Suicidal Warfare: An Honorable Death

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In the midst of World War II, with Japanese victory seemingly far off and their unwilling to surrender, the Japanese resorted to a technique never before seen in war. Between October 1944 and August 1945, More than 3,000 Japanese Army and Navy pilots died intentionally by crashing their planes into allied ships. These warriors are often known as the kamikaze. Kamikaze is a Japanese word that translates into Divine Wind. The kamikaze warriors committed the ultimate act of sacrifice for their country and were glorified for doing so. Suicide in warfare and terrorism is a very lethal tactic and is becoming increasingly prevalent today. Understanding the reasons as to what lead to the birth of the kamikaze can help us understand the allure and success of suicide warfare. Scholars have attempted to explain the phenomena as the result of brainwashing, extreme poverty, emotional dysfunction, or a feeling of despair. That formula can also be applied to the reason why the Japanese resorted to suicide as a military tactic. The Japanese samurai warrior tradition, economic necessity during the war, and sheer desperation contributed, largely, to the birth of the kamikaze.

Suicide used as an act of terrorism can be seen as far back as the first century AD with the Jewish Zealots and Sicarii, the Ismaili Assassins of the twelfth century, and the anti-colonial movements in Malabar. The use of suicide in these cases are largely seen as the result of early education, the appearance of charismatic and ambitious leaders, disputes over occupied territory, and religion used to manipulate followers to kill in the name of god. The Japanese were no exception to this pattern. The Japanese Samurai tradition and the Bushido code of ethics promoted s...

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... learn ways of prevention and protection against this increasingly lethal and widespread act of terrorism. This act does not need to be conducted by a group or in war but can be carried out by a single individual willing to sacrifice themselves while killing thousands in the process.

Works Cited

Bloom, Mia. Dying to kill: the allure of suicide terror. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Chaliand, Gérard, Arnaud Blin, Edward D. Schneider, Kathryn Pulver, and Jesse Browner. The history of terrorism: from antiquity to al Qaeda. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Gambetta, Diego. Making sense of suicide missions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Nitobe, Inazō. Bushido, the soul of Japan,. 12th ed. Tokyo: Teibi Pub. Co., 19071904.

Worden, William L.. "Kamikaze: Aerial Banzai Charge." The Saturday Evening Post, June 23, 1945.
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