing essentially a human document, as I did, a great many problems occurred from the socio-psychological standpoint. The problem of Japanese sentiment at the surrender has been discussed.

Numerous related Japanese problems arose: how did the Kamikaze react? In what light did they regard their leaders? What was their attitude toward sexual constancy? What was the meaning of “obligation” to the Japanese, the real significance of “Samurai Spirit," etc.?

After Kuwahara had expressed his views on such subjects, I read and sounded other Japanese.

During the writing of my book, I concluded that no single source of information was completely fool-proof. Often many comparisons had to be made. Often, having made comparisons, I still had no recourse but to use my own judgment and indicate what, appeared most probable. Knowing my own limitations, I can be sure that Kamikaze does have errors.  At least, by carefully covering both the rough and the final draft, step by step, marking questionable areas, recording the problem and page number, 1was able to do my verifying and correcting systematically with a modicum of effort.

When the rough draft was completed, I obtained the services of Tomokazu Suzuki, a Japanese citizen, who had recently received his masters degree in social work from the University of Utah. Mr. Suzuki read the entire manuscript, offering a number of valuable suggestions. Had I represented the Japanese outlook honestly, or was I merely presenting it  through the mind of an ignorant foreigner.  Mr Suzuki felt, to my pleasure, that I had accomplished what I desired, “But most of all,” he said,  “I liked your descriptions of the country. They made me homesick."

With this confirmation of my efforts, I had been able to proceed with greater confidence. To finish the final draft by the deadline, September 1, I typed and corrected minor errors for two solid weeks, averaging fifteen hours a day.  When the manuscript was once in the mail I was too exhausted to sleep, undergoing a slight aftermath of nervous tension which wouldn’t let me relax. Then came the inevitable empty, end-of-the-contest feeling, then the waiting. The total effort, including the interviewing, researching and writing required about 2,000 hours on my part.


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

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