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, officially , were a part of the
Japanese Special Attack Units During World War II, , also called ''shimbu-tai'', were specialized units of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army normally used for suicide missions. They included ''kamikaze'' aircraft, ''fukuryu'' frogmen, and several types of su ...
of
military aviators A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their ...
who flew
suicide attack A suicide attack is any violent attack Attack may refer to: Warfare and combat * Offensive (military) * Charge (warfare) * Attack (fencing) * Strike (attack) * Attack (computing) * Attack aircraft Books and publishing * The Attack (novel) ...
s for the
Empire of Japan The was a historical nation-state A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...

Empire of Japan
against
Allied An alliance is a relationship among people, groups, or sovereign state, states that have joined together for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out among them. Members of an alli ...
naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, intending to destroy
warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and ...
s more effectively than with conventional air attacks. About 3,800 ''kamikaze'' pilots died during the war, and more than 7,000 naval personnel were killed by ''kamikaze'' attacks. ''Kamikaze'' aircraft were essentially pilot-guided explosive
missiles In military terminology, a missile is a guided airborne ranged weapon . English longbowmen figure prominently in the foreground at right where they drive away the French crossbow A crossbow is a ranged weapon using an elastic launching ...
, purpose-built or converted from conventional aircraft. Pilots would attempt to crash their aircraft into enemy ships in what was called a "body attack" (''tai-atari'') in aircraft loaded with bombs,
torpedo A modern torpedo is an underwater ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the eff ...

torpedo
es or other explosives. About 19% of ''kamikaze'' attacks were successful. The Japanese considered the goal of damaging or sinking large numbers of Allied ships to be a just reason for suicide attacks; ''kamikaze'' were more accurate than conventional attacks, and often caused more damage. Some ''kamikazes'' were still able to hit their targets even after their aircraft had been crippled. The attacks began in October 1944, at a time when the war was looking increasingly bleak for the Japanese. They had lost several important battles, many of their best pilots had been killed, their aircraft were becoming outdated, and they had lost command of the air. Japan was losing pilots faster than it could train their replacements, and the nation's industrial capacity was diminishing relative to that of the Allies. These factors, along with Japan's unwillingness to surrender, led to the use of ''kamikaze'' tactics as Allied forces advanced towards the Japanese home islands. The tradition of death instead of defeat, capture, and shame was deeply entrenched in Japanese military culture; one of the primary values in the
samurai were the hereditary military nobility and officer caste of History of Japan#Medieval Japan (1185–1573/1600), medieval and Edo period, early-modern Japan from the late 12th century to their abolition in 1876. They were the well-paid retainer ...

samurai
life and the ''
Bushido is a moral code concerning samurai attitudes, behavior and lifestyle. It is loosely analogous to the European concept of chivalry. There are multiple Bushido types which evolved significantly through history. Contemporary forms of bushido ar ...

Bushido
'' code was
loyalty Loyalty, in general use, is a devotion Devotion or Devotions may refer to: In religion * Faith * Anglican devotions * Buddhist devotion * Catholic devotions * Bible study (Christian), called "devotion" by some Christian denominations * Marian ...

loyalty
and
honor Honour () or honor (; ) is the idea of a bond between an individual and a society as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and of personal , that manifests itself as a , and has various elements such as valour, chivalry, honesty ...

honor
until death.David Powers,
Japan: No Surrender in World War Two
In addition to ''kamikazes'', the Japanese military also used or made plans for non-aerial Japanese Special Attack Units, including those involving (submarines),
Kaiten were manned torpedo A modern torpedo is an underwater ranged weapon launched above or below the water surface, self-propelled towards a target, and with an explosive warhead designed to detonate either on contact with or in proximity to the ...

Kaiten
human torpedoes, Shinyo speedboats and
Fukuryu were a part of the Japanese Special Attack Units prepared to resist the invasion of the Home islands by Allies of World War II, Allied forces. The name literally means "crouching dragon," and has also been called "suicide underwater diving, divers ...

Fukuryu
divers.


Definition and origin

The Japanese word ''
kamikaze , officially , were a part of the Japanese Special Attack Units of military aviation, military aviators who flew suicide attacks for the Empire of Japan against Allies of World War II, Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific ...
'' is usually translated as "divine wind" (''
kami (often taken to mean "gods A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel ...
'' is the word for "god", "spirit", or "divinity", and ''kaze'' for "wind"). The word originated from ''
Makurakotoba — literally "pillow words" in English — are figures of speech used in Japanese waka (poetry), waka poetry in which epithets are used in association with certain words. Their usage is akin to "grey-eyed Athena" and other Epithets in Homer, epi ...
'' of waka poetry modifying " Ise" and has been used since August 1281 to refer to the major typhoons that dispersed Mongol-Koryo fleets who invaded Japan under
Kublai Khan Kublai (; also spelled Qubilai or Kübilai; mn, Хубилай, Khubilai ; ; 23 September  1215 – 18 February 1294), also known by his temple name as Emperor Shizu of Yuan, was the fifth khagan-Emperor of China, emperor of the Mongol Empir ...

Kublai Khan
in 1274. A Japanese monoplane that made a record-breaking flight from Tokyo to London in 1937 for the
Asahi Asahi (朝日, 旭, or あさひ) means "morning sun" in Japanese and may refer to: Cities * Asahi, Chiba is a Cities of Japan, city located in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. , the city had an estimated population of 64,690 in 26,510 households and ...
newspaper group was named ''
Kamikaze , officially , were a part of the Japanese Special Attack Units of military aviation, military aviators who flew suicide attacks for the Empire of Japan against Allies of World War II, Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific ...
''. She was a prototype for the
Mitsubishi Ki-15 The was a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft and a light attack bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching aerial torpedo, torpedoes, or deplo ...
("Babs"). In Japanese, the formal term used for units carrying out suicide attacks during 1944–1945 is ''tokubetsu kōgekitai'' (特別攻撃隊), which literally means "special attack unit". This is usually abbreviated to ''tokkōtai'' (特攻隊). More specifically, air suicide attack units from the
Imperial Japanese Navy The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN; Kyūjitai are the traditional forms of kanji, Chinese characters, Chinese written characters used in Japanese language, Japanese. Their simplified counterparts are shinjitai (), "new character forms". Some of ...
were officially called ''shinpū tokubetsu kōgeki tai'' (神風特別攻撃隊, "divine wind special attack units"). ''Shinpū'' is the
on-reading are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside the Japanese language, Japanese syllabic scripts ''hiragana'' and ''katakana''. The Japanese term ''kanji'' for the Chinese ch ...
(''on'yomi'' or Chinese-derived pronunciation) of the same
characters Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Character (novel), ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * Characters (Theophrastus), ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set of char ...

characters
as the (''kun'yomi'' or Japanese pronunciation) ''kamikaze'' in Japanese. During World War II, the pronunciation ''kamikaze'' was used only informally in the Japanese press in relation to suicide attacks, but after the war, this usage gained acceptance worldwide and was re-imported into Japan. As a result, the special attack units are sometimes known in Japan as ''kamikaze tokubetsu kōgeki tai''.


