♪♪ -In 1939, millions of our grandparents went to war.
-This is a man, you know, I loved.
He was my grandpa.
-Now four Hollywood stars are exploring their families' extraordinary World War II stories.
-You are going to fight an enemy who will kill you.
-Captured Christmas Day.
I didn't know that.
-She must've been completely bonkers, going out with bombs flying, going out.
What are you doing?
♪♪ They'll travel the globe to meet the last survivors... -He was a very good captain.
-Thanks to him, I'm still alive, really.
-...and speak to descendants with a shared history.
-So my grandfather would've known your father well.
-Oh, very well.
-Both: Very well.
-...confronting the terrors their families faced... -"You have to be Jewish, but not go to the slaughterhouse for it."
-Oh, my God.
...and the threats they encountered.
-This is the first kamikaze strike on a British ship in World War II.
♪♪ -They'll uncover the sacrifices all our grandparents made... -Young men would be in the water, screaming for their mothers.
-[ Crying ] Absolutely horrific.
-...and learn how World War II changed their lives forever.
It's exciting because it brings him back again.
-How extraordinary history is, particularly this link of grandchildren and grandparents.
♪♪ -This program was made possible in part by Elaine and W. Weldon Wilson and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
♪♪ -My name is Carey Mulligan.
As an actor, I've lived and worked all over the world, but I have a very personal connection to the Welsh Valleys.
I spent a lot of my childhood coming on holiday in Wales, coming to my grandparents' house.
And I just have memories of driving across these mountains, looking out at views exactly like this.
My grandparents on my mother's side, Nance and Denzil Booth, lived here all their lives.
But in 1943, while still a teenager, Denzil left these valleys and was sent to the other side of the world.
A junior officer in the navy, he fought against the Japanese in the final, decisive months of World War II.
Like so many young men of his generation, Denzil's life was transformed by the war in ways that he could never have imagined.
Rambo, heel, heel.
When I'm not working, I live here in the West Country with my husband and young family.
I've been a professional actor since I was 19.
But sadly my grandfather Denzil never got to see any of my films because he died when I was only five.
This is a picture of me with my grandparents, Nance and Denzil, the year before he passed away.
Nance, who I was incredibly close to, had Alzheimer's for the last 17 years of her life, so I never got to ask either of them what happened to Den during the war.
Good boy -- Rambo.
Rambo, good boy.
It's a lost chapter of my family's history that I've always wanted to explore.
I have this photograph which I've had, I think, since I was about 18, and I found this in Den's house.
There's Den, right there on the edge of frame.
So I was sort of fascinated by it, and I thought it was kind of so beautiful as well, and I assumed it was somewhere in the Far East because there's this building behind that has a sort of totem pole.
And it's really precious to me.
It's something I would take if my house was burning down.
Denzil didn't talk much to my family about what happened to him and his comrades in the war, but he left my mum Nano a box full of documents and photographs that he saved from his time in the navy.
Is that Den?
-Gosh, he's a dreamboat.
-Yeah, I know, yeah.
-I've never seen that picture before.
-Yeah, it's a lovely photograph.
-Let me just grab everything out of... -Yeah, do that.
-All the lads.
-It's a beach photograph.
-Is that on the beach?
-Yeah, somewhere hot.
-Do you know anything about that?
-What does it say on the back -- "Christmas 1944" Can you see which one he is?
-I think he's that one.
-Yeah, I think so -- with somebody, I have no idea who.
-And this is... -This is amazing actually.
And I'd definitely like to know a bit more about this.
-Mr. and Mrs. David E. Williams request the pleasure of the company of Miss Terry Williams on the occasion of the 21st birthday of Denzil Stephens Booth, Bellevue Hill, Sydney -- Sydney?!
-Did he ever say he had been to Sydney?
-He never spoke about it.
You know, whenever we spoke about, oh, so and so is going to Australia, he never said, "Oh, I've been to Australia."
Who are these people that threw a 21st birthday for him?
-David Williams, sounds Welsh.
