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Day of the Kamikaze (DVD Review)

9 Nov, 2008 By: Pete Croatto


Street 11/11/08
$24.98 DVD
Not rated.

In 1945, the Japanese resorted to a desperate effort to try to win World War II — training their pilots to crash into Allied carriers. This outstanding documentary from the Smithsonian Channel examines the historical and emotional ramifications of “an entirely new kind of war.”

The Japanese turned to the kamikaze mindset in the war’s waning months. It worked to some extent, destroying some 150 Allied ships and killing about 4,000 sailors. The strategy couldn’t last. The Japanese ran out of planes and pilots and their mostly U.S.-stacked targets withstood the attacks and the accompanying psychological terror.

In fact, the Kamikaze mindset found its way into Japan’s citizens, which made the atomic bomb’s debut in Hiroshima (and later Nagasaki) sadly inevitable.

Day of the Kamikaze expertly breaks down the military strategy while steering clear of academic pontificating. Soldiers from both sides and relatives of the deceased kamikaze pilots are interviewed, providing a stunning, first-person look at life during wartime. Young American and British men dealt with an unprecedented attack style that they couldn’t comprehend, while the Japanese’s sense of patriotism and honor prevented anyone from rebelling. “The whole country was brainwashed,” one subject explains.

Military-history buffs will surely love the information and perspective offered in Day of the Kamikaze, but those same qualities make it an ideal suggestion for any fan of informative entertainment. A half-hour documentary, Eyewitness Kamikaze, is the DVD’s only notable extra and an excellent complement to the feature.

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