- Title: JAPAN: Former enemies during World War Two re-unite for a Kamikaze pilot film
- Date: 1st August 2007
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (JULY 27, 2007) (REUTERS) FORMER JAPANESE KAMIKAZE PILOT TAKEO UESHIMA, 84 WALKING INTO ROOM AND SHAKING HANDS WITH FORMER U.S. SERVICEMEN FRED MITCHELL AND EUGENE BRICK, 81.
- Embargoed: 16th August 2007 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Reuters ID: LVAD0DRQ3L6YS1FWZC576FVLRJZH
- Story Text: Sixty-two years ago they were bitter enemies -- one a Japanese pilot trained to crash his plane into U.S. ships on a suicide mission, the other two survivors of a ship sunk by one of the pilot's kamikaze comrades.
But on Friday (July 27) the three now elderly men shook hands and blinked back tears during a meeting that the former U.S. servicemen said finally helped them come to terms with their traumatic past.
"My dream has come true," said Fred Mitchell, an 81-year-old survivor of the U.S.S. Drexler, a destroyer sunk by kamikaze off Okinawa in 1945. "When I go back I can live in peace for the rest of my life,"
he added, his voice shaking and holding back tears.
His feelings about the meeting with Takeo Ueshima, 84, who was trained to carry out what were called "special attacks" but was unable to do so before the war ended, were shared by fellow survivor Eugene Brick, also
"I am convinced now that it was an act of patriotism on their part. They were fighting for their families the same as we were," Brick said.
The meeting was arranged by the makers of a documentary on the kamikaze released in Tokyo on Saturday (July 21), which shows that not all the young men who trained for the missions faced their almost certain death gladly.
"There were times that we felt that we had no sense of impending death. But occasionally I'd think "I don't want to die" after finishing our training, and I think we all had those thoughts," said former Kamikaze pilot Takeo Ueshima.
After seeing the film, "Wings of Defeat", Mitchell and Brick said their views of their former foes had changed, and they wanted to meet some if possible.
Japanese-American director Risa Morimoto sought out former kamikaze after learning her much-loved uncle had trained as one.
"For me, learning that my own uncle had trained to become a Kamikaze pilot was stunning. I never thought twice (about the fact) that they were crazy fanatics, and if I could think that way, I thought there were many others who thought the same -- which I thought was why we should make the movie," she said.
Instead of the fanatics she expected, she met a group of gentle, elderly men who expressed mixed emotions about the past -- feelings Ueshima, who appeared in the film, reiterated.
The documentary is being shown two months after the release of a feature film on the kamikaze written by Tokyo's nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara, which celebrates the young pilots as heroes.
The desperate strategy was conceived when Japan was on the brink of losing the Philippines to U.S. forces, with the first attack taking place in 1944. Its success inspired the recruitment of more men for similar attacks.
Roughly 4,000 kamikaze pilots died and 34 U.S. ships were sunk in the last few months of the war, according to the filmmakers.
Brick and Mitchell, who will travel to southern Japan for meetings with more former kamikaze, clearly hit it off with Ueshima, who speaks English.
"Do you have email?" Brick asked Ueshima at the end of the meeting. "That way, we can talk back and forth."
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