-It does sound Welsh, but -- -And that's a ship... -That's the ship.
That's the Indefatigable that he was on.
And he said he was on it when there was a fatal accident and some of his friends were killed, and the ship's doctor as well.
Just in the couple of years before he passed away, he, you know, he told me a couple of things.
-This is like homework.
-I mean, this is a bit of algebra, probability.
Maybe when he was at university or something.
-Yeah, he went to university at 17.
-So he's super clever.
-You know, Den didn't come from, you know, a wealthy background -- he went to, you know, grammar school, and he went to university, which again, was probably quite rare coming from a mining village.
-The son of a coal miner, Denzil was the first in our family to go to university.
He arrived in Swansea, aged 17, in September 1941, two years into the war.
Like many other British industrial cities, Swansea had been devastated by German bombers.
I've come to the university to talk to Ph.D. student Jay Rees, who's been researching what it was like here for undergraduates during the war.
-To really build a picture of what your grandfather would have experienced, it's worth examining his student record.
And one of the first things I would point you towards -- -Am I allowed to pick it up?
-Yeah, of course you can.
Your grandfather would have lived in 21 Bay View Terrace, Brynmill, and what he walked in to was rubble and ash.
These photos are from the Swansea blitz.
-Oh, my goodness.
-230 people died, 409 reported injuries, 1/3 of the town destroyed.
This one here is actually located in Brynmill.
-Where student digs were.
-So this is what he would have walked into.
It's incredible -- I mean, he would have just never witnessed anything like this in his life.
He would have started university and this would have been surrounding him.
If we have a look at the student record, you can see how the war dictated what your grandfather studied.
-And his subjects were pure mathematics -- applied mathematics, physics, phew...
He's a real science bod -- didn't get that from him at all.
Goes into a second year, "Advanced Radio"?
And Elementary German?
So that's a change.
-Yeah, within six months of the outbreak of war, there was a shortage of radio and radar specialists.
So his physics department had become wholly biased towards radio and radar.
He has been equipped with the means to help the war effort.
And individuals like Denzil were pivotal because these new technological innovations ultimately determined the outcome of the war.
-It's just amazing, though, because he was 17, wasn't he, when he started, so by 19, he's got all of this and all of this knowledge and all this expertise, and he's off.
-After only two years at Swansea, my grandfather was pulled out of university.
Like tens of thousands of others, he was needed for the war effort and was conscripted into the navy.
Seventy-five years ago, he came here to HMS Collingwood in Portsmouth.
Denzil's flair for maths meant that he was fast-tracked to become a junior officer.
Oh, God, I don't want to mow down an officer.
He specialized in the new technology that would turn the tide of the war: radar.
I'm meeting naval historian Dr. Phil Weir to find out more about my grandfather's first few months in the navy.
I know that my grandfather went into university studying maths and physics, and then in his second year he studied advanced radio and German.
-So, I just wondered if you could help me figure out his journey into the navy.
-Well, as it happens, I have his service record here.
-So is this Captain Keble-White, is that who's writing this report about him?
-That's correct, yes.
-Okay, so this is about Den.
"Ra--" [ Laughs ] "Rather boisterous personality.
Did not do so well in long course as might have been expected from his university education.
Should improve with sea experience."
And it goes on to say, "He is keen on painting and music and can speak Welsh.
He is a friendly mess mate and gets on well with both his seniors and contemporaries."
-He spent time, as you can see here, on the radar long course to become a radar gunnery officer.
-I know nothing about being a radar officer -- what would that mean, what would that entail?
-The gunnery systems at the time were not automatic, so radar gunnery officers are in effect human computers working on the firing solution that actually gets to the guns.
-To shoot down an aircraft.
What I have here is a diagram that shows roughly the sort of team that your grandfather will have been a member of, calculating where an aircraft is going to be in the time it takes a shell to leave a gun and arrive where the aircraft is about to be.
-So that's a lot of very quick maths.
-Yes -- you have to establish whether it's an enemy aircraft, how fast it's coming, which direction it's coming from, how high it is.
