Saburō Sakai is one of Imperial Japan’s legendary pilots, with over 60 successful hits under his name. But at this point, for Sakai, it didn’t mean anything- with two atomic bombs dropped in mainland Japan and losing an eye, he felt all his efforts were in vain.
Two days after the ceasefire, a group of B-29 Superfortresses like the ones that had dropped the atomic bombs as the ones that dropped bombs pierced through Japan’s airspace.
In this post, Sakai and his group took the skies in one last suicide mission.
Saburō Sakai was born into a renowned Samurai family. Unfortunately, he didn’t do well in his studies, and by 16, he enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Navy, becoming a naval recruit. He figured that military prowess might be how he could live up to his samurai roots.
Taking the Skies
Later on, he applied for the Navy pilot training program, graduating at the top of his class in 1937. He was even awarded the Silver Watch by Emperor Hirohito himself.
Sakai participated in the attack on the Philippines. In his first combat with the Americans, he managed to shoot down Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and destroyed two B-17 Flying Fortresses, strafing them down to the ground.
As his success rate climbed quickly, he had been known for his lethality and mercilessness in the air.
The same day Sakai downed his 60th aircraft, he was hit in the head by a 0.30 caliber bullet, injuring his skill, and temporarily paralyzing the left side of his body. He endured a life-long surgery, ultimately recovering the sight in his right eye.
After the ceasefire that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Sakai made his last wartime mission intersecting two American bombers, the Allied aircraft turned out to be reconnaissance consolidated B-32 Dominators doing photo reconnaissance and testing Japanese compliance during the ceasefire.
Even so, Sakai carried on with the attack, even when other Japanese fighters were forced to turn back, and the Samurai warrior managed to damage one of the Allied dominators which he counted as one of his victories, but he was actually forced to descend and return to base.
Later on, Sakai became a Buddhist vowing to never hurt a living thing for the rest of his life.