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Were Japanese Kamikaze Pilots Given Drugs?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: April 08, 2014 
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Is there any truth that the Japanese Kamikaze pilots had a stimulant or other drug put in their last ceremonial saki drink to help them perform and die without realization of what was truly happening?

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Dear Whomever,

Although the Japanese first developed methamphetamine (generically called hiropon and sold legally until 1951), here is no evidence that the Japanese navy or army made a practice of administering it to "Special Attack" pilots, who, whether as volunteers or acting under orders, were motivated sufficiently by peer pressure regarding "honor" and the devastation of their home cities, evident all around them, to defend their homeland by any means possible. There were some instances of hiropon being tried out on night fighter pilots to enhance their alertness and vision—which makes a lot more sense than using it on suicide pilots—but it was soon discontinued due to concerns over the side effects. (Editor's note: To learn more about why Japanese pilots volunteered for these suicide missions, read "A Kamikaze Who Lived to Tell the Tale," originally published in World War II magazine.)



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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