-And how long are we talking?
Oh, my gosh!
♪♪ Radar technology had been developing rapidly and was now giving the Royal Navy a vital edge in the war at sea.
-Echo bearing 0-1-0, range of twenty... -Denzil had less than a year to master the latest systems before he was thrown into the heat of battle.
His ability to lead a radar team under fire would be crucial to the defense of his ship.
-Table turned to 2-7-3.
-We've got a bit from the, uh, the gunnery handbook that your grandfather would have received.
-Okay -- "The ship's company is a team, and they must practice as a team.
The only difference between you and the professional footballer, cricketer, or boxer, is that you are going to fight an enemy who, if you are not fully efficient, well trained, and in practice, will kill you."
[ Both laugh ] That's just such... a huge responsibility, isn't it?
-It is, very much so.
-Not just for your own life, but for everybody.
-I'm just learning so much about what kind of a man he must have been to be able to cope under those circumstances because, I mean, it would just be the most terrifying experience, to know that you have the responsibility of the entire ship on your shoulders, and it all relies on your brain working in exactly the way that it's been trained to, and on your intellect.
-Yes -- at such a young age, too.
-At such a young age, yeah.
-Table turned to 2-8-4.
Alridge DDT open fire.
[ Artillery blasting ] [ Engine droning, crash ] -In September 1944, my grandfather, just 20 years old, joined HMS Indefatigable, the largest warship in the Royal Navy.
Two months later, he said goodbye to his family and sailed off to fight the Japanese.
♪♪ I've come to the modern-day equivalent, HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth Harbor to meet naval historian Phil Weir, who's an expert on the role of aircraft carriers in World War II.
-This is a -- really a new phase in naval warfare -- from the first world war, you'd really started to get aircraft going aboard ships, and by the second world war, things are really starting to become a serious science in terms of getting aircraft into the air, taking the fight to the enemy.
[ Engine droning ] -The scale of it all is just unfathomable.
To go from a tiny, tiny village that he grew up in, and then to go on board something very similar to this, his world is just getting bigger and bigger and bigger, at such a rapid pace.
It's like being on a huge motorway except it's on a ship, you just can't kind of get your head around the size of it.
It's wild to think of an airplane landing on this.
[ Engine droning ] So where would Denzil have been?
-Denzil would have been stationed in the radar office in the island -- now, this carrier here, of course, has two islands, one of which has that really very large radar on top of it, but the principle is broadly the same.
-I know from Den's service record that he joined HMS Indefatigable in Scotland in September 1944.
He then sailed here to Portsmouth.
-On the 16th of November, your grandfather and his shipmates were visited by His Majesty King George VI in this very harbor.
-And your grandfather would have been right here on deck.
[ "Rule, Britannia!"
playing ] -That's crazy!
Oh, my goodness!
That's so cool.
-The reason for the king's visit was to see the Indefatigable off on a very special mission.
Three days later, on the 19th of November, she set sail from here for a destination that many of her crew did not know.
-Wow, a secret mission?
By the end of 1944, with Germany in retreat, the British Navy were shifting its focus to the war in the Pacific and the fight against the Japanese.
♪♪ In November, my grandfather's ship set sail on a 7,000-mile journey through the Mediterranean and the Middle East to Ceylon, modern-day Sri Lanka.
He was joining the largest fleet the Royal Navy had ever assembled.
I'm on my way to meet one of the last survivors who made the journey with Denzil -- 96-year-old former dive bomber pilot Roy Hawkes.
I never imagined I'd actually get to meet somebody who was on the ship -- uh, you know, I imagined I might have met somebody -- have been lucky enough to meet a veteran -- but not somebody who was actually there on the ship at the same time as Den.
To meet someone who lived through it and gave his life to his country, I feel thrilled but a little bit nervous.
♪♪ -Hello, Carey.
-Lovely to see you.
Do, do have a seat.
-Thank you very much.
-How can I help you about your grandfather?
-Well, I would just love to know anything that you can tell me about what Den's experience might have been like.
We were told that when the HMS Indefatigable left, it was on somewhat of a secret mission.
-Secrecy was everything in those days.
We did not know where we were going.
We had practices all the way to get ourselves acclimatized to landing on the small flight deck.
-Have you seen this?
-No, I haven't seen this.
Gosh, the landing -- -That's how not to land.
[ Narrator speaking indistinctly ] [ Hawkes laughs ] -Oh, look!
♪♪ It wasn't always plain sailing -- accidents did happen.
How many people were on board?
-What was the atmosphere like when you were there, what did it feel like -- did it feel crowded?
-You were always in company, with somebody, you couldn't get away.
There were never enough cabins to go round.
-You had officers sleeping in the corridors.
-One was never really comfortable.
-So I suppose it's, sort of, pretty unlikely, but did you ever come across Den at all?
Or did you know of him, my grandfather?
-Yes, I was aware of him.
Um, I can remember him, a group of his chums -- I was about 22, we were a very similar age.
-Everybody was young in those days.
[ Both laugh ] -Yeah!
-We went down to Ceylon in the tropics.
It got very, very hot.
For the first time in my life, I saw airplanes being pulled around by elephants.
-By elephants, yes -- which was quite a novelty.
Remarkably, this book about the British fleet describes Denzil Booth, your grandfather, in Ceylon with some friends.
-Wow -- "The gang of us included Denzil Booth, Ian Marker, Mark Drummond, Len Teff, Will Barker, Snowy Featherston, John Burton and Tom Pierce."
I have a photo that's quite similar to that.
It is the same, because you can see the same... same guy here wearing the same glasses, so it's this gang, it's the same gang that Den was with.
-It does feel like time travel.
I kept on thinking like every word you say is so precious, everything that comes out of your mouth.
When he said, "I don't remember Den personally, but I remember him as being part of a gang," I like to think of Den and his buddies, and, the, you know, the bonds that they must have formed with people that they were serving with, and those relationships must have been so strong.
You know, and it's just the privilege of getting to meet someone who's lived through that and gave that sacrifice and, um... it's quite emotional.
My grandfather's ship left Ceylon in January 1945.
It sailed 1,800 miles and launched a series of bombing raids on Japanese oil refineries in Sumatra.
The ship came under heavy counterattack from Japanese planes.
♪♪ It was Denzil's first taste of war.
♪♪ [ Spectators cheering ] -Into Sydney Harbour steam heavy units of the British Pacific fleet.
-HMS Indefatigable arrived in Sydney, Australia, on the 10th of February, 1945, to a hero's welcome.
I want to find out about the Williams family who threw a 21st birthday party there for my grandfather, so I'm meeting social historian professor Jo Fox.
Jo, I've got this, um, this is an invitation to my grandfather's 21st birthday party, and that's the Indefatigable, and I've learnt a little bit about their time in Australia, but I wondered if you knew anything else.
-Sydney was such an important port for the Pacific war.
British ships could come to refuel, refit, restock, and in Sydney itself there was the British Centre.
And that was a place where your grandfather and all these servicemen could go and relax.
[ Lively piano music ] It could house 1,200 people, also provide 6,000 meals a day.
♪♪ They had a dance hall that could house 3,000, and that included a roster of 300 dance hostesses.
-Who would come and partner up.
-The British Centre was supposed to be a home from home, but of course a center like that couldn't really give that personal experience, and 12,500 New South Wales families opened their doors to what were effectively strangers -- taking them on board, looking after them, and of course, you know broadly where your grandfather was residing.
And that was in Bellevue Hill in Sydney.
-And I've been looking a little bit at that area, and it's quite an affluent area.
-We found some images of Bellevue... -Oh, wow.
-In this period.
Yeah, it's beautiful.
-So close to the water, and so green, and looks like a peaceful place to be.
-Yeah -- and we found some pictures of the family he lived with.
-Here's David, here's Doris.
These are their daughters -- this is Joy and this is Elaine.
-Oh, my goodness.
