Edited by Gerald Boerner
After the Battle of Midway, where our Navy was able to destroy most of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s aircraft carriers, the Allied forces in the Pacific grew to dominate the Japanese forces. The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval engagement of the Pacific war; it was also the advent of the Kamikaze attacks on our escort carriers and other men of war. This was one of the few direct fights between battleships of the two navys. The Kamikaze attacks were intended to sink as many enemy ships as possible. While our anti-aircraft guns were able to stop a majority of these attacks, sufficient numbers of these flying bombs acting as guided missiles under the control of the Kamikaze pilots. Many died, but offered their lives gladly in accordance with the Bushido Code that emphasized Loyalty and Honor.
Japanese Zeros and dive bombers were loaded with torpedoes, bombs, explosives, and full fuel tanks. The pilots were needed only to get the planes into the air and aim them at the deck of enemy ships, especially aircraft carriers. They were feared, just as the “Divine Wind” after which these Kamikaze pilots were named.
This tactic of human sacrifice bombers has found its full fruition in the conflicts in the Middle East. We are constantly reading of such bombing attacks by Palestinians against the Israelis. Our forces have also encountered such bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military barracks in that part of the world have also been attacked, such as in Lebanon. What will stop this terrorism? Would giving the Palestinians a home land eliminate it? Doubtfully, but we need to continue searching for a solution to cultural and ethnic conflicts around the world.
But now it is time to get into our exploration of the Kamikaze pilots that terrorized our naval vessels from 1944 to the end of World War II… GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 3197 Words ]
Quotations Related to Bombers:
“A large part of the problem, is that young people are being born into the world and growing up without much hope. And so, they become murderers, they become suicide bombers.”
— Arthur Hertzberg
“The more bombers, the less room for doves of peace.”
— Nikita Khrushchev
“Sure, you would lose more bombers without fighters, but, flying in formation, you could get the job done.”
— Stuart Symington
“Suicide bombers caused us more than 50 percent of our casualties. The fence works. There is a decline in the number of those terrorist attacks against Israelis.”
— Silvan Shalom
“Guantanamo Bay houses enemy combatants ranging from terrorist trainers and recruiters to bomb makers, would-be suicide bombers, and terrorist financiers.”
— Chris Chocola
“In fact, the Iraqi foreign minister admitted in March 2003 that Iraqi funds were sent to families of Palestinian suicide bombers who attacked and killed innocent Israeli citizens, and also 12 Americans in Israel in 2003.”
— Jim Gerlach
“The Israelis have suffered a great deal, we must condemn suicide bombers, and we must never say that the plight of the Palestinians justifies this terrible thing.”
— George Carey
“The State of Israel has faced obstacles and challenges to its very survival, with conventional military attacks leading the way to suicide bombers who have killed innocent Israeli men, women, and children.”
— Jerry Costello
World War II Tactics: The Japanese Kamikaze Pilots…
The Kamikaze were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible.
Kamikaze pilots would attempt to crash their aircraft into enemy ships in what was called a "Body Attack" taiatari— in planes often laden with explosives, bombs, torpedoes and full fuel tanks. The aircraft’s normal functions (to deliver torpedoes or bombs or shoot down other aircraft) were put aside, and the planes were converted to what were essentially manned missiles in an attempt to reap the benefits of greatly increased accuracy and payload over that of normal bombs. The goal of crippling as many Allied ships as possible, particularly aircraft carriers, was considered critical enough to warrant the combined sacrifice of pilots and aircraft.
These attacks, which began in October 1944, followed several critical military defeats for the Japanese. They had long lost aerial dominance due to outdated aircraft and the loss of experienced pilots. On a macroeconomic scale, Japan experienced a decreasing capacity to wage war, and a rapidly declining industrial capacity relative to the United States. The Japanese government expressed its reluctance to surrender. In combination, these factors led to the use of kamikaze tactics as Allied forces advanced towards the Japanese home islands.
