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Kamikaze Pilot Statue
Mabalacat Town, Philippines

The town of Mabalacat on Luzon Island in the Philippines unveiled a life-sized kamikaze pilot statue in October 2004. The statue atop a tall pedestal stands in a small lot in front of a wall that shows the Japanese rising sun flag on its right half and the Philippine flag on its left half. The lot also has a torii, traditional Japanese gate, entrance by the street. Other than a sign by the street reading "Kamikaze (Divine Wind) East Airfield," the site provides no information related to the statue or the history of kamikaze pilots in Mabalacat.

At Mabalacat during the night of October 19 and early morning of October 20, 1944, Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi formed the first special attack unit to carry out aerial suicide attacks with Zero fighters each carrying a 250-kg bomb. He named it the Shinpu (often read as Kamikaze) Special Attack Corps, which consisted of 24 pilots divided into four squadrons. On October 25, the Shikishima Squadron led by Lieutenant Yukio Seki took off from Mabalacat Airfield and successfully carried out Japan's first official aerial suicide attack, which sank the escort carrier St. Lo (CVE-63) and damaged several other American warships.

The Mabalacat kamikaze statue generated some controversy in 2004, when it was put up, and afterward. Certain individuals complained that the Philippines should not be honoring and glorifying Japanese kamikaze pilots, since Japan brutally occupied the country during WWII. Mabalacat officials have defended the statue by saying its goal is to promote peace using the lessons of war. More cynical observers point out the true purpose of the statue is to lure Japanese tourists. With the lack of any written explanation at the site of the statue's purpose or the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps' history, it seems quite unlikely that a visitor would understand the statue's true purpose is to promote peace.

In the past at this site both before and after the erection of the kamikaze pilot statue in 2004, there was a sign with the following wording that did describe the history of the Kamikaze Corps at Mabalacat, but this sign no longer stands in 2009:

This spot is the central frontage of the very first JAPANESE KAMIKAZE AIR FIELD of WWII - The Mabalacat East Airfield. On 20 October 1944, VICE ADMIRAL TAKIJIRO OHNISHI founded the KAMIKAZE at Mabalacat, Pampanga, Luzon Island. The first to volunteer were the 23 fliers [1] of the 201st Air Group, 1st Air Fleet, Imperial Nippon Naval Air Force under CMDR. ASAICHI TAMAI, then stationed at Mabalacat. The first KAMIKAZE group was called the Shimpu [2] Special Attack Corps under LT. YUKIO SEKI. The corps was divided into four units: the SHIKISHIMA UNIT; the YAMATO UNIT; the ASAHI UNIT; and the YAMAZAKURA UNIT. At 0725 hrs. on October 25, 1944, the Shikishima Unit took off from this airfield led by LT. YUKIO SEKI. His men were SGT. [3] IWAO NAKANO, SGT. NOBOUTANI [4], EM 1/C HAGIME [5] NAGAMINE AND EM 2/C SHIGEO OGURO. At 1045 hrs, on the said date, the unit hit enemy targets near Leyte. LT. SEKI's plane hit first, blowing up the U.S. Carrier St. Lo which sank 20 minutes later. LT. SEKI's men also hit and heavily damaged the U.S. Carriers: Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, Sangamon, Santee, Suwannee and White Plains. This first successful KAMIKAZE MISSION was witnessed then reported here by C/WO HIROYOSHI NISHIZAWA, Japan's greatest ace pilot with 103 kills confirmed. War historians considered LT. YUKIO SEKI as "THE WORLD'S FIRST OFFICIAL HUMAN BOMB!"

N.B. The Mabalacat Tourism Office (MTO) supports the establishment of Kamikaze Peace Memorial Shrine not for the glorification of the Kamikaze but rather for the use of war history as a tool for the promotion of peace and friendship among nations. This shrine serves as a reminder that the Kamikaze phenomenon shall never happen again.


Kamikaze pilot statue in front of
wall showing Japanese rising sun flag
(Philippine flag also on left of statue
but only partly visible in this photograph)

Sign by street in front of lot with kamikaze pilot statue

A short distance from the kamikaze pilot statue along the same road, there is a sign in front of the house where Vice Admiral Ohnishi met to form the Shimpu Special Attack Corps. The sign with tattered lettering reads as follows:

This house of Mr. and Mrs. Marcos Santos is the official birthplace of the famous Japanese Kamikaze organization of World War II.

Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, Commander of the Japanese Naval Air Forces in the Philippines, founded on this spot and organized on voluntary basis the very first Kamikaze unit.

Members of 201st Air Group, 1st Air Fleet, 23 veteran pilots "were asked if they would volunteer to become suicide pilots."

"In a frenzy emotions and joy, the arms of every pilot in the assembly went up in a gesture of complete accord."

"It was early in the morning of 20 October 1944 that an announcement was at once drawn up and posted as soon as the Admiral had signed it, in substance it said:

"That 201st Air Group will organize a special attack corps and will destroy and disable, if possible by 0725 hours on 25 October, 1944, the enemy carriers in the water coasts of the Philippines."