-So this is your grandfather's adopted family.
-And Joy is still alive.
-And we've managed to get in touch with her, and she's written you a letter.
-I wondered whether you would like to read it?
Gosh -- okay!
Get it together, okay.
"Dear Carey, Doris and David Williams were my parents.
I remember Denzil staying with us.
I very much appreciated that he treated me as an adult rather than a child, and we all enjoyed having him around.
Occasionally he went to the cinema, a few times he took me with him.
If I remember rightly, Denzil was Welsh, as was my grandfather.
When my father was in France during World War I, he was befriended by an English family and spent all his leaves with them.
My father wanted to enable a British soldier to have the same experience during World War II... ...and have somewhere he could call home.
Yours sincerely, Joy Harris (Williams)."
Oh, my goodness.
He took her to the cinema with him, it's just so sweet.
The generosity of the Williams Family offered my grandfather a respite from war, but the day after his 21st birthday party he set sail for Japanese waters to fight alongside the U.S. Navy in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
♪♪ The British Pacific Fleet was traveling 4,000 miles to support the American invasion of Okinawa.
Code named "Operation Iceberg," it involved more than 600 Allied ships and over 200,000 troops.
This was the final push in the Pacific War.
[ Shells whooshing, exploding ] The Japanese were heavily out-gunned, so deployed a new terror weapon as a last line of defense.
Planes, flown into ships, as human bombs -- they were called kamikazes.
So far, no British ship had been hit, and it was my Grandfather's job to bring the kamikazes down.
I've come to The Army And Navy Club in London to meet Will Iredale, author of "The Kamikaze Hunters" to find out more about what happened on Den's ship.
-So, Carey, this is a cross-section plan of HMS Indefatigable.
-Where -- whereabouts is the radar office?
-So these -- these green bits on the chart are the various radar offices.
-We think he was in the radar office just here, at the base of the island where it meets the deck.
So Operation Iceberg started on April 1, 1945.
Then at 10 to 7:00 in the morning, all hell broke loose.
Twenty enemy aircraft were picked up by the ship's radar heading in from the west.
And it was pretty clear that a kamikaze attack was under way.
So imagine the scene: your grandfather, Den, would have been in his radar room, in the island.
-High concentration, plotting these aircraft as they're coming towards the fleet.
-So the pressure -- just imagine the pressure.
Young 21-year-old, what he must have been under knowing that he's gotta try to get these "solutions," as they were called, to the gun room, to get those shells up there, before the kamikaze started the attack.
-Oh, my gosh.
-One of the kamikaze, despite the best intentions of the guns, broke through and dived straight down to the deck... [ Airplane engine droning, crashes ] And it exploded just here on the flight deck, right next to where -- -Oh, my goodness!
-Denzil was, and this is the first kamikaze strike on a British ship in World War II, and he was within 15 to 20 feet of it.
-Oh, my gosh.
-And a big hole was ripped in the side of the island, it was like a sardine tin being ripped open.
This is the side of the island here.
-Oh, my goodness.
-You can see the hole, it was just ripped through the island.
Carey, he was as near as you could possibly be to that without being killed.
It's a miracle, frankly, that he wasn't.
♪♪ We know that three men within the radar rooms were killed.
-Within the radar rooms?
-Within the radar rooms.
Eight men were killed instantly when the kamikaze struck.
And in all 14 men died.
Mum actually told me when we were going through Den's box of memorabilia, and she was telling me how little Den actually told her about his experiences, but that he had said that there was a fatal attack and he lost a friend, who was the ship's doctor.
-And this is the ship's doctor.
Doc Beefy Vaughn.
Very, very popular.
He used to play the clarinet in the sick bay to patients.
We also believe that another of Den's friends was killed on that day as well -- Len Teff.
-Oh, who was part of his gang.
-In the book.
So he lost two friends that day.
-My heart's been going a mile a minute ever since you started talking about this -- I knew that there had been some sort of incident, but I don't think I had any sense of the proximity, and makes me think a lot about what he would have seen.
