WWII Imperial Japanese Navy Aircrews By It was a great honor in Japan to become a naval aviator. Early in World War II, Imperial Japanese Navy pilots went through a rigorous and at times brutal cadet program. Later, as these experienced airmen became casualties of war, hastily trained pilots replaced them. Imperial Japanese Navy Petty Officer's Service Uniform This is the uniform of a senior petty officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The blue chrysanthemum on the sleeve marks him as a naval aviator. (Donated by Masajiro Kawato and the Nakata War Museum) Imperial Japanese Naval Pilot's Suit This is a replica of a typical summer flying suit for an Imperial Japanese Navy fighter pilot during WWII. The kapok-filled life vest is genuine and contrasted with the air-filled Mae West life vest that was used by the USAAF. Kapok is made from the buoyant fiber covering the seeds of the ceiba tree. (Donated by Masajiro Kawato and the Nakata War Museum) Prayer Belt Also known as a "Belt of a Thousand Stitches," it was supposed to protect its wearer from harm. Mothers, wives, and sisters made the belts by petitioning other women to add one stitch each until there were a thousand. Click here to return to the Airmen in a World at War Overview.