'Mother' of Japan's World War kamikaze pilots dies of heart failure

April 26, 1992|By Asahi News Service

CHIRAN, Japan -- A Japanese woman who was known as a "mother" of kamikaze pilots during the closing days of World War II died of heart failure at a hospital here. She was 89.

Tome Torihama, whose eating house was designated as a military canteen in 1942, waited upon the pilots stationed at the nearby Imperial Army's flying school in Chiran in the southern part of the country.

"I had to take good care of the pilots who would give their lives for the country," Ms. Torihama said to an Asahi Shimbun reporter in an 1988 interview.

To Ms. Torihama, who was childless, every one of the pilots, who were all in their late teens and early 20s, seemed like her own son, she recalled in the interview.

The number of the soldiers who flew from Chiran on suicide missions between April and June 1945 totaled 436. Most of them died.

After Japan's surrender Ms. Torihama endeavored to build a temple dedicated to the deceased pilots on the former site of the air base. The temple was completed in 1955.

She also called for the cooperation of the war-bereaved to collect articles left by the pilots to put them on display at a new memorial in 1975.

Ms. Torihama, who spent most of her time at a nursing home for the past two years, wrote back to those who contacted her from all over the country. She also told her visitors about her wartime experiences and memories of the kamikaze pilots.

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