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The War Nerd September 7, 2007
WAR NERD: Kamikaze Math
One plane for one carrier, and other lessons from Tojo’s Air Force By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 6

Just take the word "sushi." My translation of I Was A Kamikaze came out in 1985, and even that recently the translators had to put "sushi" in italics, like it's some exotic dish no English reader would have ever heard of. Now you can get sushi at Burger King. But the real core of Bushido culture is totally banned. And I mean that literally: you can't even read this book in the original Japanese, because the geldings in Tokyo think it might inspire "militarism." The only way you can read it is the way I did, in translation.

Man, the old-time samurai would be bummed if they could see Japan now. Instead of an empire you've got restaurant fads and car dealers: Yuppies in Anaheim and London and Moscow spending their paychecks on sashimi plates, but not a single samurai in Japan, and the only kamikazes are ignorant Muslims in bed sheets who couldn't pilot anything more advanced than a Plymouth (19 exceptions made). That's world history from 1945-2007: from cultured, polite kamikazes in Mitsubishi Zeroes, to madrassa flunk-outs in Mitsubishi Imprezas.

One of things this book reminds you about is how civilized, almost femme, these guys were (when they weren't machine gunning people). Cadet Nagatsuka joined the air force as a French Literature major at Tokyo U., and he's always quoting some French song or poem. When he gets into the cockpit for what he thinks is his final mission, he has two things with him: a picture of his family and a novel by George Sand. I Googled him, Sand I mean, and found out that he was a her - "George Sand" is a fake name for this French dyke who liked to wear suits and smoke cigars when she wasn't writing books about feelings. And our hero picks her as his last meal, book-wise.

Well, I remember Chapman had a copy of Catcher in the Rye in his pocket when he shot John Lennon. Try imagining the current crop of suicide bombers going to Allah with anything better than the Koran in their shrouds, if those things even had pockets. Decline of Civilization, I'm telling you.

That world they call "Fascism" and don't want you to know about - it's all gone. They say violence doesn't settle anything, but that's one of the dumbest remarks ever made. War settles things so well you can't even see the remains - and that's exactly why people think it doesn't settle anything, because the wipe-out is too complete. Nothing but little wisps of the beaten worlds floating around.

Like last week, when I was waiting out my lunch hour in the shade of an overpass and this old Southeast Asian guy marches down the off-ramp on that dry grass waving an imaginary baton like he was on the parade ground. Did he learn that at some mountaintop Green Beret firebase in the Highlands, or even fighting the Viet Minh with the French? More likely he's just an old fart who forgot to take his meds that morning. Civvies don't notice stuff like that, don't care about all these gone worlds. Only us war fans care enough to remember.

The kamikaze's world was insane, and I don't just mean from a 2007 perspective, I mean even to guys like Nagatsuka it was crazy, total contradictions everywhere. They cared about manners more than anything else, a little like the Confederate elite that way, or at least the hotheads like J.E.B. Stuart (as opposed to the redneck hardcores like Forrest). But at the same time they let superior officers punch them in the face for every barracks demerit. They went to Imperial versions of USO shows where actresses told their last living sons to die for the Emperor and get reincarnated, then they went back to their bunks and whispered to each other, like one of Nagatsuka's friends does, "You and I are atheists." Going to a suicide mission with a French romance novel in your pocket was nothing to guys used to bopping from fancy pants student talk to bushido gore 20 times a day.

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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


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