The Shimpu Attack Unit will be commanded by Lieutenant Yukio Seki at exactly 0725 hrs. The first Kamikaze volunteers flew from Mabalacat East Airfield and were never to return. Thus, was born the very first Kamikaze unit that was later joined by several thousands Oriental warriors. This was the "Divine Wind" that subsequently struck dreadful fear, chaos and death to thousands of American sailors."

By the end of the Pacific War, Kamikaze warriors sunk and damaged a total of 322 U.S. Naval vessels, killed more than 10,000 U.S. sailors and 1,228 suicide sorties were conducted.

N.B. The Mabalacat Tourism Office (MTO) supports the establishment of Kamikaze Peace Memorial not for the glorification of the Kamikaze but rather for the use of war history as a tool for the promotion of goodwill, peace and friendship among the nations. This serves as a reminder that the Kamikaze phenomenon shall never happen again.

Guy "Indra" Hilbero
Head, Mabalacat Tourism Office,
Kamikaze Researcher

Daniel Dizon
Kamikaze Researcher

Jose "Ad" Davrit
Kamikaze Researcher

Sign in front of house where Vice Admiral Ohnishi
formed Shimpu (Kamikaze) Special Attack Corps


Fumiko Hattori provided this web page's first two photos taken on October 25, 2004.

1. Lieutenant Yukio Seki was the 24th pilot of the Shinpu Special Attack Corps. He volunteered later the same night.

2. Shimbu and Shinpu are romanization alternatives for the Japanese characters. Inoguchi and Nakajima (1958) use Shimpu.

3. Iwao Nakano's rank was Ensign.

4. This should read Nobuo Tani rather than the incorrect name of Noboutani.

5. This should be Hajime rather than Hagime.

Source Cited

Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.



Mabalacat, Pampanga, Oct. 26, 2000 - Dozens of Japanese visitors, led by Buddhist Bishop Ekan Ikeguchi, joined the commemoration of the 56th anniversary of the birth in Barangay San Francisco, Mabalacat town, of the "kamikaze," the suicide attack units of the Japanese imperial forces which took action against American forces starting in Leyte in October 1944.

"It was the largest organized suicide in world history," said prominent historian Daniel Dizon, 70.

Dizon said some 6,500 Japanese fighters crashed their aircraft against US warships in kamikaze missions, and no less than 16,000 volunteered to sacrifice their lives for these suicide missions.

Dizon said it was actually on the morning of Oct. 20, 1944 that the 201st Air Group of the Japanese Air Force announced the formation of the Shimpu attack unit. The first successful mission was carried out five days later on Oct. 25, when Japanese pilots disabled US warships in Leyte.

The Japanese referred to the mission as kamikaze or "divine wind" with reference to a typhoon that saved Japan from the invasion of Kublai Khan in 1281.

Through years of research, Dizon was able to get first-hand testimonies about the birth of the kamikaze from two key kamikaze officers who were among the initial batch of suicide bombers in this town Capt. Rikihei Inoguchi and Commander Tadashi Nakajima.

Inoguchi recalled that on Oct. 17, 1944, "American ships appeared off Suluan Island at the mouth of the Leyte Gulf, in such force as to indicate that a major invasion operation was about to begin."

Two days later, Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi arrived here to announce the activation of the so-called "Sho operation," a defensive-offensive plan, amid reports that US forces had targeted the Philippines for invasion.

The following day, the 201st Air Group posted at its headquarters in Barangay San Francisco here an announcement on the formation of the Shimpu suicide attack unit. The slogan: "One plane for one warship."

The unit was to be composed initially of 26 fighter planes, of which half were assigned for suicide diving missions and the rest for escort. Each aircraft was equipped with 250-kilogram bombs.

Inoguchi recalled: "The members of the 201st Air Group young veteran pilots were asked if they would volunteer to become suicide pilots. In a frenzy of emotion and joy, the shouts of every pilot in the assembly went up in a gesture of complete accord." Kamikaze was then born to spread its mission to the rest of the Asia-Pacific as World War II drew to a close.

Dizon quoted US Navy Vice Admiral C.R. Brown as saying later: "No one has as yet successfully explained to the Western mind this Japanese phenomenon of self-immolation, and perhaps it is not given to the Westerner to understand it."

But the sentiments of the kamikaze pilots could probably be gleaned from the letters they sent their loved ones before they went on to their last missions. The letters were compiled by Dizon.

Twenty-two-year old Ensign Heiichi Okabe of Kyushu wrote: "I am a human being and hope to be neither saint nor scoundrel. As one who has spent his life in wistful longing and searching, I die resignedly in the hope that my life will serve as a human document."

To his parents, Flying Petty Officer First Class Isao Matsuo of Nagasaki wrote: "Please congratulate me. I have been given a splendid opportunity to die. This is my last day. The destiny of our homeland hinges on the decisive battle in the seas south, where I shall fall like a blossom from a radiant cherry tree."