History


Background

Before the formation of ''kamikaze'' units, pilots had made deliberate crashes as a last resort when their aircraft had suffered severe damage and they did not want to risk being captured or wanted to do as much damage to the enemy as possible, since they were crashing anyway. Such situations occurred in both the Axis and Allied air forces. Axell and Kase see these suicides as "individual, impromptu decisions by men who were mentally prepared to die". One example of this may have occurred on 7 December 1941 during the
attack on Pearl Harbor The Attack on Pearl HarborAlso known as the Battle of Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike In the United States Armed Forces, military of the United States, strikes and raids are a group of military operations that, alongside quite ...

attack on Pearl Harbor
.
First Lieutenant First lieutenant is a commissioned officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily ...
Fusata Iida's aircraft had taken a hit and had started leaking fuel when he apparently used it to make a suicide attack on Naval Air Station Kaneohe. Before taking off, he had told his men that if his aircraft were to become badly damaged he would crash it into a "worthy enemy target". Another possible example occurred at the when a damaged American bomber flew at the 's bridge but missed. But in most cases, little evidence exists that such hits represented more than accidental collisions of the kind that sometimes happen in intense sea or air battles. The carrier battles in 1942, particularly , inflicted irreparable damage on the
Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service The was the air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN; Kyūjitai are the traditional forms of kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are use ...
(IJNAS), such that they could no longer put together a large number of fleet carriers with well-trained aircrews. U.S. Naval War College Analysis, p. 1; Parshall and Tully, ''Shattered Sword'', pp. 416–30. Japanese planners had assumed a quick war and lacked comprehensive programmes to replace the losses of ships, pilots and sailors; and Midway; the
Solomon Islands campaign The Solomon Islands campaign was a major campaign Campaign or The Campaign may refer to: Types of campaigns * Campaign, in agriculture, the period during which sugar beets are harvested and processed *Advertising campaign, a series of advertise ...

Solomon Islands campaign
(1942–1945) and the
New Guinea campaign The New Guinea campaign of the Pacific War lasted from January 1942 until the end of the war in August 1945. During the initial phase in early 1942, the Empire of Japan invaded the Australian-administered Mandated Territory of New Guinea (23 Jan ...
(1942–1945), notably the Battles of Eastern Solomons (August 1942); and
Santa Cruz Santa Cruz (or Santacruz) is a Spanish language, Spanish or Portuguese language, Portuguese term meaning "holy cross" and referring to the Christian cross, cross on which Crucifixion of Jesus, Jesus was crucified. Santa Cruz may also refer to: Pl ...
(October 1942), decimated the IJNAS veteran aircrews, and replacing their combat experience proved impossible. During 1943–1944, U.S. forces steadily advanced toward Japan. Newer U.S.-made aircraft, especially the
Grumman F6F Hellcat The Grumman F6F Hellcat is an American carrier-based Carrier-based aircraft, sometimes known as carrier-capable aircraft or carrier-borne aircraft, are naval aircraft designed for operations from aircraft carrier An aircraft carrier is ...

Grumman F6F Hellcat
and
Vought F4U Corsair The Vought F4U Corsair is an American fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat. In military conflict, the role of fighter aircraft is to establish air ...

Vought F4U Corsair
, outclassed and soon outnumbered Japan's fighters. Tropical diseases, as well as shortages of spare parts and
fuel A fuel is any material that can be made to react with other substances so that it releases energy as thermal energy Thermal radiation in visible light can be seen on this hot metalwork. Thermal energy refers to several distinct physical con ...

fuel
, made operations more and more difficult for the IJNAS. By the
Battle of the Philippine Sea The Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19–20, 1944) was a major naval battle of World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an i ...

Battle of the Philippine Sea
(June 1944), the Japanese had to make do with obsolete aircraft and inexperienced aviators in the fight against better-trained and more experienced US Navy airmen who flew
radar Radar (radio detection and ranging) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (''ranging''), angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, Marine radar, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor ...

radar
-directed
combat air patrol Combat air patrol (CAP) is a type of flying mission for fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat. In military conflict, the role of fighter aircraft is ...
s. The Japanese lost over 400 carrier-based aircraft and pilots in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, effectively putting an end to their carriers' potency. Allied aviators called the action the "
Great Marianas Turkey Shoot The Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19–20, 1944) was a major naval battle of World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an i ...
". On 19 June 1944, aircraft from the carrier approached a US task group. According to some accounts, two made suicide attacks, one of which hit . The important Japanese base of
Saipan Saipan ( ch, Sa’ipan, formerly in es, Saipán, and in ja, 彩帆島, Saipan-tō) is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI; ...
fell to the Allied forces on 15 July 1944. Its capture provided adequate forward bases that enabled U.S. air forces using the
Boeing B-29 Superfortress The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is an American four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber Heavy bombers are bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft An aircraft is a ...

Boeing B-29 Superfortress
to strike at the Japanese home islands. After the fall of Saipan, the Japanese High Command predicted that the Allies would try to capture the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
, strategically important to Tokyo because of the islands' location between the
oilfield A petroleum reservoir or oil and gas reservoir is a subsurface accumulation of Hydrocarbon, hydrocarbons contained in Porosity, porous or fractured Rock formation, rock formations. Such reservoirs form when kerogen (ancient plant matter) is creat ...
s of Southeast Asia and Japan.


Beginnings

Captain Motoharu Okamura, in charge of the Tateyama Base in
Tokyo Tokyo (Japanese language, Japanese: , ''Tōkyō'' ), historically known in the west as Tokio and officially the Tokyo Metropolis (, ''Tōkyō-to''), is capital of Japan, the capital and most populous Prefectures of Japan, prefecture of Japan ...

Tokyo
, as well as the 341st Air Group Home, was, according to some sources, the first officer to officially propose ''kamikaze'' attack tactics. With his superiors, he arranged the first investigations into the plausibility and mechanisms of intentional suicide attacks on 15 June 1944. In August 1944, it was announced by the Domei news agency that a flight instructor named Takeo Tagata was training pilots in
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
for suicide missions. One 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 Negros is the fourth-largest and third-most populous island in the Philippines, with a total land area of . Negros is one of the many islands that comprise the Visayas, in the central part of the country. The predominant inhabitants of the islan ...
decided to launch a suicide attack the following morning.
First Lieutenant First lieutenant is a commissioned officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily ...
Takeshi Kosai and a
sergeant Sergeant ( ; abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a word or phrase, by any method. It may consist of a group of letters, or words taken from the full version of the word or phrase; ...

sergeant
were selected. Two bombs were attached to two fighters, and the pilots took off before dawn, planning to crash into carriers. They never returned, but there is no record of a Kamikaze hitting an Allied ship that day. According to some sources, on 14 October 1944, was hit by a deliberately crashed Japanese aircraft.
Rear Admiral Rear admiral is a senior naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for wa ...
Masafumi Arima, the commander of the 26th Air Flotilla (part of the 11th Air Fleet), is sometimes credited with inventing the ''kamikaze'' tactic. Arima personally led an attack by about 100
Yokosuka D4Y The is a two-seat carrier-based dive bomber A dive bomber is a bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching aerial torpedo, torpedoes, or ...
''Suisei'' ("Judy")
dive bomber A dive bomber is a bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching aerial torpedo, torpedoes, or deploying air-launched cruise missiles. The fi ...
s against a large ''Essex''-class aircraft carrier, , near Leyte Gulf, on or about 15 October 1944. Arima was killed and part of an aircraft hit ''Franklin''. The Japanese high command and propagandists seized on Arima's example. He was promoted
posthumous Posthumous may refer to: * Posthumous (album), ''Posthumous'' (album), by Warne Marsh, 1987 * Posthumous (EP), ''Posthumous'' (EP), by The Banner, 2001 * Posthumous (film), ''Posthumous'' (film), a 2014 American-German romantic comedy See also

...
ly to
Vice Admiral Vice admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to lieutenant general and air marshal. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral. In many navies,Vice admiral is a three-star rank in the navies of N ...

Vice Admiral
and was given official credit for making the first ''kamikaze'' attack. 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 Suluan is an island barangay A barangay (; abbreviated as Brgy. or Bgy.), sometimes referred to by its archaic name barrio (abbreviated as Bo.), is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipina ...
Island, beginning the
Battle of Leyte Gulf The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Filipino Filipino may refer to: * Something from or related to the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas), ...
. The Imperial Japanese Navy's 1st Air Fleet, based at
Manila Manila ( , ; fil, Maynila, ), officially the City of Manila ( fil, Lungsod ng Maynila, ), is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are ...

Manila
, was assigned the task of assisting the Japanese ships that would attempt to destroy Allied forces in Leyte Gulf. That unit had only 41 aircraft: 34
Mitsubishi A6M Zero The Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" is a long-range carrier-based Carrier-based aircraft, sometimes known as carrier-capable aircraft or carrier-borne aircraft, are naval aircraft designed for operations from aircraft carrier An aircraft carrier ...

Mitsubishi A6M Zero
("Zeke") carrier-based fighters, three
Nakajima B6N The Nakajima B6N ''Tenzan'' ( ja, 中島 B6N 天山, "Heavenly Mountain", Allied reporting name: "Jill") was the Imperial Japanese Navy's standard Aircraft carrier, carrier-borne torpedo bomber during the final years of World War II and the succ ...

Nakajima B6N
''Tenzan'' ("Jill")
torpedo bomber A torpedo bomber is a military aircraft designed primarily to attack ships with aerial torpedoes. Torpedo bombers came into existence just before the World War I, First World War almost as soon as aircraft were built that were capable of carryin ...
s, one
Mitsubishi G4M The Mitsubishi G4M was a twin-engine, land-based medium bomber PZL.37 Łoś, a medium bomber. File:G4M-49.jpg, 250px, The Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty", a medium bomber. A medium bomber is a military bomber Fixed-wing aircraft, aircraft ...

Mitsubishi G4M
("Betty") and two
Yokosuka P1Y The Yokosuka P1Y ''Ginga'' (銀河, "Galaxy") was a twin-engine, land-based bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching aerial torpedo, torpedoes ...
''Ginga'' ("Frances") land-based bombers, and one additional reconnaissance aircraft. The task facing the Japanese air forces seemed impossible. The 1st Air Fleet commandant,
Vice Admiral Vice admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to lieutenant general and air marshal. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral. In many navies,Vice admiral is a three-star rank in the navies of N ...

Vice Admiral
Takijirō Ōnishi, decided to form a suicide offensive force, the Special Attack Unit. In a meeting on 19 October at Mabalacat Airfield (known to the U.S. military as Clark Air Base) near Manila, 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 o hold the Philippinesthan 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 unit

Commander Commander is a common naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfa ...

Commander
Asaichi 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 was a Japanese naval aviator US Marine Corps aircraft taking off from an assault ship flight deck Naval aviation is the application of military air power by navies, whether from warships that embark aircraft, or land bases. Naval aviation ...
to command the special attack force. Seki is said to have closed his eyes, lowered his head and thought for ten seconds before saying: "Please do appoint me to the post." Seki became the 24th ''kamikaze'' pilot to be chosen. He 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 the four subunits 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, ''Shikishima no Yamato-gokoro wo hito towaba, asahi ni niou yamazakura bana'' by the Japanese classical scholar,
Motoori Norinaga was a Japanese people, Japanese scholar of ''Kokugaku'' active during the Edo period. He is conventionally ranked as one of the Four Great Men of Kokugaku (nativist) studies. Life Norinaga was born in what is now Matsusaka, Mie, Matsusaka in I ...

