Why do kamikaze pilots wear helmets
The dawn of my academic career was spent in Madagascar. Although I was completely take aback by the intrinsic beauty of the small island nation, my goal was to study the island’s significant chameleon population. The island is home to about half the world’s 150+ chameleon sub-species and provided an ideal environment to answer an age-old riddle that puzzled generations of the world’s great thinkers: what colour does a chameleon turn when sitting in a mirrored box?
After returning to a provincial university and presenting my results to much acclaim amongst my peers, I spent a prolonged period in the United States. I travelled extensively through all 36 states that use the lethal injection as a method of execution, studying all prior execution cases and autopsy reports. An extensive work was presented to the Royal Society at the end of my American sojourn. Our ground-breaking study concluded that not a single executed inmate showed any signs of fresh infection from hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tetanus or human immunodeficiency virus, and so using clean needles for future executions might not be necessary and could potentially save the conscientious, tax-paying men and women of the United States several dollars annually.
Riding the tide of achievement, I then focused my attention on some of the great historical conundrums, particularly why Kamikaze pilots wore helmets. There can be no greater deterrent to a young Kamikaze pilot than frostbite to the tips of the ears. Hurtling in to 20 000 tons of 8-inch armoured plated steel at 400+ mph with frost-bitten ears was a prospect few, if any, of Japan’s finest airmen could countenance. Mindful of this problem, and anxious to pamper the nation’s finest, the Japanese Naval Air Fleet commissioned Italian fashion house Innuendi to design a series of haute-couture, fur-lined helmets for kamikaze pilots. The tailors of Milan were grateful for the work and hastily delivered the luxury headgear much to the delight of young kamikazes and their naval commanders.
Twistleton-Moncrieff and Hoffman (1993) suggest the reason was pecuniary rather than related to pilot comfort. They studied documents recently released by famed insurers Lloyds of London. Lloyds underwrote the Japanese Air Force throughout World War II. Small print of the documents signed by Chuichi Nagumo of the Japanese Naval Air Fleet show a health and safety rider added by Lloyds stating individual claims can be nullified if the pilot is not “wearing a helmet that comports with recognized standards”.
The TMH findings coincide with later Innuendi order dockets which show headgear shipped after January 1945 were strengthened to comply with Japanese Air Fleet standards. A third suggestion was that towards the end of the Pacific conflict, having seen many of their colleagues needlessly puree’d and scraped off of the upper decks of US destroyers, pilots were getting a little jittery about confronting the same fate. Small ear-pieces were then discreetly fitted in to later revisions of the Innuendi helmets. Through these ear-pieces, Naval Fleet commanders ensured pilots did not fall short of their targets.
The real reason? Well, we’ve yet to conclude our full survey on the matter, but a conclusive paper should be put forward for peer review by the end of the summer.