Japan is looking to list as World Heritage items letters left behind by World War II kamikaze pilots with UNESCO. In September last year, Tokyo drew sharp criticism as it wanted to list coal mines and other facilities where Koreans were forced into slave labor during the war as World Heritage sites. It would be interesting to see if this effort to memorialize these suicide pilots’ letters would attract the same negative reaction.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Tuesday that the town of Minamikyushu in Kagoshima Prefecture has submitted 333 items left behind by kamikaze pilots for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Minamikyushu was home to a base for pilots who flew suicide missions against U.S. warships toward the end of the war. By the end of World War II, when Japan was obviously losing the battle in the Pacific, Japan appealed to the fanatical nationalism of young soldiers by asking them to fly their planes directly into U.S. ships. More than 1,000 of these pilots left letters and photos for their families at their bases. A museum in Minamikyushu houses 14,000 of these items, of which 333 have been translated into English and have now been submitted for consideration as World Heritage items.
Minamikyushu Mayor Kanpei Shimoide said at a press conference that he hopes to “convey to the world the importance of peace and wretchedness of war by preserving and handing down the ‘messages of truth'” left behind by the pilots. Japan had previously tried to list Kyushu and Yamaguchi, where Koreans were forced to work in labor camps during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, as UNESCO world heritage sites. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said on Tuesday that the previous attempt to list the WWII industrial sites go against the basic ethics of UNESCO world heritage. It is still unclear if this current submission would be accepted by UNESCO.
[via Chosun Ilbo]