Motoori Norinaga
. The poem reads: A less literal translation is: Ōnishi, addressing this unit, told them 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'' attacks. Early on 21 October 1944, a Japanese aircraft deliberately crashed into the foremast of the heavy cruiser . This aircraft was possibly either an
Aichi D3A The Aichi D3A Type 99 Carrier Bomber ( Allied reporting name "Val") is a World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all o ...
dive bomber, from an unidentified unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, or a
Mitsubishi Ki-51 The Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Army designation "Type 99 Assault Plane"; Allied nickname "Sonia") was a light bomber 1943. A twin-engine Lockheed Hudson of No. 2 Squadron RAAF. Its crew and ground staff pose for the photographer, prior to loading the Hu ...
of the 6th Flying Brigade,
Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Imperial is that which relates to an empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empir ...
. 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. Other sources disagree because it was not a planned attack by a member of the Special Attack Force and was most likely undertaken on the pilot's own initiative. The sinking of the ocean tug on 24 October is listed in some sources as the first ship lost to a ''kamikaze'' strike, but the attack occurred before the first mission of the Special Attack Force (on 25 October) and the aircraft used, a
Mitsubishi G4M The Mitsubishi G4M was a twin-engine, land-based medium bomber PZL.37 Łoś, a medium bomber. File:G4M-49.jpg, 250px, The Japanese Mitsubishi G4M "Betty", a medium bomber. A medium bomber is a military bomber Fixed-wing aircraft, aircraft ...

Mitsubishi G4M
, was not flown by the original four Special Attack Squadrons. On 25 October 1944, during the
Battle of Leyte Gulf The Battle of Leyte Gulf (Filipino Filipino may refer to: * Something from or related to the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas), ...
, the ''Kamikaze'' Special Attack Force carried out its first mission. Five A6M Zeros, led by Lieutenant Seki, were escorted to the target by leading Japanese ace where they attacked several
escort carrier The escort carrier or escort aircraft carrier (U.S. hull classification symbol The United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (unofficial). , colors = Blu ...
s. One Zero attempted to hit the bridge of but instead exploded on the port catwalk and cartwheeled into the sea. Two others dived at but were destroyed by
anti-aircraft Anti-aircraft warfare or counter-air defence is the battlespace Battle-space is a term used to signify a unified military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goal ...
fire. The last two ran at . One, under heavy fire and trailing smoke, aborted the attempt on ''White Plains'' and instead banked toward , diving into the flight deck, where its bomb caused fires that resulted in the bomb magazine exploding, sinking the carrier. By 26 October day's end, 55 ''kamikazes'' from the Special Attack Force had also damaged three large escort carriers: , , and (which had taken a ''kamikaze'' strike forward of its aft elevator the day before); and three smaller escorts: USS ''White Plains'', , and ''Kitkun Bay''. In total, seven carriers were hit, as well as 40 other ships (five sunk, 23 heavily damaged and 12 moderately damaged).


Main wave of attacks

Early successes – such as the sinking of USS ''St. Lo'' – were followed by an immediate expansion of the program, and over the next few months over 2,000 aircraft made such attacks. When Japan began to suffer intense
strategic bombing after the massive firebombing on Viet Cong The Viet Cong ( vi, Việt Cộng; ), officially known as the National Liberation Front of Southern Vietnam ( vi, Mặt trận Dân tộc Giải phóng miền Nam Việt Nam), was an armed communis ...
by
Boeing B-29 Superfortress The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is an American four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber Heavy bombers are bomber A bomber is a combat aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft An aircraft is a ...

Boeing B-29 Superfortress
es, the Japanese military attempted to use suicide attacks against this threat. During the northern hemisphere winter of 1944–45, the IJAAF formed the 47th Air Regiment, also known as the ''Shinten'' Special Unit (''Shinten Seiku Tai'') at Narimasu Airfield,
Nerima, Tokyo is a special ward in Tokyo Tokyo (Japanese language, Japanese: , ''Tōkyō'' ), historically known in the west as Tokio and officially the Tokyo Metropolis (, ''Tōkyō-to''), is capital of Japan, the capital and most populous Prefect ...
, to defend the
Tokyo Metropolitan Area The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, consisting of the Kantō region of Japan (including Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolis and the prefectures of Kanagawa Prefecture, Kanagawa, Chiba Prefecture, Chiba, Saitama Prefect ...
. The unit was equipped with
Nakajima Ki-44 The Nakajima Ki-44 ''Shoki'' (鍾馗, "Zhong Kui, Devil Queller") was a single-seat fighter aircraft, fighter-interceptor aircraft, interceptor developed by the Nakajima Aircraft Company and operated by the Imperial Japanese Army from 1942 to 194 ...
''Shoki'' ("Tojo") fighters, whose pilots were instructed to collide with
United States Army Air Forces The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machi ...
(USAAF) B-29s approaching Japan. Targeting the aircraft proved to be much less successful and practical than attacks against warships, as the bombers made for much faster, more manoeuvrable and smaller targets. The B-29 also had formidable defensive weaponry, so suicide attacks against B-29s demanded considerable piloting skill to be successful, which worked against the very purpose of using expendable pilots. Even encouraging capable pilots to bail out before impact was ineffective because vital personnel were often lost when they mistimed their exits and were killed as a result. On 11 March, the U.S. carrier was hit and moderately damaged at
Ulithi Atoll Ulithi ( yap, Wulthiy, , or ) is an atoll An atoll (), sometimes known as a coral atoll, is a ring-shaped coral reef A coral reef is an underwater ecosystems, ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of Col ...

Ulithi Atoll
, in the Caroline Islands, by a ''kamikaze'' that had flown almost from Japan, in a mission called Operation Tan No. 2. On 20 March, the submarine survived a hit from an aircraft just off Japan. Purpose-built ''kamikazes'', opposed to converted fighters and dive-bombers, were also being constructed.
Ensign An ensign is the national flag flown on a vessel to indicate nationality. The ensign is the largest flag, generally flown at the stern (rear) of the ship while in port. The naval ensign (also known as war ensign), used on warships, may be differ ...
Mitsuo Ohta had suggested that piloted glider bombs, carried within range of targets by a mother aircraft, should be developed. The First Naval Air Technical Bureau (''Kugisho'') in
Yokosuka is a Cities of Japan, city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. , the city has a population of 409,478, and a population density of . The total area is . Yokosuka is the 11th most populous city in the Greater Tokyo Area, and the 12th in the Kantō ...

