On April 11, 1945, during the battle of Okinawa, a Mitsubishi A6M5c Zero swooped around on an attack run, with the intent to trade one brave pilot's life for the lives of the crew of the USS Missouri. He was Petty Officer 2nd Class Setsuo Ishino, and he was a kamikaze. The crew of the Missouri tried in vain to shoot him down, but he was a good pilot, and determined. He skimmed over the waves, and after radioing in that he was going in, he maintained radio silence. The gunners couldn't open fire at him without risking hitting the other ships in the fleet. Seconds before he collided with the ship, Leonard Schmidt, ship's photographer, snapped a now famous picture of the Zero closing in for the kill.
But when the Zero hit the battleship, the 500 pound bomb dropped harmlessly into the sea; Ishino's fuel tanks ruptured and sprayed burning fuel all over the deck, but there were no injuries or casualties--aside from Petty Officer Ishino, who was almost certainly killed instantly. Gunner's Mate Robert Bishop recalls that after the battle, "the guys had the fire hose out and were going to wash him over the side. But the order came down to stop that, hold a full military burial at sea, with honors." The ship's Captain, William M. Callaghan--
whose brother had died helming a ship that was sunk by a kamikaze attack--
recognized Petty Officer Ishino's warrior spirit, and ordered that every man under his command would recognize it, too. Here was a man who had given everything for his country, in the full knowledge that he would not survive.
Some of the men of the Missouri complained bitterly--why honor a man who dedicated his life to killing them? Others stitched together a Japanese flag, the Rising Sun, to cover the pilot's remains during the ceremony. There were some difficulties finding Marines to help with the ceremony. But when all was said and done, Callaghan was the Captain, and the ceremony occurred. The pilot, whose identity was unknown and is still not totally certain, was buried at sea by the American crew he had hoped to kill. The late Captain Callaghan was honored for his gesture at Pearl Harbor, 56 years after the day, just this week.