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Zero fighter pilot to offer ‘food for thought’ in upcoming documentary

Chunichi Shimbun

Nagoya Katsudo Shashin, a film group in Nagono, Nagoya, is making a documentary about Kaname Harada, a former fighter pilot who flew the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Type 0 Carrier Fighter, known simply as the “zero” or “zerosen” in Japanese.

In addition to providing an opportunity to reflect on the war that ended almost 70 years ago, the film will also be a valuable addition to the historical records of World War II.

The veteran fighter pilot, now 97, participated in many battles during the Pacific War, including the Battle of Midway.

During that battle, his aircraft carrier, the Soryu, was sunk after he took off, forcing him to land on the last remaining carrier in the flotilla. That carrier would later be destroyed by the U.S. Navy as well.

When his plane eventually ran out of fuel, Harada ditched but was fortunately picked up by a Japanese ship that happened to be nearby.

After he got onto the deck, however, horrific sights awaited him.

Several young men who had lost various limbs were lying around. One soldier was so badly injured that his intestines were spilling out from a slash in his abdomen.

But the doctor gave up on the more seriously injured and chose to treat Harada first. He recalled the doctor saying, “You just have to discard guns with a bent barrel.”

“I said to myself, ‘We aren’t human beings. We’re like a weapon or ammunition,’ ” Harada says in the documentary. “That’s the reality of being on the front line.”

Nagoya Katsudo Shashin began interviewing Harada in 2011. The group met Harada during the filming of “Nagoya Kushu wo Kataru,” about the bombing of Nagoya during the war.

The director, Zero Mori, 49, was introduced to Harada as a person familiar with events of the war. After completing the movie, Mori repeatedly visited Harada in Nagono, fascinated by his accounts of the war and the experiences he had after it ended.

“As I listened to his stories, I naturally started to toss around the idea of making a film about him,” Mori said.

Harada took part in the invasion of China as well as the attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II.

He survived the Battle of Midway and a few others, and became a kamikaze pilot trainer upon returning to Japan.

“He had firsthand knowledge of the war. He can talk about all the events that occurred during the war,” explained Mori.

After Japan surrendered, Harada became a dairy farmer before eventually starting a kindergarten, prompted by his wife’s words: “If you want to atone for the lives you have taken, what better way is there than to nurture new lives?”

He looked after many children until retiring as headmaster a few years ago.

“I want the audience to think about the life that they have been given and how they want to use it. I’m sure this film will give them food for thought,” said Mori.

Filming on the documentary is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, with the premiere planned in Nagoya next February.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Aug. 14.

  • James

    These guys were tough as nails.