Yokosuka
refined Ohta's idea.
rocket-powered aircraft A rocket-powered aircraft or rocket plane is an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to flight, fly by gaining support from the Atmosphere of Earth, air. It counters the force of gravity by using either Buoyancy, static lift ...
, launched from bombers, were first deployed in ''kamikaze'' attacks from March 1945. U.S. personnel gave them the derisive nickname "''Baka'' Bombs" (''baka'' is Japanese for "idiot" or "stupid"). The ''Tsurugi'' was a simple, easily built propeller aircraft with a wooden airframe that used engines from existing stocks. Its non-retractable
landing gear Landing gear is the undercarriage of an aircraft An aircraft is a vehicle or machine that is able to fly Flies are insect Insects or Insecta (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic langua ...
was jettisoned shortly after takeoff for a suicide mission, recovered and reused. During 1945, the Japanese military began stockpiling ''Tsurugi'', ''Ohkas'', other aircraft and suicide boats for use against Allied forces expected to invade Japan. The invasion never happened, and few were ever used.


Allied defensive tactics

In early 1945, U.S. Navy aviator Commander
John Thach John Smith Thach (April 19, 1905 – April 15, 1981) was a World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict betw ...

John Thach
, already famous for developing effective aerial tactics against the Japanese such as the
Thach Weave The basic Thach Weave, executed by two wingmen. The Thach Weave (also known as a Beam Defense Position) is an aerial combat tactic developed by naval aviator John S. Thach and named by James H. Flatley of the United States Navy soon after the Unit ...
, developed a defensive strategy against ''kamikazes'' called the "
big blue blanket warships (destroyers) would use radar to detect incoming Japanese aircraft. They would then radio the position and course of the incoming aircraft to American fighters of the combat air patrol circling the main American fleet. Those fighters would t ...

big blue blanket
" to establish Allied
air supremacy Air supremacy is a degree of air superiority where a side holds complete control of air power Airpower or air power consists of the application of military aviation, military strategy and strategic theory to the realm of aerial warfare and ...
well away from the carrier force. This recommended
combat air patrol Combat air patrol (CAP) is a type of flying mission for fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat. In military conflict, the role of fighter aircraft is ...
s (CAP) that were larger and operated further from the carriers than before, a line of picket
destroyer In naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically ...

destroyer
s and
destroyer escort Destroyer escort (DE) was the United States Navy mid-20th-century classification for a warship designed with the endurance necessary to escort mid-ocean convoys of merchant marine ships. The Royal Navy and Commonwealth forces identified such ...
s at least from the main body of the fleet to provide earlier
radar Radar (radio detection and ranging) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (''ranging''), angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, Marine radar, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor ...

radar
interception and improved coordination between fighter direction officers on carriers. This plan also called for around-the-clock fighter patrols over Allied fleets. A final element included intensive fighter sweeps over Japanese airfields, and bombing Japanese runways, using delayed-action bombs making repairs more difficult. Late in 1944, the
British Pacific Fleet The British Pacific Fleet (BPF) was a Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the ...
(BPF) used the high-altitude performance of its
Supermarine Seafire The Supermarine Seafire was a naval version of the Supermarine Spitfire The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed primarily for ...

Supermarine Seafire
s (the naval version of the Spitfire) on combat air patrol duties. Seafires were involved in countering the ''kamikaze'' attacks during the Iwo Jima landings and beyond. The Seafires' best day was 15 August 1945, shooting down eight attacking aircraft with a single loss. Allied pilots were more experienced, better trained and in command of superior aircraft, making the poorly trained ''kamikaze'' pilots easy targets. The U.S.
Fast Carrier Task Force The Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 38 when assigned to Third Fleet, TF 58 when assigned to Fifth Fleet), was the main striking force of the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") (un ...
alone could bring over 1,000 fighter aircraft into play. Allied pilots became adept at destroying enemy aircraft before they struck ships. Allied gunners had begun to develop techniques to negate ''kamikaze'' attacks. Light rapid-fire anti-aircraft weapons such as the 20 mm Oerlikon autocannons were still useful though the
40 mm Bofors The Bofors 40 mm gun, often referred to simply as the Bofors gun, is an Anti-aircraft warfare, anti-aircraft autocannon designed in the 1930s by the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors, AB Bofors. It was one of the most popular medium-weight an ...
was preferred, and though their high rate of fire and quick training remained advantageous, they lacked the punch to take down a kamikaze bearing down on the ship they defended. It was found that heavy anti-aircraft guns such as the 5"/38 caliber gun (127 mm) were the most effective as they had sufficient firepower to destroy aircraft at a safe range from the ship, which was preferable since even a heavily damaged ''kamikaze'' could reach its target. The speedy ''Ohkas'' presented a very difficult problem for
anti-aircraft Anti-aircraft warfare or counter-air defence is the battlespace Battle-space is a term used to signify a unified military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goal ...
fire, since their velocity made
fire control Fire control is the practice of reducing the heat output of a fire BBQ. Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction Product (chemistry), products. Fi ...
extremely difficult. By 1945, large numbers of anti-aircraft shells with radiofrequency
proximity fuze A proximity fuze (or fuse) is a fuze In military munition Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used wi ...
s, on average seven times more effective than regular shells, became available, and the U.S. Navy recommended their use against ''kamikaze'' attacks.


Final phase

The peak period of ''kamikaze'' attack frequency came during April–June 1945 at the
Battle of Okinawa The , codenamed Operation Iceberg, was a major battle of the Pacific War The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live per ...

Battle of Okinawa
. On 6 April 1945, waves of aircraft made hundreds of attacks in Operation Kikusui ("floating chrysanthemums"). At Okinawa, ''kamikaze'' attacks focused at first on Allied
destroyer In naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically ...

destroyer
s on picket duty, and then on the carriers in the middle of the fleet. Suicide attacks by aircraft or boats at Okinawa sank or put out of action at least 30 U.S. warshipsNaval Historical Center, 2004
''Casualties: U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Vessels, Sunk or Damaged Beyond Repair during World War II, 7 December 1941 – 1 October 1945''
(U.S. Navy) Access date: 1 December 2007.
and at least three U.S.
merchant ship A merchant ship, merchant vessel, trading vessel, or merchantman is a watercraft Watercraft, also known as water vessels or waterborne vessels, are vehicles A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is any physical syst ...

merchant ship
s, along with some from other Allied forces. The attacks expended 1,465 aircraft. Many warships of all classes were damaged, some severely, but no aircraft carriers,
battleship A battleship is a large armored warship A warship or combatant ship is a that is built and primarily intended for . Usually they belong to the of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually ...

battleship
s or
cruiser A cruiser is a type of warship A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to with ...