While the term "kamikaze" usually refers to the aerial strikes, the term has sometimes been applied to various other intentional suicide attacks. The Japanese military also used or made plans for Japanese Special Attack Units, including those involving submarines, human torpedoes, speedboats and divers. Nazi Germany formed their own group of suicide aircraft pilots called the Leonidas Squadron, but the German commanders demonstrated a greater reluctance to use them.
Although kamikaze was the most common and best-known form of Japanese suicide attack during World War II, they were similar to the "banzai charge" used by Japanese infantrymen (foot soldiers). The main difference between kamikaze and banzai is that death was inherent to the success of a kamikaze attack, whereas a banzai charge was only potentially fatal – that is, the infantrymen hoped to survive but did not expect to. Western sources often incorrectly consider Operation Ten-Go as a kamikaze operation, since it occurred at the Battle of Okinawa along with the mass waves of kamikaze planes; however, banzai is the more accurate term, since the aim of the mission was for battleship Yamato to beach herself and provide support to the island defenders, as opposed to ramming and detonating among enemy naval forces. The tradition of death instead of defeat, capture, and perceived shame was deeply entrenched in Japanese military culture. It was one of the primary traditions in the samurai life and the Bushido code: loyalty and honor until death.
Prior to the formation of kamikaze units, deliberate crashes had been used as a last resort when a pilot’s plane was severely damaged and he did not want to risk being captured, or he wanted to do as much damage to the enemy as possible since he was crashing anyway; this was the case in both the Japanese and Allied air forces. According to Axell & Kase, these suicides "were individual, impromptu decisions by men who were mentally prepared to die." In most cases, there is little evidence that these hits were more than accidental collisions, of the kind that sometimes happen in intense sea-air battles. One example of this occurred on 7 December 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor. First Lieutenant Fusata Iida’s plane had been hit and was leaking fuel, when he apparently used it to make a suicide attack on Kaneohe Naval Air Station. Before taking off, he had told his men that if his plane was badly damaged he would crash it into a "worthy enemy target".
The carrier battles in 1942, particularly Midway, had inflicted irreparable damage on the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS), such that they could no longer put together a large number of fleet carriers with well-trained aircrews. Japanese planners had assumed a quick war and were ill-prepared to replace the losses of ships, pilots, and sailors; at Midway, the Japanese lost as many aircrewmen in a single day as their pre-war training program had produced in a year. The following Solomons and New Guinea campaigns, notably the Battles of Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz, further decimated their veteran aircrews and replacing their combat experience proved impossible. During 1943–44, U.S. forces were steadily advancing towards Japan. Japan’s fighter planes were becoming outnumbered and outclassed by newer U.S.-made planes, especially the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair. Tropical diseases, as well as shortages of spare parts and fuel, made operations more and more difficult for the IJNAS. By the Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944, the Japanese now had to make do with obsolete aircraft and inexperienced aviators, against the better-trained and more experienced US Navy airmen, and its radar-directed combat air patrols. The Japanese lost over 400 carrier-based planes and pilots, effectively putting an end to their carriers’ potency, an action referred to by the Allies as the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot".
On 19 June 1944, planes from the carrier Chiyoda approached a US task group. According to some accounts, two made suicide attacks, one of which hit USS Indiana.
The important Japanese base of Saipan fell to the Allied forces on 15 July 1944. Its capture provided adequate forward bases which enabled U.S. air forces using the B-29 Superfortress to strike the Japanese home islands. After the fall of Saipan, the Japanese high command predicted that the Allies would try to capture the Philippines, which were strategically important because of their location between the oilfields of Southeast Asia and Japan.
In August 1944, it was announced by the Domei news agency that a flight instructor named Takeo Tagata was training pilots in Taiwan for suicide missions.
Another source claims that the first kamikaze mission occurred on 13 September 1944. A group of pilots from the army’s 31st Fighter Squadron on Negros Island decided to launch a suicide attack the following morning. First Lieutenant Takeshi Kosai and a sergeant were selected. Two 100 kg (220 lb) bombs were attached to two fighters, and the pilots took off before dawn, planning to crash into carriers. They never returned, and there is no record of an enemy plane hitting an Allied ship that day.