One Teruo also had no regrets for volunteering his life as a kamikaze pilot, as he wrote his father: "As my death approaches, my only regret is that I have never been able to do anything good for you in life. . . My grave will be the sea around Okinawa, and I will see my (deceased) mother and grandmother again. I have neither regret nor fear about death. I only pray for your happiness and that of my countrymen."

Noting a growing historical interest in the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Dizon has put up a kamikaze museum at his home at No. 2 Badjao st., Villa Gloria, Angeles City.

The museum features Dizon’s collection of an original kamikaze pilot uniform, a special steel sword given only to kamikaze volunteers, and portraits of the first five kamikaze pilots killed in suicide attacks.


Philippines marks the birth of the `kamikaze'

LAUNCHING GROUND: A statue of a World War II-era Japanese pilot stands on the field where the first suicide pilots took to the air -- to serve as a lesson for peace

Thursday, Oct 28, 2004, Page 5

Tourism officer Guy Hilbero, far left, supervises workers as they prepare to install a life-size statue of an unnamed ``kamikaze'' pilot at the Japanese war memorial in Mabalacat, the Philippines, last Sunday.
In a clearing by a sugar cane field a few kilometers from the former US Air Force base at Clark in the Philippines, stands a life-size statue of a Japanese kamikaze pilot.

In any other country that was occupied by the Japanese such a monument would raise howls of protest -- but in the Philippines the worst it has elicited is a few grumbles.

The sculpture stands on what used to be the east Mabalacat airfield, 80km northwest of Manila, where 60 years ago Japan unleashed its suicide squadrons in a last desperate bid to turn the tide of defeat.

According to local tourism official Guy Hilbero, the aim of the statue is to promote peace "using the lessons of war."

"It is not a memorial glorifying the kamikaze pilots," he said.

"I suppose a lot of foreigners would find that difficult to understand considering we were once occupied by the Japanese," he said. "But we Filipinos are a very forgiving people. At some point you have to forgive and move on."

He said the statue, which was unveiled earlier this week in a simple, low key ceremony in front of some 200 local and Japanese officials, should be seen as a symbol.

"A symbol for all that is wrong with war. The point being that no one wins," Hilbero said.

The original design for the statue depicted a kamikaze clutching a sword and proudly leaning on a 112.5kg bomb but Hilbero didn't think it was appropriate.

Colonel Rafael Estrada, 87, founder and chairman of the veterans group Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor said: "The site is where the Kamikazes were born. That is a historical fact.

"I have no problem with that but to mark it with a full size statue of a Kamikaze pilot is, in my opinion, not right," Estrada said.

According to Ronnie dela Cruz who runs the historical society in the town of Bamban, next door to Mabalacat, the statue is a disgrace.

"It is a symbol of military power, not peace. It glorifies the kamikaze pilots and goes beyond being just an historical marker," he said.

In the final 10 months of the war, some 7,465 kamikaze flew to their deaths, 120 US ships were sunk with many more damaged and 3,048 allied sailors were killed and another 6,025 wounded.

Today, nothing remains of the airfield except for a 500m2 plot of land donated by a farmer which has been turned into a small memorial park. In 1998 the local government passed a resolution declaring the park on what was the kamikaze east airfield a "peace memorial."

Following the Leyte landings in the eastern Visayas islands by the US and the return of General Douglas MacArthur to the occupied Philippines on Oct. 20, 1944, the Japanese found themselves heavily outnumbered on the ground, in the air and on the sea.

Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi met with his officers of the First Air Fleet at what was then the Mabalacat East Airfield on Oct. 18, 1944, two days before the US invasion to outline his plan for victory.

According to Rikihei Inoguchi and Tadashi Nakajima in their book The Divine Wind, Ohnishi said: "In my opinion there is only one way of assuring that our meager strength will be effective to a maximum degree ... That is to organize suicide attack units composed of Zero fighters armed with 250kg bombs, with each plane to crash-dive into an enemy aircraft carrier."

Inoguchi once said in an interview: "No one welcomes death but it is more understandable if one bears in mind that, considering the heavy odds that our fliers faced in 1944, their chances of coming back alive from any sortie against enemy carriers was very slim, regardless of the attack method employed."

The first kamikaze unit was born on Oct. 20 and was led by 23-year-old Lieutenant Yukio Seki. On Oct. 25, Seki and four other pilots, aged from 19 to 20, climbed aboard their Zero flying bombs and took off from the Mabalacat. Three hours later Seki flew his aircraft into the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS St. Lo. The ship sank within 20 minutes with a loss of 114 of its 860 crew ... and the world's first human flying bomb had been born.


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Pursuant to Title 17 U.S.C. 107, other copyrighted work is provided for educational purposes, research, critical comment, or debate without profit or payment. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for your own purposes beyond the 'fair use' exception, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner