Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Japanese military code of honor did not allow for surrender.  Surrender meant disgrace.  One either won the victory or died trying to achieve it.

So, when backed into a corner, the Japanese commander prepared his men for a banzai attack.  They drank liquor as much as they could, breaking the sake cups into pieces, and, usually after midnight, they raced out of hiding towards the Americans, screaming and yelling "Banzai!",  waving their swords wildly above their heads.  If they had guns, they shot continuously, moving back and forth from one side to the other, stepping over the dead bodies of their Japanese comrades.  These Japanese soldiers knew they were going to die; they just wanted to take as many Americans as possible with them.

In earlier battles, such as in China, the Banzai Attack actually proved successful at times.  But success was due to the slower re-loading guns used by the enemy, giving the wave of oncoming Japanese soldiers an advantage.  But in the case of Guam and Saipan, the Banzai Attacks failed.  In a sense, the Americans both dreaded Banzai Attacks, and loved them.  A failed Banzai Attack meant fewer Japanese to deal with the next day.

The word "banzai" is a Japanese form of the Chinese expression "ten thousand years."  It was originally used a salutation for the Emperor, wishing him a long life.  It was also used for the Japanese Emperor.  When the Japanese soldiers shouted "banzai," it was a patriotic slogan as well as a reference to the Emperor.  But "banzai" does not always refer to the Emperor, or to a suicidal attack.  It can be used today in a general, celebratory way; like when your team scores at a game.

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