06 November 2005

Diary of a Kyushu Schoolgirl, 12 April 1945

Today will be a clear-weather attack. They loaded us into a car with the divine eagles who will attack and not return, and we drove straight to the waiting aircraft along Guidance Road. On the way we sang "Sinking from the Sky" over and over. Together with our teachers we pulled the camouflage netting off the squadron leader's plane. The revolutions of the propeller on his plane, the one with a bomb on its belly, were fine. Motoshima's plane made a buzzing sound. That was probably the exceedingly kind squadron leader. We climbed onto the starting car (in those days, when aircraft started their engines, their propellers would not always turn automatically, so many had to be started with a starting car) and went to the control tower to send off the pilots. When I turned around, the squadron leader and Motoshima, both wearing pretty Chinese milk vetch necklaces, boarded their aircraft and looked back at us. A plane covered with cherry blossoms taxied by right in front of us. We thought that we, too, should shower the planes with cherry blossoms and ran back to the barracks. On the way we met Kawasaki, who was riding a bicycle.

We picked as many cherry blossoms as we could and ran back as fast as our legs would carry us, but the planes had gone to the starting line and were about to begin taxiing down the runway. They were far away, and we were sorry we couldn't run out to them. Motoshima's plane was late and went to the starting line right in front of us. Then the squadron leader's plane took off. It was followed by planes piloted by Okayasu, Yagyu, and Mochiki. The Type 97 fighters wagged their wings from left to right, and we could see smiling faces in all the planes. The plane piloted by Anazawa from the Twentieth Jinbu Squadron passed in front of us. When we waved branches of cherry blossoms as hard as we could, the smiling Anazawa, his head wrapped in a headband, saluted us several times.

Click! ... when we turned and looked behind us, it was the cameraman taking our pictures. When everyone of the special-attack ["kamikaze"] planes had taken off, we just stood there for a long time, gazing at the southern sky, which seemed to go on forever. Tears welled up in our eyes.

We didn't feel like talking, and when we were about to return together, we discovered Motoshima and Watai. Motoshima was crying unashamedly ... when I asked, "What's wrong?" he said, "My bomb dropped off, and I couldn't take off. When I ran over to our squadron leader, he said, 'Motoshima, come later. I'll go ahead and will be waiting for you in that other world.' I didn't expect this, and I'm so upset! After squadron leader's plane took off, I just sat alone and cried to my heart's content." Teary-eyed Watai added, "It is really a shame! I'm sorry." All at once, the tears we had been stifling welled up, and we all cried together. They said that tonight was a wake for the squadron leader, so sake couldn't be drunk. Horii, who came today, told jokes, and the men listened, but their minds were somewhere else. Since they cried whenever they thought about their squadron leader, who had such deep affection for his subordinates, and about the way he'd say "Motoshima, Motoshima," they asked us not to say anything at all.

It was unfortunate that Motoshima and Watai weren't able to body-crash together with their splendid squadron leader or to participate in the second general attack.
SOURCE: Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese, by Samuel Hideo Yamashita (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2005),
pp. 230-231

Motoshima got his wish 4 days later. The diarist was among the high school girls "assigned to the quarters of the special-attack ["kamikaze"] pilots and told to look after them, which meant cleaning their quarters, doing their laundry, and mending their clothes" (p. 221).

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