cruiser
s were sunk by ''kamikaze'' at Okinawa. Most of the ships lost were destroyers or smaller vessels, especially those on picket duty. The destroyer earned the nickname "The Ship That Would Not Die" after surviving six ''kamikaze'' attacks and four bomb hits during this battle. U.S. carriers, with their wooden flight decks, appeared to suffer more damage from ''kamikaze'' hits than the armoured-decked carriers from the
British Pacific Fleet The British Pacific Fleet (BPF) was a Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the ...
. U.S. carriers also suffered considerably heavier casualties from ''kamikaze'' strikes; for instance, 389 men were killed in one attack on , greater than the combined number of fatalities suffered on all six Royal Navy armoured carriers from all forms of attack during the entire war. ''Bunker Hill'' and ''Franklin'' were both hit (in ''Franklin's'' case, although by a dive bomber and not a kamikaze) while conducting operations with fully fueled and armed aircraft spotted on deck for takeoff, an extremely vulnerable state for any carrier. Eight ''kamikaze'' hits on five British carriers resulted in only 20 deaths while a combined total of 15 bomb hits, most of weight or greater, and one torpedo hit on four carriers caused 193 fatal casualties earlier in the war – striking proof of the protective value of the armoured flight deck. The resilience of well-armoured vessels was shown on 4 May, just after 11:30, when there was a wave of suicide attacks against the British Pacific Fleet. One Japanese aircraft made a steep dive from "a great height" at the carrier and was engaged by anti-aircraft guns. Although the ''kamikaze'' was hit by gunfire, it managed to drop a bomb that detonated on the flight deck, making a crater long, wide and deep. A long steel splinter speared down through the hangar deck and the main boiler room (where it ruptured a steam line) before coming to rest in a fuel tank near the aircraft park, where it started a major fire. Eight personnel were killed and 47 were wounded. One Corsair and 10
Grumman Avenger The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) is an American torpedo bomber developed initially for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps, and eventually used by several air and ...

Grumman Avenger
s were destroyed. The fires were gradually brought under control, and the crater in the deck was repaired with concrete and steel plate. By 17:00, Corsairs were able to land. On 9 May, ''Formidable'' was again damaged by a ''kamikaze'', as were the carrier and the battleship . The British were able to clear the flight deck and resume flight operations in just hours, while their American counterparts took a few days or even months, as observed by a U.S. Navy liaison officer on who commented: "When a ''kamikaze'' hits a U.S. carrier it means six months of repair at
Pearl Harbor Pearl Harbor is an American lagoon File:Kara-Bogaz Gol from space, September 1995.jpg, Garabogazköl, Garabogaz-Göl lagoon in Turkmenistan A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by a narrow landform, su ...

Pearl Harbor
. When a ''kamikaze'' hits a Limey carrier it's just a case of 'Sweepers, man your brooms'." Twin-engine aircraft were occasionally used in planned ''kamikaze'' attacks. For example,
Mitsubishi Ki-67 The Mitsubishi Ki-67 ''Hiryū'' (飛龍, "Flying Dragon"; Allied reporting name "Peggy") was a twin-engine heavy bomber Heavy bombers are bomber Fixed-wing aircraft, aircraft capable of delivering the largest payload of air-to-ground weaponry (u ...
''Hiryū'' ("Peggy") medium bombers, based on Formosa, undertook ''kamikaze'' attacks on Allied forces off Okinawa, while a pair of
Kawasaki Ki-45 The Kawasaki Ki-45 ''Toryu'' (屠龍, "Dragonslayer") was a two-seat, twin-engine heavy fighter A heavy fighter is a historic category of fighter aircraft Fighter aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft, fixed-wing military aircraft designed pri ...

Kawasaki Ki-45
''Toryu'' ("Nick") heavy fighters caused enough damage for USS ''Dickerson'' (DD-157) to be scuttled. Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, the commander of the IJN 5th Air Fleet based in Kyushu, participated in one of the final kamikaze attacks on American ships on 15 August 1945, hours after Japan's announced surrender.


Effects

As the end of the war approached, the Allies did not suffer more serious significant losses, despite having far more ships and facing a greater intensity of ''kamikaze'' attacks. Although causing some of the heaviest casualties on U.S. carriers in 1945 (particularly as ''Bunker Hill'' was unlucky to get hit with fueled and armed aircraft on deck), the IJN had sacrificed 2,525 ''kamikaze'' pilots and the IJAAF 1,387 without successfully sinking any fleet carriers, cruisers, nor battleships. This was far more than the IJN had lost in 1942 when it sank or crippled three U.S. fleet carriers (albeit without inflicting significant casualties). In 1942, when U.S. Navy vessels were scarce, the temporary absence of key warships from the combat zone would tie up operational initiatives. By 1945, however, the U.S. Navy was large enough that damaged ships could be detached back home for repair without significantly hampering the fleet's operational capability. The only U.S. surface losses were escort carriers, destroyers and smaller ships, all of which lacked the armor protection and/or capability to sustain heavy damage. Overall, the ''kamikazes'' were unable to turn the tide of the war and stop the Allied invasion. In the immediate aftermath of ''kamikaze'' strikes, British fleet carriers with their armoured flight decks recovered more quickly Comparison of armoured to unarmoured flight deck designs#Postwar_analysis, compared to their US counterparts. Post-war analysis showed that some British carriers such as HMS ''Formidable'' suffered structural damage that led to them being scrapped, as being beyond economic repair. Economic history of the United Kingdom#1945–1959: the post-War era, Britain's post-war economic situation played a role in the decision to not repair damaged carriers, while even seriously damaged American carriers such as USS ''Bunker Hill'' were repaired, although they were then mothballed or sold off as surplus after World War II without re-entering service. The exact number of ships sunk is a matter of debate. According to a wartime Japanese propaganda announcement, the missions sank 81 ships and damaged 195, and according to a Japanese tally, ''kamikaze'' attacks accounted for up to 80% of the U.S. losses in the final phase of the war in the Pacific. In a 2004 book, ''World War II'', the historians Willmott, Cross and Messenger stated that more than 70 U.S. vessels were "sunk or damaged beyond repair" by ''kamikazes''. According to a United States Air Force, U.S. Air Force webpage: Australian journalists Denis and Peggy Warner, in a 1982 book with Japanese naval historian Sadao Seno (''The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions''), arrived at a total of 57 ships sunk by ''kamikazes''. Bill Gordon, an American Japanese Studies, Japanologist who specializes in ''kamikazes'', lists in a 2007 article 47 ships known to have been sunk by ''kamikaze'' aircraft. Gordon says that the Warners and Seno included ten ships that did not sink. He lists: * three escort carriers: , , and * 14 destroyers, including the last ship to be sunk, on 29 July 1945, off Okinawa * three high-speed transport ships * five Landing Ship, Tank * four Landing Ship Medium * three Landing Ship Medium, Landing Ship Medium (Rocket) * one auxiliary Petroleum tanker, tanker * three Victory ships * three Liberty ships * two high-speed minesweepers * one Auk class minesweeper * one submarine chaser * two PT boats * two Landing Craft Support


Recruitment

It was claimed by the Japanese forces at the time that there were many volunteers for the suicidal forces. Captain Motoharu Okamura commented that "there were so many volunteers for suicide missions that he referred to them as a swarm of bees", explaining: "Bees die after they have stung."Axell, p. 35 Okamura is credited with being the first to propose the ''kamikaze'' attacks. He had expressed his desire to lead a volunteer group of suicide attacks some four months before Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, commander of the Japanese naval air forces in the Philippines, presented the idea to his staff. While Vice-Admiral Shigeru Fukudome, commander of the second air fleet, was inspecting the 341st Air Group, Captain Okamura took the chance to express his ideas on crash-dive tactics: When the volunteers arrived for duty in the corps, there were twice as many persons as aircraft available. "After the war, some commanders would express regret for allowing superfluous crews to accompany sorties, sometimes squeezing themselves aboard bombers and fighters so as to encourage the suicide pilots and, it seems, join in the exultation of sinking a large enemy vessel." Many of the ''kamikaze'' pilots believed their death would pay the debt they owed and show the love they had for their families, friends and emperor. "So eager were many minimally trained pilots to take part in suicide missions that when their sorties were delayed or aborted, the pilots became deeply despondent. Many of those who were selected for a body crashing mission were described as being extraordinarily blissful immediately before their final sortie." As time wore on, modern critics questioned the nationalist portrayal of ''kamikaze'' pilots as noble soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives for the country. In 2006, Tsuneo Watanabe, editor-in-chief of the ''Yomiuri Shimbun'', criticized Japanese nationalists' glorification of ''kamikaze'' attacks:
It's all a lie that they left filled with braveness and joy, crying, "Long live the Hirohito, emperor!" They were sheep at a slaughterhouse. Everybody was looking down and tottering. Some were unable to stand up and were carried and pushed into their aircraft by maintenance soldiers.


Training

''Tokkōtai'' pilot training, as described by Takeo Kasuga, generally "consisted of incredibly strenuous training, coupled with cruel and torturous corporal punishment as a daily routine". The training, in theory, lasted for thirty days, but because of American raids and shortage of fuel it could last up to two months. Daikichi Irokawa, who trained at Tsuchiura Naval Air Base, recalled that he "was struck on the face so hard and frequently that [his] face was no longer recognizable". He also wrote: "I was hit so hard that I could no longer see and fell on the floor. The minute I got up, I was hit again by a club so that I would confess." This brutal "training" was justified by the idea that it would instil a "soldier's fighting spirit", but daily beatings and corporal punishment eliminated patriotism among many pilots.Ohnuki-Tierney Pilots were given a manual that detailed how they were supposed to think, prepare and attack. From this manual, pilots were told to "attain a high level of spiritual training", and to "keep [their] health in the very best condition". These instructions, among others, were meant to make pilots mentally ready to die. The ''tokkōtai'' pilot's manual also explained how a pilot may turn back if he could not locate a target, and that a pilot "should not waste [his] life lightly". One pilot, a graduate from Waseda University, who continually came back to base was shot after his ninth return. The manual was very detailed in how a pilot should attack. A pilot would dive towards his target and "aim for a point between the bridge tower and the smokestacks". Entering a smokestack was also said to be "effective". Pilots were told not to aim at a carrier's bridge tower but instead to target the elevators or the flight deck. For horizontal attacks, the pilot was to "aim at the middle of the vessel, slightly higher than the waterline" or to "aim at the entrance to the aircraft hangar, or the bottom of the stack" if the former was too difficult. The ''tokkōtai'' pilot's manual told pilots to never close their eyes, as this would lower the chances of hitting their targets. In the final moments before the crash, the pilot was to yell "''hissatsu''" (必殺) at the top of his lungs, which translates to "certain kill" or "sink without fail".


Cultural background

In 1944–45, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, US military leaders invented the term "State Shinto" as part of the Shinto Directive to differentiate the Japanese state's ideology from traditional Shinto practices. As time went on, Americans claimed, Shinto was used increasingly in the promotion of nationalism, nationalist sentiment. In 1890, the Imperial Rescript on Education was passed, under which students were required to ritually recite its oath to offer themselves "courageously to the State (polity), state" as well as protect the Imperial House of Japan, Imperial family. The ultimate offering was to give up one's life. It was an honour to die for Japan and the Hirohito, Emperor. Axell and Kase pointed out: "The fact is that innumerable soldiers, sailors and pilots were determined to die, to become ''eirei'', that is 'guardian spirits' of the country. ... Many Japanese felt that to be enshrined at Yasukuni was a special honour because the Emperor visited the shrine to pay homage twice a year. Yasukuni is the only shrine deifying common men which the Emperor would visit to pay his respects." Young Japanese people were indoctrinated from an early age with these ideals. Following the commencement of the ''kamikaze'' tactic, newspapers and books ran advertisements, articles and stories regarding the suicide bombers to aid in recruiting and support. In October 1944, the ''Nippon Times'' quoted Lieutenant Sekio Nishina: "The spirit of the Special Attack Corps is the great spirit that runs in the blood of every Japanese ... The crashing action which simultaneously kills the enemy and oneself without fail is called the Special Attack ... Every Japanese is capable of becoming a member of the Special Attack Corps." Publishers also played up the idea that the ''kamikaze'' were enshrined at Yasukuni and ran exaggerated stories of ''kamikaze'' bravery – there were even fairy tales for little children that promoted the ''kamikaze''. A Foreign Office official named Toshikazu Kase said: "It was customary for GHQ [in Tokyo] to make false announcements of victory in utter disregard of facts, and for the elated and complacent public to believe them." While many stories were falsified, some were true, such as that of Kiyu Ishikawa, who saved a Japanese ship when he crashed his aircraft into a
torpedo A modern torpedo is an underwater ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the eff ...

torpedo
that an American submarine had launched. The sergeant-major was posthumously promoted to second lieutenant by the emperor and was enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine, Yasukuni.Axell, p. 41 Stories like these, which showed the kind of praise and honour death produced, encouraged young Japanese to volunteer for the Special Attack Corps and instilled a desire in the youth to die as a ''kamikaze''. Ceremonies were carried out before ''kamikaze'' pilots departed on their final mission. The ''kamikaze'' shared ceremonial cups of sake or water known as "mizu no sakazuki". Many ''kamikaze'' Army officers took their swords along, while the Navy pilots (as a general rule) did not. The ''kamikaze'', along with all Japanese aviators flying over unfriendly territory, were issued (or purchased, if they were officers) a Nambu pistol with which to end their lives if they risked being captured. Like all Army and Navy servicemen, the ''kamikaze'' would wear their ''senninbari'', a "belt of a thousand stitches" given to them by their mothers. They also composed and read a death poem, a tradition stemming from the
samurai were the hereditary military nobility and officer caste of History of Japan#Medieval Japan (1185–1573/1600), medieval and Edo period, early-modern Japan from the late 12th century to their abolition in 1876. They were the well-paid retainer ...

samurai
, who did so before committing ''seppuku''. Pilots carried prayers from their families and were given military decorations. The ''kamikaze'' were escorted by other pilots whose function was to protect them en route to their destination and report on the results. Some of these escort pilots, such as Zero pilot Toshimitsu Imaizumi, were later sent out on their own ''kamikaze'' missions. While it is commonly perceived that volunteers signed up in droves for ''kamikaze'' missions, it has also been contended that there was extensive coercion and peer pressure involved in recruiting soldiers for the sacrifice. Their motivations in "volunteering" were complex and not simply about patriotism or bringing honour to their families. Firsthand interviews with surviving ''kamikaze'' and escort pilots has revealed that they were motivated by a desire to protect their families from perceived atrocities and possible extinction at the hands of the Allies. They viewed themselves as the last defense. At least one of these pilots was a conscripted Korean with a Japanese name, adopted under the pre-war ''Soshi-kaimei'' ordinance that compelled Koreans to take Japanese personal names. Eleven of the 1,036 IJA ''kamikaze'' pilots who died in sorties from Chiran Special Attack Peace Museum, Chiran and other Japanese air bases during the Battle of Okinawa were Koreans. It is said that young pilots on ''kamikaze'' missions often flew southwest from Japan over the Mount Kaimon. The mountain is also called ''"Satsuma Fuji"'' (meaning a mountain like Mount Fuji but located in the Satsuma Province region). Suicide-mission pilots looked over their shoulders to see the mountain, the southernmost on the Japanese mainland, said farewell to their country and saluted the mountain. Residents on Kikai Island, Kikaishima Island, east of Amami Ōshima, say that pilots from suicide-mission units dropped flowers from the air as they departed on their final missions. ''Kamikaze'' pilots who were unable to complete their missions (because of mechanical failure, interception, etc.) were stigmatized in the years following the war. This stigma began to diminish some 50 years after the war as scholars and publishers began to distribute the survivors' stories. Some Japanese military personnel were critical of the policy. Officers such as Minoru Genda, Tadashi Minobe and Yoshio Shiga, refused to obey the policy. They said that the commander of a ''kamikaze'' attack should engage in the task first. Some persons who obeyed the policy, such as Kiyokuma Okajima, Saburo Shindo and Iyozo Fujita, were also critical of the policy. Saburō Sakai said: "We never dared to question orders, to doubt authority, to do anything but immediately carry out all the commands of our superiors. We were automatons who obeyed without thinking." Tetsuzō Iwamoto refused to engage in a ''kamikaze'' attack because he thought the task of fighter pilots was to shoot down aircraft.


Film

* ''Saigo no Tokkōtai'' (最後の特攻隊, ''The Last Kamikaze'' in English), released in 1970, produced by Toei Company, Toei, directed by Junya Sato and starring Kōji Tsuruta, Ken Takakura and Shinichi Chiba * Toei Company, Toei also produced a biographical film about Takijirō Ōnishi in 1974 called ''Ā Kessen Kōkūtai'' (あゝ決戦航空隊, ''Father of the Kamikaze'' in English), directed by Kōsaku Yamashita. * ''The Cockpit (OVA), The Cockpit'', an anthology of short films containing one about a ''kamikaze'' pilot * Masami Takahashi, ''Last Kamikaze Testimonials from WWII Suicide Pilots'' (Watertown, MA
Documentary Educational Resources
2008) * Risa Morimoto, ''Wings of Defeat'' (Harriman, NY
New Day Films
2007) * ''Ore wa, kimi no tameni koso'' (2007, ''For Those We Love'' in English) * ''Assault on the Pacific – Kamikaze'' (2007), directed by Taku Shinjo (Original title: "俺は、君のためにこそ死ににいく" ''Ore wa, Kimi no Tame ni Koso Shini ni Iku'') * ''The Eternal Zero'' (永遠の0 Eien no Zero) – 2013 film directed by Takashi Yamazaki


See also

* Aerial ramming * Banzai charge *
Bushido is a moral code concerning samurai attitudes, behavior and lifestyle. It is loosely analogous to the European concept of chivalry. There are multiple Bushido types which evolved significantly through history. Contemporary forms of bushido ar ...

Bushido
* Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots * List of Imperial Japanese Army air-to-surface special attack units * List of Imperial Japanese Navy air-to-surface special attack units * List of ships damaged by kamikaze attack * Living torpedoes * Ryōji Uehara * Sonderkommando Elbe * Suicide by pilot * Suicide weapon


References


Notes


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * Parshall, Jonathan B., Tully, Anthony P. (2005). ''Shattered Sword''. Washington: Potomac Books. * Mark Peattie, Peattie, Mark R. (2001). ''Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909–1941''. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. * Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. (2006). ''Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers.'' Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. * * * *


Further reading

* * * * chapter 10


External links


Kamikaze Images



An ex-kamikaze pilot creates a new world

World War II Database: Kamikaze Doctrine

What motivated the Kamikazes?
on WW2History.com {{Authority control Kamikaze, 1944 in Japan 1945 in Japan Aerial operations and battles of World War II Battle of Leyte Gulf Imperial Japanese Navy Japan campaign Japan in World War II Kamikaze pilots, Military history of Japan during World War II Suicide bombing World War II suicide weapons of Japan Japanese aviators