Wednesday, October 24, 2012

戦争映画 - A Real Officer and a Movie Part II

Earlier this month, we introduced you to a new feature inspired by the Military Channel we like to call "A Real Officer and a Movie" where we feature films depicting the heroic true stories of men who served the Empire of Japan during the Second World War. Earlier we introduced you to the story of Captain Oba Sakaein the 2010 Toho Studios War Epic 太平洋の奇跡−フォックスと呼ばれた男− (Translated The Miracle of the Pacific, The Man Called Fox) aka "Oba, The Last Samurai." Thanks again to our man Eddie over at Japanese Samurai DVD we would like to introduce you to another true story of one of Japan's Greatest Fighter Aces, a man who would later become enshrined at the Yasakuni Shrine as a God of War, the true story of Major General Katō Tateo in the newly digitally remastered 1969 Daiei Motion Picture Company film Rikugun Hayabusa Sentotaihe - aka "The Falcon Fighters."

But before we give you our take on the film let us introduce you to the man that in October 26, 1942 Time Magazine would call "Japan's Hero." Originally from Hokkaido, this son of an Army Sergeant who was killed in the Japan-Russo War would grow up to graduate in the 37th Class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1925 and would achieve the honorable duty of flag bearer for his Infantry Regiment. Within two years he would transfer to the Army's fledgling Air Corps and enroll at Tokorozawa Flying School. With great skill and natural aptitude for flying, he quickly rose through the ranks and became a flight instructor. By 1932 he had become the head flight instructor for the Akeno Flying School. This man would instruct a generation of new fighter pilots that would later see action over the skies of Manchuria and later in the War of the Pacific. During his time as commander of the 2nd Daitai, he claimed nine kills in China but would later disavow personal victories in favor of the collective achievements of his squadron earning both him and his men many unit citations. 
Katō is one of those few Japanese Officers during the Second Sino-Japanese War to leave the area of combat to visit Germany to inspect the German Luftwaffe's technical achievements in advanced fighter design. This combined with the attachments he had with his men to which he took personal responsibility as depicted in the film for him to push for the development of the new Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon) fighter which would play a crucial in the War in the Pacific. It is believed during the course of his career he had made over 60 fighter kills which can not be accurately confirmed. However, his actions helped his unit's over all score of 260 kills over combined Allied Aircraft which quickly saw Katō promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by 1942. But as with Japan, Katō's successes would come to a fiery end on May 22nd 1942. While on an attack on a British Bristol Bomber of Squadron 60, a turret gunner named Flight Sergeant 'Jock' McLuckie raked the exposed belly of Katō's Peregrine Falcon with a burst of machine gun fire as Katō had come in for a pass sending him to a fiery crash into the sea. Katō would be posthumously awarded the rank of Major General and enshrinement at the Yakasuni Shrine as a God of War.  His life would be the subject of a 1944 Propaganda film made during the War titled Katō Hayabusa Sento-Tai seen in the restored trailer below:
Two decades later in the post war era, Katō's story would be featured again in the 1969 full feature film titled "Rikugun Hayabusa Sentotaihe" - aka "The Falcon Fighters."
For the newly digitally remastered feature "The Falcon Fighters" we wrote the following synopsis: Set in the prewar days leading up to the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937, head flight instructor Lt. Katō Tateo of the Imperial Japanese Army-Air Corps trains new volunteers from the Amry's Infantry to become Japan's next generation of fighter pilots at the Tokorozawa Flying School. Flying Kawasaki Ko-4 biplane's, Lt. Katō will train both friend and future foe alike. 
But as war in China breaks out, Katō (played by Makoto Satô) now in command of the 5th Rentai will take his untested men flying antiquated planes into aerial combat against the Chinese Air Force who is now headed by Lt. Cho (played by Jun Fujimaki) who Katō both earlier befriended and personally trained himself. While Katō's squadron ultimately achieves air superiority over the skies of Manchuria, it comes at a high price in men to which each loss carries a heavy burden that he alone must carry. 
As the war widens into the Second World War, Captain Katō must battle an ever advancing array of deadlier new enemies flying ever more modern fighter planes. In a time when “To Serve was to Die,” ( a literal death sentence in some sense to Western eyes) a stark contrast of Military thinking by American Generals such as George S. Patton who said "No one ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor bastard die for his country." While such mindset or language may have not existed among the Japanese, the conflict instilled by the Bushido code and notion to die for the Emperor as an achievement versus the realities in losses of well trained men weighed heavily on Katō. Katō would rise through the ranks and defy the military logic of the day of an indifferent Army military brass to push for the development of the new Nakajima Ki-43  Hayabusa or "Peregrine Falcon” - (the Army's answer to the Navy's famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero) in an effort to arm Japan's pilots with modern fighter planes that would give his men a fighting chance of survival in the deadly aerial combat over the Pacific. 
Originally titled “Rikugun Hayabusa Sentotai,” written by Katsuya Susaki and directed by Mitsuo Murayama 1969 Daiei Motion Picture Company. Made with the technology available in the late 1960's, this rare classic WWII film "The Falcon Fighters" is the real life true story of Katō Tateo one of Japan's most legendary fighter aces of all time. Unfortunately we could not find a trailer available to show you but in lieu of such we have uploaded the film's opening so you may get a feel for this film.
Please bear in mind, as "American-jin" we are not trying to glorify war or make any political statements or arguments about Japan's wartime past. It is often said there are both heroes and villains on both sides to any conflict. What we at American Mishima believe is in sharing the stories not so well known on this side of the Pacific and worthy of retelling. We hope that the story of Katō Tateo gets retold yet again in a modern motion picture with today's talent and technology. Such men are a rare breed not to be forgotten. Their shared sacrifices made possible the world we have today. Therefore, we offer a salute and shared admiration for Major General Katō Tateo and the men on all sides who fought bravely for their countries in what was the tragedy that was the Second World War.

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