It's quite a lot to take in, so I kind of don't really know yet, but, I mean, it's a miracle that he survived really.
-And of course we're 75 years on now, so there are very few men alive who were on that ship, who witnessed the attack.
But I'd like you to meet one now who was there.
-I'd like to introduce you to Harry Anderson.
-Harry, this is Carey.
-Harry was on board Indefat on that day.
An honor to meet you, thank you so much for coming today.
Will was just talking me through an account of what happened.
-It was chaos that day -- when the kamikaze hit us, I was down in the hangar below, and the fuel came running down the bulkhead, and that was alight.
What we done, we had to get the foam extinguishers out because had it have spread, it would have been chaos, you see.
-Gosh, yeah -- somebody was describing it happening and said no one panicked.
-I never saw any panic.
None at all.
You're so involved with the job you have to do, you're not scared.
All you want is: put the fire out, save the ship.
The smell, it was atrocious.
It's the bodies which are burning, and it's a sweet, sugary smell, you know?
It's a smell which never leaves you.
You know, you can always remember that.
And even today, all these years later, I can still smell... -Really?
-It's there, you know.
-You can still smell it, yeah.
There we are -- it's history, isn't it?
-Yes, it is, it really is.
What was your attitude towards the Japanese after the kamikaze attacks?
-Well, it was very hard to understand them.
-I mean, they wanted to die.
They were meant to die.
It was the vow they had taken -- to die.
-Yeah, and was there much there much discussion amongst you about what had happened, after the attack?
-Well, we didn't know much about them, did we, other than that we were Royal Navy, you know, we wasn't gonna back down.
I mean, I have to say I am learning so much that I had no idea about.
-Did you meet your grandad?
-He passed away when I was five, so I was very young when he passed away, so... -You wouldn't remember, but... -No, I just have sort of a sense memory of being around him and sitting... -And obviously he must have told your mum stories.
-Well, I think very little, actually, which is why this has been so fascinating, because he didn't say very much, so this is all quite new to us.
-He was a great man, you know.
Someone to be proud of.
But getting to hear, you know, your shared experience is just completely invaluable, so I'm very grateful to you.
-It's been a pleasure meeting you.
-Thank you, been a pleasure to meet you.
Meeting Harry and hearing about the horror of the kamikaze attack has suddenly made my grandfather's war very real.
Mum told me that Denzil struggled to forgive the Japanese for the death of his two friends, Doc Vaughn and Len Teff.
But I want to know more about these young suicide pilots who brought death and destruction down from the skies.
♪♪ So I've traveled 6,000 miles to the south of Japan.
Over 1,000 kamikaze planes flew from air bases here to take part in the Battle of Okinawa.
The largest base was in the town of Chiran, and it's now home to a museum dedicated to the memory of the kamikaze pilots.
[ Bell reverberates ] On the walls are the photos of the 1,036 pilots who flew from here, never to return.
Their average age was 21 -- the same age my grandfather was when his ship was hit.
But many of the pilots pictured here were even younger.
I'm meeting retired army officer Takeshi Kawatoko to find out how these young pilots were recruited.
The little I know, really, about the kamikaze, is sort of wrapped up in a story about my own grandfather who was on the HMS Indefatigable, and a kamikaze pilot attacked that ship.
-I've been seeing images of these young men, these pilots, and I wondered if you could tell me anything more about them?
-[ Speaking Japanese ] -Why did they recruit such young men?
Why did they -- Why were children brought in to the program?
But it was their dream to be a kamikaze pilot?
Just to get it clear, were the young boy pilots started training as pilots, and then later were... volunteered to be kamikaze pilots?
Is that how it worked?
And it was all volunteers.
♪♪ -He said they all really wanted to be pilots, and it was a great honor, but I think they were still children.
I did feel like they were pawns in a much bigger game, and...and were just too young to really have any concept of what they were facing or what they were doing.
They obviously passionately believed in what they were doing, but it's difficult to sort of determine how much of that was just what they were brought up with or trained to believe.
