Saturday, 14 May, 2005

Touring a War Museum

The other day after lunch, David and I visited a shrine dedicated to Japanese soldiers and a war museum.  The most interesting part about the museum visit was the interpretation of events leading up to the Second World War.  Whereas in the U.S., we're taught that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was totally without provocation, the history presented in the museum speaks of anti-Japanese sentiment and American interference in Japan's quest to modernize.  Having studied a little about the events, I'd say that the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In any case, it's instructive to see the other viewpoint.  Since most of the museum was a "no picture" zone, I'm not able to show any samples.

I was able, however, to take pictures of some of the hardware they had on display.  Above and at right is a Mitsibushi Type 0 Carrier-Based Fighter, commonly called a Zero.  This was the best carrier-based fighter in the world early in the war, and certainly much better than the land-based fighters that we threw against it.  It had long range, good power and speed, and was very maneuverable.  The American F-4U Corsair, P-38 Lightning, and P-51Mustang were better aircraft, but they didn't arrive until later in the war.

This particular machine was put together from parts of four or five others.  The description in the museum didn't say whether the aircraft could actually fly.  I'd be surprised if it could.  Back in the 1970s, I had heard that there were no flyable Zeros in the world, but then I heard that they used some real Zeros when filming the movie Pearl Harbor.  Whatever the case, I suspect that if this airplane could fly, it wouldn't be sitting on static display in a museum miles away from the nearest air strip.

I'm not sure if I was supposed to take these two pictures.  The airplane at left is a carrier-based bomber.  I didn't get a picture of the plaque that described it, and I don't remember what it was called.  The thing at the right is a particularly frightening piece of equipment:  a rocket-propelled dive bomber of the "Special Attack Squadron,"  commonly referred to as "kamikaze."  The Japanese called this human-guided missile "Ohka," or "Cherry Blossom."  It was designed to be carried underneath the belly of a bomber and released in range of an American warship.  It would descend unpowered to a low altitude, and then the pilot would engage the rocket motor to propell the craft into the ship at high speed.  The explosives were rigged with a time delay so that the craft could penetrate the hull before detonation.  The craft was designed to be used in the defense of Okinawa, but was never deployed.

I wish I could have taken pictures of the samurai fighting outfits and many of the other displays.  But there were "No Pictures Please" signs all around, and most of the rooms weren't bright enough for me to take pictures without using the flash.  All in all it was an interesting couple of hours.