According to some sources, on 14 October 1944, USS Reno was hit by a deliberately-crashed Japanese plane. However, there is no evidence that the attacker planned to crash.
Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, the commander of the 26th Air Flotilla (part of the 11th Air Fleet), is also sometimes credited with inventing the kamikaze tactic. Arima personally led an attack by about 100 Yokosuka D4Y Suisei ("Judy") dive bombers against a large Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Franklin near Leyte Gulf, on (or about, accounts vary) 15 October 1944. Arima was killed and part of a plane hit Franklin. The Japanese high command and propagandists seized on Arima’s example: he was promoted posthumously to Admiral and was given official credit for making the first kamikaze attack. However, it is not clear that this was a planned suicide attack, and official Japanese accounts of Arima’s attack bore little resemblance to the actual events.
On 17 October 1944, Allied forces assaulted Suluan Island, beginning the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Imperial Japanese Navy’s 1st Air Fleet, based at Manila, was assigned the task of assisting the Japanese ships which would attempt to destroy Allied forces in Leyte Gulf. However, the 1st Air Fleet at that time only had 40 aircraft: 34 A6M Zero carrier-based fighters, three Nakajima B6N Tenzan ("Jill") torpedo bombers, one Mitsubishi G4M ("Betty") and two Yokosuka P1Y Ginga ("Frances") land-based bombers, and one additional reconnaissance plane. The task facing the Japanese air forces seemed impossible. The 1st Air Fleet commandant, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi decided to form a suicide attack force, the Special Attack Unit. In a meeting at Mabalacat Airfield (known to the U.S. military as Clark Air Base) near Manila, on 19 October, Onishi told officers of the 201st Flying Group headquarters: "I don’t think there would be any other certain way to carry out the operation [to hold the Philippines], than to put a 250 kg bomb on a Zero and let it crash into a U.S. carrier, in order to disable her for a week."
First Kamikaze Unit
Commander Asaiki Tamai asked a group of 23 talented student pilots, all of whom he had trained, to volunteer for the special attack force. All of the pilots raised both of their hands, volunteering to join the operation. Later, Tamai asked Lieutenant Yukio Seki to command the special attack force. Seki is said to have closed his eyes, lowered his head and thought for 10 seconds, before saying: "Please do appoint me to the post." Seki became the 24th kamikaze pilot to be chosen. However, Seki later said: "Japan’s future is bleak if it is forced to kill one of its best pilots." and "I am not going on this mission for the Emperor or for the Empire… I am going because I was ordered to."
The names of four sub-units within the Kamikaze Special Attack Force were Unit Shikishima, Unit Yamato, Unit Asahi, and Unit Yamazakura. These names were taken from a patriotic death poem (called jisei no ku in waka or tanka), Shikishima no Yamato-gokoro wo hito towaba, asahi ni niou yamazakura bana by the Japanese classical scholar, Motoori Norinaga. The poem reads:
If someone asks about the Yamato spirit [Spirit of Old/True Japan] of Shikishima [a poetic name for Japan]—it is the flowers of yamazakura [mountain cherry blossom] that are fragrant in the Asahi [rising sun].
A less literal translation is:
- Asked about the soul of Japan,
- I would say
- That it is
- Like wild cherry blossoms
- Glowing in the morning sun.
Ōnishi, addressing this unit, told that their nobility of spirit would keep the homeland from ruin even in defeat.
Leyte Gulf: the First Attacks
Several suicide attacks, carried out during the invasion of Leyte, by Japanese pilots from units other than the Special Attack Force, have been described as the first kamikaze attack. Early on 21 October, a Japanese aircraft, possibly a Aichi D3A dive-bomber or a Mitsubishi Ki-51 (of the 6th Flying Brigade, Imperial Japanese Army Air Force) deliberately crashed into the foremast of the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. The attack killed 30 personnel, including the cruiser’s Captain, Emile Dechaineux and wounded 64, including the Australian force commander Commodore John Collins. The Australian official history of the war claimed that this was the first kamikaze attack on an Allied ship, although other sources disagree because it was not a planned attack by a member of the Special Attack Force, but was most likely performed on the pilot’s own initiative.
