Pearl Harbor Fighter Pilot Dies

You’re wondering, “Why is a blog on China and Chinese culture talking about a Pearl Harbor fighter pilot?”

Yes, it’s strange, however, I think it’s important and relevant, though far-fetched.

It’s about a Japanese fighter pilot who attacked Pearl Harbor and other accomplishments during the war included shooting down nine aircrafts belonging to China, Britain, and the U.S.  He realized how the war had turned men into killing machines, and later in his life, felt remorse for all the people he killed.  He tried to make up for his actions in WWII by creating a nursery to help local mothers and opened a kindergarten with his wife.

Just because one has to or feels obligated to serve in a war, does not mean they don’t want to or feel remorse after their service.

We must remember that people have feelings and opinions.  Everyone copes with their feelings or PTSD in different ways.  We should not judge until we know the whole story.

The following article is from the NY Times.

Kaname Harada, Pearl Harbor Fighter Pilot and, Later, Remorseful Pacifist, Dies at 99

Kaname Harada last year held a picture of himself as a young flying ace who would be credited with shooting down nine aircraft. In his later years, he spoke out to keep Japan on a pacifist path. KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
Kaname Harada last year held a picture of himself as a young flying ace who would be credited with shooting down nine aircraft. In his later years, he spoke out to keep Japan on a pacifist path. KO SASAKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
By SAM ROBERTS

Kaname Harada, a former fighter ace who was believed to be the last surviving combat pilot to fly for Japan at Pearl Harbor, and who became an apostle of pacifism a half-century later out of remorse over the deaths he caused, died on Tuesday in Nagano, northwest of Tokyo. He was 99.

His daughter, Chiyoko Tanaka, confirmed his death.

Rather than waiting until he was drafted, Mr. Harada enlisted in the Japanese Marines in 1933 when he was barely 17. After transferring to flight school and becoming a pilot, he was credited by Japan with shooting down nine Chinese, British and American aircraft on his own. He also shared 10 downings with other pilots in combat over Manchuria, Ceylon, Midway and Guadalcanal from 1937 to 1942.

“He was Japan’s oldest ace,” said Dan King, the author of “The Last Zero Fighter: Firsthand Accounts From WWII Japanese Naval Pilots,” published in 2012. Mr. King described Mr. Harada as the last surviving Zero combat pilot who flew in the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, although that could not be independently verified.

Mr. Harada himself said he had flown at Pearl Harbor and recalled being disappointed at the time that his mission was to protect Japanese carriers rather than to participate in the devastating raid on the American fleet.

Wounded the next year when he crash-landed at Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, he returned to Japan to train pilots for suicide missions against American targets. After the war he became a farmer, but he hid in fear from American occupiers and was plagued by nightmares.

“I realized the war had turned me into a killer of men,” he told Martin Fackler last year in a profile in The New York Times, “and that was not the kind of person I wanted to be.”

He added: “I fought the war from the cockpit of a Zero, and can still remember the faces of those I killed. They were fathers and sons, too. I didn’t hate them or even know them.”

“That is how war robs you of your humanity,” he said, “by putting you in a situation where you must either kill perfect strangers or be killed by them.”

His wife suggested that he assuage his guilt by opening a kindergarten.

“If you want to atone for the lives you have taken, what better way is there than to nurture new lives?” he quoted her as saying in a documentary on his life, “Each and Every Battlefield,” released in Japan last year.

The couple started a nursery to support local mothers in 1965, and a kindergarten four years later.

Mr. Harada visited Pearl Harbor in 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the airstrike. It was not until then, he said, that he learned that the raid had been a sneak attack and that Japan had at that point not formally declared war on the United States.

He said it was only after the Persian Gulf war that year, when the United States forced Iraqi troops to withdraw from Kuwait, that he could bring himself to speak publicly about his own wartime experience. He said he was appalled that Japanese teenagers were describing the conflict in the Mideast as if it were a video game.

“Until I die, I will tell about what I saw,” Mr. Harada said. “Never forgetting is the best way to protect our children and our children’s children from the horrors of war.”

He was born in Asajawa, an alpine village in Nagano Prefecture, on Aug. 11, 1916. In 1937, he graduated first in his flight school class.

Mr. Harada was among more than 300 pilots whom the Japanese cited as World War II aces, an honorific usually reserved for those who have downed five or more enemy aircraft.

He described himself in the Times interview as “the last Zero fighter,” or at least the last remaining pilot who had flown the agile Mitsubishi fighter plane early in the war. (The name Zero was derived from the last digit of the year on which the fighter entered naval service: 2600 on the Imperial calendar, 1940 on the Gregorian calendar.)

Mr. Harada said that during the Battle of Midway, which turned the tide of the war in America’s favor in 1942, he downed five United States torpedo planes in a single morning while defending the Japanese fleet, but ditched his fighter when his aircraft carrier was sunk and he ran out of fuel. He was rescued by a Japanese destroyer.

Four months later, he was shot down over Guadalcanal in a dogfight with a Grumman F-4F Wildcat. Badly injured, he spent 10 grueling days on Guadalcanal until a Japanese warship retrieved him.

After the war, he said, he met the American Marine pilot who had shot him down, the celebrated ace Joe Foss. (Mr. Foss, a Medal of Honor winner, went on to become governor of South Dakota, the first commissioner of the American Football League and president of the National Rifle Association. He died in 2003.)

Besides Mr. Harada’s daughter, there was no available information about other survivors.

Last year, addressing several hundred accountants and their clients in Nagano, Mr. Harada said that his bitter experiences and those of other aging veterans had contributed to Japan’s aversion to war since 1945.

“Nothing is as terrifying as war,” he said. “I want to tell you my experiences in war so that younger generations don’t have to go through the same horrors that I did.”

But he acknowledged that some conservatives in the Japanese government had been rethinking the country’s pacifist path.

“These politicians were born after the war,” he said, “and so they don’t understand it must be avoided at all costs. In this respect, they are like our prewar leaders.”

Advertisements

Published by

Leanne

I began writing Elle's Adventure in China (EACh) in June 2014 as a fun summer project, but as obstacles kept interfering with my plans, I forked and forked more options. I took writing this novel much more seriously in mid-July, and want to have it officially published someday in my lifetime. As many artists put their hearts into their projects, so do I. I did not start out liking to read, but a professor suggested a book for me for homework a few years ago, and it was an amazing book. Since then, I read for pleasure, and I hope my novel, Elle's Adventure in China, does the same for as many of you as possible. The same thing goes to writing. I did not like to write until I took a course where the professor and papers made me love to write. I hope every one of you find what makes you happy and dedicated to work. In May 2015, I started my other blog, Read and Write Here (R&WH), as a place to post other things that aren't China- and Chinese culture-related and not EACh. I share some of my memories and experiences from student teaching, irregular participation in Daily Prompts, etc. I'd like to have regular people and bloggers to write book reviews and post it on R&WH someday. Keep reading and writing!

Have something to say or ask?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: