This kamikaze flag is from 1940’s Japan. It is made out of silk and lined with cotton. Two corners are reinforced with leather. The white part of the flag has been written on in Japanese, likely with Shinto sayings and with the signatures of the kamikaze pilot’s loved ones.
During World War II, the increasingly authoritarian Japanese government was searching for a way to defend itself from Allied forces, and began assigning young conscripted Japanese pilots to suicide missions. These pilots would fly planes fitted with bombs and extra gasoline directly into approaching Allied ships, sacrificing their lives to inflict as much damage as possible on their enemy. These pilots and their planes were called “kamikaze” or “divine wind” in reference to a typhoon that prevented Mongol forces led by Kublai Khan from invading Japan in 1281. Like that typhoon, these pilots were meant to sweep Allied forces away from Japan, protecting their homeland from harm.
These pilots, along with Japanese citizens, were told by their government that this ultimate sacrifice was necessary to defend Japan from invasion. Some pilots took this propaganda to heart, and willing gave their lives to defend their families and homeland. Other pilots did not support their government’s viewpoint, but saw no way out of a difficult situation. This array of perspectives is reflected in the letters kamikaze pilots sent back to their families. The Chirin Peace Museum has been working to collect many of these letters and is hoping they will be given UNESCO World Heritage status as a way to remind the world about this particularly horrific point in world history, in the hopes that we will not repeat it.
Material: silk with cotton lining
Condition: minor stains, very good
Inventory number: TX4658