The sinking of the ocean tug USS Sonoma on 24 October is listed in some sources as the first ship lost to a kamikaze strike, but the attack occurred before 25 October, and the aircraft used, a Mitsubishi G4M, was not flown by the original four Special Attack Squadrons.
On 25 October 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Kamikaze Special Attack Force carried out its first mission. Five Zeros, led by Seki, and escorted to the target by leading Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, attacked several escort carriers. One Zero attempted to hit the bridge of USS Kitkun Bay but instead exploded on the port catwalk and cartwheeled into the sea. Two others dove at USS Fanshaw Bay but were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. The last two ran at USS White Plains. One, under heavy fire and trailing smoke, aborted the attempt on White Plains and instead banked toward USS St. Lo, plowing into the flight deck. Its bomb caused fires that resulted in the bomb magazine exploding, sinking the carrier. By day’s end on 26 October, 55 kamikazes from the special attack force had also damaged the large escort carriers USS Sangamon, Suwannee which had also been struck by a Kamikaze at 0804 forward of its aft elevator on 25 October, Santee, and the smaller escorts USS White Plains, Kalinin Bay, and Kitkun Bay. In total, seven carriers had been hit, as well as 40 other ships (five sunk, 23 heavily damaged, and 12 moderately damaged).
Please take time to further explore more about Kamikaze, Suicide Attack, Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, Battle of Leyte Gulf, World War II, Lt. Yukio Seki, USS St. Lo, Empire of Japan, Pacific Campaign, Japanese Special Attack Units, Battle of Okinawa, Bushido Code, Loyalty, and Honor by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below. In most cases, the text in the body of this post has been selectively excerpted from the articles; footnotes and hyperlinks have been removed for readability…
Other Events on this Day:
John Adams and Abigail Smith are married in Weymouth, Massachusetts.
The ladies of Edenton, North Carolina, sign a resolution to boycott British tea.
Captain Stephen Decatur becomes a national hero when his ship, the USS United States, defeats the British frigates HMS Macedonia off the Moroccan coast.
Lord James Cardigan leads the Light Brigade in a misdirected charge at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. Cardigan’s British cavalry is decimated by Russian artillery but immortalized in Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade."
Caroline Harrison, wife of President Benjamin Harrison, dies in the White House.
Benjamin O. Davis becomes the first black general in the U.S. Army.
Lt. Yukio Seki leads the Kamikaze Special Attack Force, composed of 24 specially trained pilots, in their first mission, attacking U.S. Navy escort carriers at the Battle of Leyte Gulf and sinking the carrier USS St. Lo. The kamikaze bombers introduce a terrifying yet ultimately unsuccessful tactic designed to turn the tide in the Pacific theater of World War II.
Dinner will never be the same again! The Tappan Stove company introduces the first microwave oven for home use. The newfangled contraption, the brainchild of Raytheon engineer Percy LeBaron Spencer, sells for a hefty $1,300.
During an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson presents photographs of Soviet missile sites being constructed in Cuba. He demands an explanation from Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin, and says he’ll wait "until hell freezes over." Zorin refuses to answer.
The United Nations General Assembly votes to accept the communist People’s Republic of China as a permanent member nation and expel nationalist Taiwan. The U.N. has recognized the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China ever since.
A U.S. military force ordered by President Ronald Reagan invades Grenada following a coup led by hard-line Marxist Bernard Coard. Several Caribbean countries also provided troop for this action to halt the Communist takeover.
Dates and events based on:
William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Suicide Attack…
Wikipedia: Masafumi Arima…
Wikipedia: Battle of Leyte Gulf…
Brainy Quote: Bombers Quotes…
Other Posts on related Topics:
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima…
Prof. Boerner’s Exploration: Battle of Leyte Gulf…