And certainly if you're training 14-year-olds to fly a plane, and then shortly afterwards, training them to fly that plane into an aircraft carrier, they can't really be held responsible for that.
I've campaigned against the use of children in combat for the charity War Child UK, so this is a subject that's very close to my heart, especially as I now have children of my own.
The museum holds letters written by the boy pilots to their parents, from their barracks before they flew to their deaths.
"Dear Mother and Father, this will be the last letter that I will write.
My life has only two days remaining now, but I feel as bright as if I were a boy.
Please be happy that I will not die in vain and will soon live in an everlasting world and return to your bosom.
I'm sure you will always love me.
At the end of my life, I have nothing more to say."
♪♪ Reading these letters, it really hits home that the kamikaze pilots who attacked my grandfather's ship and killed his friends were probably little more than teenagers themselves.
I still have unanswered questions about these boy pilots, and I want to know more about what happened to Denzil here in Japan during the final days of World War II.
♪♪ By July 1945, my grandfather, Denzil Booth, having survived a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Okinawa, was sailing towards mainland Japan.
The country was in ruins after months of heavy bombing, but the Japanese military had held back 10,000 kamikaze planes as a last line of defense against the Allies.
♪♪ I've come to Tokyo to find out more about these young suicide pilots that Denzil was pitted against in the final days of World War II.
Professor Mordecai Sheftall has lived in Japan for 30 years and interviewed dozens of surviving kamikaze pilots and their families.
He's brought me to a Buddhist temple which has a chapel dedicated to the memory of the kamikazes.
When we were in Chiran, there were a couple of things that I wanted to ask about kamikaze pilots but didn't feel that it was sort of the appropriate setting, and I thought I might be able to ask you a little bit more about that.
-They were proper pilots, military pilots, before the age of 16 -- -Right.
-And being used in the war... -Yes.
-Before that age, so they were children, still, fighting.
-Yes, it was something for boys who couldn't afford to go to high school or university to advance socially or professionally.
-And what was the public, kind of, perception of that?
-In the mass media at the time, these boy pilots were used widely in propaganda and they are adored by the Japanese people.
They were revered as warriors, but also adored as children.
-And so what was the manner in which they were told that their special mission was to be kamikaze pilots -- how would that be presented to them?
-The commander of the squadron would gather all of the pilots together, he'd explain, "Japan is in a precarious position right now, we've lost air superiority completely to the Allies, the only means of resistance we have left to us is to use our airplanes as bombs."
Imagine the situation, a room full of boys in uniforms, proud of themselves, media heroes of sorts -- who wants to be the one sissy in the group, the milquetoast, who says, "Oh, I don't think I wanna do it"?
-Mordecai wants me to meet the brother of a young kamikaze pilot who gave his life for his country just one week before the end of the war.
He was 19 years old.
Dr. Hiroshima is 91 and comes to this temple every month to commemorate his brother.
-Carey Mulligan san, desu.
-Great to see you.
-Pleasure to meet you.
-My name is Hiroshima.
-Lovely to meet you, my name is Carey.
-[ Speaking Japanese ] -And if it's not too personal to ask, how did your parents feel about him training to be a kamikaze pilot?
My grandfather was on the other side -- he was on a ship called the Indefatigable, and his ship was actually hit by a kamikaze pilot.
And I think it's been very moving to think about these young -- very young men, young boys on both sides, trying to fight for their country, for what they believe in, and actually how similar they actually really were.
-[ Speaking Japanese ] [ Chime reverberating ] -[ Chanting in Japanese ] -I was trying not to cry the whole time, I found it really moving, his devotion to his brother.
-[ Reciting in Japanese ] -But I feel conflicted because my sense of Den, and I didn't know him, would be that he would feel that way, too, because he was an empathic, cultured, you know, man.
So, it's -- but I still -- I kind -- I don't know.
I don't know if he would feel that way because of what he witnessed and what he saw in his friends being killed and, um, you know, and how horrific that must have been...
