а-mikaze, by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon T. Allred, was first published in 1957 by Ballantine Books Inc. as part of their classic World War series and was among their first titles to enjoy widespread retail success. It was released after more than a decade of postwar recuperation from the economic and emotional toll of World War II when Americans were, at long last, disposed to learn more about their former enemy’s perspective on the war.
After half a century, experts still recognize Kamikaze as one of the most well-written and influential English-language accounts of the infamous suicide squadrons. It remains on the “recommended reading list” for college and high school literature, history, and political science courses world-wide. With over half a million copies to its credit, authorized translations of Kamikaze include French, Dutch, and German, but with countless unauthorized translations in circulation, it is impossible to determine how many copies exist. Some have estimated they may be in the millions, with “bootleg” print runs in foreign countries still occurring today.
Because several different parties were interested in making Kamikaze into a feature-length film, co-author Gordon T. Allred allowed this work to go out of print following its last printing in 1982. Meanwhile, as Professor of Creative Writing at Weber State University, he has published ten other books, both fiction and non-fiction, including some award winning titles like Starfire. In addition, Allred has recently re-written and expanded Kamikaze to improve its effectiveness but without changing the basic history or facts. The highly original result is now available in your hands, and its release is most auspicious as we celebrate its 50th anniversary as a literary classic. American Legacy Media is proud to be associated with Kamikaze, and with the advent of digital publishing technology, we are positioned keep it “in print” and available in perpetuity
Since 1982, the digital revolution has not only changed the publishing landscape, it has also changed the field of historical study and research. When Kamikaze was first published, it was difficult for researchers to gain access to many important historical documents. It was only recently that the Japanese government provided their declassified military records to a world-wide audience via the Internet. That availability has since generated a wave of related research.
This new information, however, has led some to question the validity of co-author Yasuo Kuwahara’s account. Researchers have raised questions concerning how Kuwahara was recruited, whether he served in the Army or Navy, if he was attached to a tokkotai* unit, his recollection regarding the type of military planes involved, and the very existence of specific people he mentions throughout the book. Conversely, many other details have similarly been difficult to disprove. Unfortunately, Kuwahara died in 1980, and is unable to defend himself, or to offer any needed clarifications. Consequently, what remains to authenticate the factual elements of this story are an incomplete collection of government documents, second-hand accounts, and hearsay.
Although specific details of the book may not correlate directly to the existing historical documents, it is important to note that a condensed version of this story was translated and widely published throughout Japan in 1957. Interestingly, no known challenges to the story were put forth at that time. One would think that if its basic tenets were untrue, a story of such reputation and magnificent irony would have aroused at least minimal interest among the Japanese military history establishment of the time.
* Kamikaze squadrons were identified as “Special Forces Units.” The Japanese term is: tokubetsu ko-geki-tai, which later was abbreviated to tokkotai or tokko.
Superseding all arguments, for or against authenticity, is the nature of this book. Allred’s intention from the outset was to create a literary work, not an academic document for the purposes of historical research. It was written to depict this man’s unique emotional experience during World War II, one of history’s most pivotal events. Although stringent efforts were made to verify Kuwahara’s story, some specific details may ultimately be disproved. Nevertheless, we believe without question Allred’s account of how this story came together, and we contend that the entire work should not be discredited as fiction unless undisputable evidence proves Kuwahara’s intention was to deceive.
If, in the end, Kuwahara’s story is proven to be fraudulent, we can only speculate as to how he could have concocted such a brilliant ruse. He must have possessed incredible good fortune or simple dumb luck to have avoided exposure these many years. He must also have been quite cunning to have taken so many calculated risks by openly offering his co-author countless authoritative particulars of his experiences, most of which were obtained during months and months of detailed daily interviews. Indeed, if Kamikaze is fabricated, it may be Kuwahara’s ultimate revenge against his former American foes.
In any case, whether various elements of this story are proved or disproved, Kamikaze was, and remains, a superbly written literary work that has withstood the test of time. With Allred’s new revisions, its literary quality has been especially enhanced. Consequently, we maintain that placing this title back in print is the right decision, and any arguments questioning specific historical details of Kamikaze are outweighed by its overall literary value.
Reactions and questions may be sent to Gordon T. Allred or Gary W. Toyn at the following e-mail address: info@americanlegacymedia. com