A Japanese city is seeking World Heritage recognition for the last letters written by kamikaze pilots before they took off on their wartime suicide missions, a move that could further put strain on already fraught ties with Asian neighbors.
Minamikyushu, the southern city where the Imperial Japanese Army pilots were trained and based, has submitted its archive of more than 300 letters, diaries and other documents to UNESCO’s Memory of the World, in hopes they will be recognized and preserved as heritage items.
The trove of letters, kept at the Chiran Peace Museum, were left by the airmen before carrying out suicide attacks on Allied warships or other targets in the waning months of World War II.
As quoted by NHK, Minamikyushu Mayor Kanpei Shimoide told a news conference on Tuesday that the letters would serve as a reminder of the horrors of war ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War next year.
The UNESCO submission has spurred a backlash from China and South Korea, both of which were occupied by Japanese forces during the war.
“Could you be more shameless?” state-run China News Services wrote in its Sina Weibo account, adding that Japan would soon list the controversial Yasukuni war shrine as a World Heritage site.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se expressed Seoul’s opposition to Japan’s move to honor the wartime relics, saying it went against the basic ethics of what constituted World Heritage, Arirang TV reported.
Kamikaze pilots deliberately crashed their planes, laden with explosives, bombs, torpedoes and full fuel tanks, into Allied warships to cause the most damage possible. It was a last resort carried by the Imperial Army during the closing years of World War II.
By Maesie Bertumen