Former Kamikaze Trainee Says He Would Now Die For U.S.
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) _ Yukio Tashiro, who was training to be a 12-year-old Japanese kamikaze pilot when World War II ended but is now a U.S. citizen, says he would risk his life in U.S. military service if called.
″I think if this country asked me to do it, I would,″ he said.
Tashiro, known as ″Paul″ to American friends who have trouble pronouncing his Japanese name, hasn’t forgotten his boyhood commitment to die for the emperor if he had been sent on a suicide bombing mission.
Japanese schoolboys of his day were taught that dying for the emperor was the highest attainable virtue.
″In an emergency of the emperor, you dedicate your life to him,″ Tashiro said. ″I personally believed I was going to die for the emperor. I wanted to do that.″
Tashiro, 52, now a United Methodist minister based at a church in the rural western Kentucky town of Corydon, said his family’s Tokyo home was destroyed in an American air raid in March 1945.
He doesn’t question President Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945. He said more people could have died in combat if the bomb had not been used and the war was dragging on.
″Of course, it’s right,″ Tashiro said. ″War itself is hell. You can’t compare which is better or which is worse.″
He was interviewed at Northern Kentucky University, where Tashiro was invited Friday by history professors to speak about his experiences.
As the Allies advanced on Japan in the war’s waning months, that country’s military manpower became depleted and leaders began taking boys as young as 12 for combat. Tashiro said that when the war began, applicants for the kamikaze squad had been required to be at least 17.
The Japanese suicide pilots, flying airplanes crammed with explosives, were taught to aim their planes for the boiler rooms or explosive storage areas of Allied warships, he said.
Tashiro became a Christian after the war in Japan. He and his wife, Eiko, came to the United States in 1969 to study for the clergy. They became U.S. citizens five years ago.
Tashiro said he told his Kentucky church congregation after Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 that he would have volunteered to go to Iran to rescue the imprisoned Americans.