Thursday, August 09, 2012
Bedtime for banzai
PBS has been rebroadcasting “The War,” the multi-part Ken Burns documentary on World War II. Last night I watched the final episode, “A World without War.” As its situation became more dire, Japan ramped up its use of suicide pilots—the infamous kamikaze. One survivor of a kamikaze attack was Maurice Bell of Mobile, Alabama, who was a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when a Japanese pilot crashed into the ship.
“They was trained to fly their planes one way and no return,” explained Bell. “And when they went out after a ship or something, they had their funeral before they actually left and they knew they was never coming back. They was under the impression that if they gave their life that way for their country they'd have a special place in heaven for them automatically—which wasn't true.”
Bell delivered that final phrase with an ironic emphasis, mocking the credulity of the kamikaze who was supposedly expecting to be ushered into paradise upon the completion of his mission. For some reason, the U.S. sailor seemed absolutely certain that the man who attacked his ship has not been enjoying the delights of a luxurious Shinto afterlife. I wonder: Does he similarly dismiss the dogma of a Christian afterlife?
I'm just curious how he can be so sure. Either way.