Tragedy and Honor: 10 Details You Didn’t Know About the Life of a Kamikaze Pilot

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Most Kamikaze Pilots were New Recruits

History has made the revered kamikaze pilots seem like experienced military men, plunging towards certain death for honor. While part of this scenario may be true, the pilots were anything but experienced. Of the approximately 4,000 kamikaze pilots, around 3,000 were referred to as “boy pilots.” These were newer conscripts that came from a program dedicated to train very young boys to serve in the military.

Due to the extreme job description, experience pilots did not typically line up first. Most of the new kamikaze pilots were college students or graduates. The total death toll of Navy kamikaze officer pilots- which included 685 former college students- was 782. Only 12 percent of those who died were professional fighters.

In the Battle of Okinawa, the death toll of the former students was as high as 82 percent. Studies suggest that the branch that sacrificed the most student soldiers was the Navy. In comparison, the Army lost about 58 percent of their former student recruits.

Around one-third of these boy pilots were “student soldiers” who graduated early in order to be accepted into the draft. When the special attack force was formed in October 1944, not a single officer from the military academy volunteered to join.

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