WW2 Japanese Yamato Battleship on Suicide Mission Off Okinawa
Veterans continue to talk with respect about the tenacity of Japanese soldiers who would fight almost to the last man. Americans sailors in the Pacific were attacked repeatedly by kamikaze planes. The Marines faced suicidal assaults from bonsai charges on land.
The centuries-old samurai warrior tradition spawned a militaristic society based upon the martial bushidō code that rivaled Sparta in ancient Greece. Dying in battle wasn’t just a cheap sentiment, but a patriotic spiritualism that steeled resolve. Battlefield honor was a tangible goal shared from top to bottom in the society.
On April 6, 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato (and nine other warships) took off on a suicide mission to smash the US Fleet off Okinawa. It was sunk the next day. Whether on air, land, or sea, the sumarai tradition unified the combatants.
Wikipedia sums up how the Yamato was emblematic of how Japan relied up national will to bolster its military prowess and fighting spirit:
From the time of their construction Yamato and her sister Musashi carried significant weight in Japanese culture. The battleships represented the epitome of Imperial Japanese naval engineering, and because of their size, speed, and power, visibly embodied Japan’s determination and readiness to defend its interests against the Western Powers and the United States in particular.
Shigeru Fukudome, chief of the Operations Section of the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff, described the ships as “symbols of naval power that provided to officers and men alike a profound sense of confidence in their navy.” Yamato‘s symbolic might was such that some Japanese citizens held the belief that their country could never fall as long as the ship was able to fight.