I can't say with certainty how he would feel about me even being here and talking to someone who was, you know, associated with a kamikaze pilot.
So it's sort of a strange experience.
♪♪ Almost 4,000 kamikaze pilots died in defense of their homeland, but their sacrifice was ultimately futile: in August 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 300,000 people.
Six days later, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender.
My grandfather's ship sailed into Tokyo Bay just before the official ceremony in which the Japanese formally accepted defeat.
I've come to meet cultural historian Chris Ramsbottom-Isherwood to find out what Denzil would have encountered.
We're here now, you can see this skyline and a Ferris Wheel and all these huge buildings and obviously it looked completely different.
What would Den have seen when he came into the bay?
-He would have seen perfectly the mountains, Mt.
Fuji, because there would have been nothing between him and the mountains.
He would have seen wreckage, corpses in the ocean.
-So just destruction?
-Destruction everywhere, like a moonscape.
This is an important place because this is exactly where the signing of the surrender was carried out.
And somewhere in this bay, your grandfather would have been standing upon the Indefatigable, witnessing history.
-I wonder what it felt like to be here -- it must have been very mixed... You know, a mixed feeling.
-Yeah, I assume it would have be a mixture of relief that you've survived, but then a great feeling of loss and sadness that your brothers in arms may have perished in the war.
Also there would have been a feeling of, "What's next?"
-Chris, I know that Den was here at the end of the war, in this bay.
But I also know that he was on the ship for another year after that, and I wondered if you knew anything about what happened in that year, or what happened after he arrived here?
-After the surrender of Tokyo, the Indefatigable traveled along the coast of Japan looking for prisoners of war.
So really, it was a change from a military mission to a humanitarian mission.
And then of course, at the end of the war, the British Empire is in tatters, so representing the British Empire, the Indefatigable and your grandfather made a victory lap of the Commonwealth to reemphasize the fact that the British Empire is up and running again.
-I can't imagine being here and witnessing the end of the war, and then not being able to go home.
-Yes, yes, yes!
-Before I leave Japan there's one more thing I need to know about the end of Denzil's war.
So, Chris, I have a photo that's always intrigued me that I found at my grandmother's house... at least ten years ago -- and I've found my grandfather Den right on the edge of the frame.
-And I've never known where this photo was taken, and it was sort of always a mystery to our family.
-And so this journey has been sort of hoping to find out where it was taken.
-Well, I think I can tell you where this was taken.
-This is Otaki, in the North Island of New Zealand, and this building here is Marai, a Maori meeting house.
And you can see the statues.
This guy up here you can see at the top, he's the god of this village.
-This photo was taken by someone on the ship.
-Oh, this was taken by someone on the ship?
-It's lovely to finally have an answer to it.
♪♪ After the victory tour, the Indefatigable spent a further six months repatriating troops and their families to different parts of the British Empire.
It was a year after the end of the war when my grandfather finally got home.
♪♪ Den travelled more than I ever would have known.
He really did experience a world war and saw things so far from his own life experience that it must have just been overwhelming on a daily basis.
But also having learnt the pressure that he was under and the job he was doing and the stakes being so high, you know, I can't imagine ever being that brave, to be able to operate under that kind of stress and pressure.
It's made me feel closer to him but also, you know, it sort of... Because Nance, my grandmother, had Alzheimer's for such a long time, and had Den not died so young and had Nance not had that disease, we might have gotten these stories.
And so to get to learn all of it, you know, sort of on behalf of her and on behalf of my mum and, um... it sort of makes me feel closer to both of them that way, but, yeah, so, it's very special.
I'm going to cry more!
[ Laughs ] ♪♪ After the war, Den returned to Swansea University to train as a school teacher.
He married Nance in 1950 and they spent the rest of their lives here in Wales.
Like many who served in World War II, my grandfather was a quiet hero who didn't like to talk about what he experienced, but fought to protect his home and his family.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -This program is available on Amazon Prime Video.
♪♪ -This program was made possible in part by Elaine and W. Weldon Wilson and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.