The Luckiest Man on Earth

This is a bit of a departure from my usual writings, but with all the deceit, death, and destruction going on, sometimes I get tired of writing about it and I’ll bet you get tired of consuming it. I think we get too wrapped up in it all, and for me, every once in a while, I enjoy reporting something a bit more uplifting.

When asked to describe a lucky person, most would probably say something like a man or woman who won a large sum in the lottery. But no one would guess what happened to this one lucky individual.

Although it happened 70 years ago, I think this guy may be the luckiest man alive. His name is Hishashi Tezuka and he’s 93 years old. During World War II, Tezuka was trained as a pilot. But not just any pilot – a kamikaze pilot.

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So how does one become a kamikaze pilot and live to tell about it? The Daily Mail reports that Tezuka was a trained pilot who “joined to be a kamikaze.”

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In 1945, he and a handful of other Japanese pilots, boarded a train that would take them to their awaiting aircraft. By 1945, the kamikaze planes weren’t really your standard aircraft. They were but a fuselage packed with explosives, outfitted with wings and powered by tiny rockets. He and his colleagues were each adorned in a trademark helmet and white silk scarf.

Aboard the train, he resigned himself to this final act. He said, “I had been all set to die. My mind went absolutely blank.” He added: “You go and it’s over.”

And then the miraculous occurred. While on the train, resigned to his fate, a broadcast came over the radio. It was Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allied forces.

Suddenly the war was over and Tezuka was spared. Sure, winning the lottery would be great, but when it comes to luck, I don’t think anything could beat that.

His family wasn’t even aware he was a kamikaze. After he was selected in the kamikaze corps, “he was given a five day leave of absence to visit his parents, his brothers and sisters. He never told them of his mission.”

Although he loved flying, after the war, “he was unable to stomach flying a commercial jet and did not want to join the military,” so he started an import consultant business. But he recalls: “Flying was so breathtaking you could almost forget about the war. Do you know what a rainbow looks like when you’re flying? It’s a perfect circle.”

As an old man he visited America but never told anyone that he had been a kamikaze.

Another surviving kamikaze, Yoshiomi Yanai, also 93, survived only “because he could not locate his target – a rare error for a kamikaze operation.” He said: “I feel so bad for all the others who died.”

Mr. Yanai said he never stopped blaming himself, and “still keeps what he had intended to be his last message to his parents. It’s in an album that he keeps carefully wrapped in a traditional furoshiki cloth.”

So despite their misgivings about not completing their missions, I’d still say these are two of the luckiest men alive.

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