Teacher's Guide for Wings of Defeat
Comprehensive Unit

Grade Level

Secondary - Community College

Published

2008

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Wings of Defeat Cover

Internationally, Kamikaze pilots remain a potent metaphor for fanaticism. In Japan, they are largely revered for their selfless sacrifice. Yet few outside Japan know that hundreds of Kamikaze pilots survived the war. By the spring of 1945, when all Japanese planes were reassigned to Kamikaze attacks, Japan could no longer defend its airspace and its naval fleet was demolished. Old airplanes and inadequate training resulted in many failed Kamikaze missions. When Japan surrendered, hundreds of Kamikaze trainees were awaiting sortie orders that never arrived.

Through rare interviews with surviving Kamikaze pilots, we learn that the military demanded pilots to volunteer to give up their lives. Retracing their journeys from teenagers to doomed pilots, a complex history of brutal training and ambivalent sacrifice is revealed. As U.S. firebombs incinerated Japan’s major cities and the country ran out of weapons and fuel, Japan’s military government refused to accept the reality that it could no longer fight. Instead, thousands of pilots were sent off to targets nearly impossible to reach. Sixty years later, survivors in their eighties tell us about their training, their mindsets, and their experiences in a Kamikaze cockpit, as well as what it means to survive when thousands of their fellow pilots died. Their stories insist that we set aside our preconceptions to relive their all too human experiences with them. Ultimately, they help us consider what responsibilities a government at war has to its soldiers and to its people.

Following the production of Wings of Defeat, two American survivors of the USS Drexler, which was sunk by Kamikaze attacks, asked filmmakers Risa Morimoto and Linda Hoaglund if they could meet former Kamikaze. The meeting of former enemies of World War II is captured in the sequel documentary, Another Journey. Wings of Defeat and Another Journey are recommended for use in world history and U.S. history classes. In particular, they are recommended for use during the teaching of World War II. For more information about Wings of Defeat, please visit http://www.edgewoodpictures.com/wingsofdefeat/..

The accompanying teacher's guide helps to set the context for Wings of Defeat and Another Journey. It includes "Letters to Educators and Students" from American and Japanese scholars and from the filmmakers; essential questions for students to consider; and numerous small-groups activities based on important themes and quotes from the films.

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