What makes the USS Missouri an especially relevant venue is that it is to my knowledge only one of two still-existing ships — the other being the USS Intrepid — that were actually hit by kamikaze during the war. The USS Missouri was hit on April 12, 1945, exactly 70 years ago.
There’s a feel-good aspect to this story — very hard to do when you’re talking about kamikaze attacks.Do tell, but it was only the people who survived the attack, because the bomb the plane carried didn't detonate, who felt good, not the Japanese pilot. Who might not have even volunteered;
They’d be asked to circle chits of paper, or take a step forward — when they’re already standing in tight ranks. Imagine the peer pressure and face-threat involved in that atmosphere of adolescent testosterone and fatalistic heroism and macho posturing. You’re standing in ranks with guys you’ve bled, sweated and wept with for the past six months to a year. By now you’ve made your primary identity as a man in uniform. If you were to give that up by refusing to “volunteer,” you’d suffer huge psychological injury. For a young Japanese man in uniform at the time, such a scenario must have promised a fate worse than death — without the luxury of a world view accommodating the possibility that refusing orders in such circumstances could be as or more courageous than following them.
Some of my Tokkō [Kamikazi] informants even reported feeling insulted about being asked to go through the rigmarole of ceremonies. Their thinking was, “I’m a pilot in His Majesty’s Army/Navy, how dare they consider the possibility that I might not want a Tokkō mission!”But today's museum curators are more into self-preservation;
We contacted the USS Missouri people and, recalling the Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibition fiasco — the one that included the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and which was delayed and reworked amid controversy — we all agreed to keep this under wraps until two weeks before opening, [so as not to] give anyone a chance to mount a counter-offensive. That included governments on both ends.