Was it random drafting or was it a personal decision? What were the benefits to family etc for signing up?

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    What is wrong with the summary in Wikipedia? The question is in danger of being closed as trivial unless it shows evidence of prior research.
    – MCW
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 19:20

2 Answers 2


The idea of sending pilots on one-way suicide missions is largely attributed to a Capt. Motoharu Okamura. He is quoted as saying:

In our present situation I firmly believe that the only way to swing the war in our favour is to resort to crash-dive attacks with our planes. There is no other way. There will be more than enough volunteers for this chance to save our country, and I would like to command such an operation. Provide me with 300 planes and I will turn the tide of war. World War II: the Encyclopedia of the War Years, 1941-1945 - Norman Polmar & Thomas B. Allen p463

It must be remembered that the idea of death before defeat was firmly ingrained in the Japanese military culture of the time.

This provided the catalyst that led to for Vice-Admiral Takijiro Onishi creating the first Kamikaze squadron. All 23 pilots in that squadron were volunteers.

From that point, although it has been claimed that there were more volunteers than there were available planes, interviews with surviving pilots suggest that young pilots were actually forced to fly the suicide missions. Japanese fighter ace, Saburo Sakai, was one experience pilot who claimed that he was forced to fly a kamikaze mission, but failed to locate his target.

The rewards for being a kamikaze pilot? Simply the honour of dying for the Emperor. But we should never underestimate just how ingrained and prevalent were the concepts of honour and dishonour in Japanese society at that time.

This is an excellent article by James Burbeck on the Kamikaze phenomenon in World War 2

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    I believe this answer is fundamentally incomplete without emphasizing how difficult it was to locate a naval target in the WW II era; and that consequently that the vast majority of kamikaze flights returned to base safe and sound without ever spotting a suitable target. A kamikaze mission only become a suicide mission if a target was spotted. Commented May 6, 2017 at 18:26
  • @PieterGeerkens Fair point, except that the question (and answer) is about recruitment to the kamikaze program. I only mentioned the missions in the context of pilots being forces to fly them. Saburo Sakai survived a kamikaze mission but his memoirs refer to young pilots who were forced to fly suicide missions (and so didn't return to speak for themselves!). Commented May 6, 2017 at 18:33
  • Please provide sources for any quotes used.
    – justCal
    Commented May 6, 2017 at 18:45
  • @user2448131 I located the book on Google Books and updated the answer to include a link. Commented May 6, 2017 at 18:53

It seems to have been very simple: Classes of newly graduating pilots were asked to volunteer, and the entire class would volunteer enthusiastically by doing so with both hands. The attitude of Japanese society can be judged from the fact that, even fifty years after the war, kamikaze pilots who simply failed to find a target were still being shunned.

Some veteran pilots were allowed to demur, as with Tetsuzō Iwamoto who stated his belief that fighter pilots should be tasked with shooting down enemy fighters and was allowed to train Kamikaze pilots instead.

This may all sound flippant, but that is not my intent. There seems to have been no need for any explicit coercion, because the implicit coercion, from peers and society, was far more than sufficient. There was no greater dishonour than to refuse a request from the emperor's appointed representatives to die for Japan.

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    After posting my answer earlier I did a little research on Google. Although he doesn't quote his sources, the details about the coercion of young pilots in this piece on how kamikaze pilots were chosen do correspond with what I've read elsewhere on the subject. Commented May 6, 2017 at 21:08

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