USS Bunker Hill
was hit by Ogawa (see picture left) and another kamikaze near Kyushu Japanees Kamikazes on May 11, Japnese Kamikazes 1945. Out of a crew of 2,600, 372 personnel were Jappanese Kamikazes killed.
For other uses, see Kamikaze (disambiguation).
Kamikaze listen (Japanese: 神風; kami = god, spirit kaze = Japanse Kamikazes wind) is a word of Japanese origin, which Japannese Kamikazes in the English language usually refers to the suicide attacks by military Japanee Kamikazes aviators from the Empire of Japan, against Allied shipping, in the closing stages of Apanese Kamikazes the Pacific campaign of World War II.
These attacks, beginning in 1944, followed Japaese Kamikazes several very significant and critical military and strategic Japamese Kamikazes defeats for Japan, its decreasing capacity to wage war along with loss of experienced pilots, and the Allies' increased ability, Japanesee Kamikazes due largely to the industrial capacity of the United Japnaese Kamikazes States and Japan's reluctance to surrender.
Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa hit the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill
(see picture right).
In these attacks Japanese pilots would deliberately attempt to crash their aircraft into naval vessels and other ships. Sometimes laden with explosives, extra bombs, and carrying full fuel tanks, their objective was to stop the Allied advance towards the Japanese home islands by causing as much damage and destruction as possible. Kamikaze attacks of this kind were the most common and best-known, however the Japanese made wider use of — or had plans for — suicide attacks by other Japanese personnel, including suicide torpedoes, boats, submarines (see Japanese Special Attack Units).
Since the end of the war the term has sometimes been used as a pars pro toto for other kinds of attack in which an attacker is deliberately sacrificed. These include a variety of suicide attacks, in other historical contexts, such as the proposed use of Selbstopfer aircraft by Nazi Germany and various suicide bombings by terrorist organizations around the world, such as the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In English, the word kamikaze may also be used in a hyperbolic or metaphorical fashion to refer to non-fatal actions which result in significant loss for the attacker, such as injury or the end of a career.
- 1 Origins of the word kamikaze
- 2 History
- 2.1 Background
- 2.2 The first kamikaze unit
- 2.3 The first attacks
- 2.4 The main wave of kamikaze attacks
- 2.5 Use of the tactic for air raid defense
- 2.6 Effects
- 2.7 Traditions and folklore
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Origins of the word kamikaze
Lt Yamaguchi’s Yokosuka D4Y3 (Type 33) Suisei
diving at USS Essex
, November 25, 1944. The air brakes are extended and the non-self-sealing port wing tank is trailing fuel vapor and/or smoke.
- See also: kamikaze (typhoon)
In the Japanese language, kamikaze (IPA: [kamikaze]) (Japanese:神風), usually translated as "divine wind" (kami is the word for "god", "spirit", or "divinity"; and kaze for "wind"), came into being as the name of legendary typhoons said to have saved Japan from Mongol invasion fleets in 1274 and 1281.
In Japanese, the formal term used for units carrying out these suicide attacks during World War II is tokubetsu kōgeki tai (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 were officially called shinpū tokubetsu kōgeki tai (神風特別攻撃隊, "divine wind special attack units". Shinpū is the on-reading (on'yomi or Chinese-derived pronunciation) of the same characters that form the word Kamikaze in Japanese. However, during World War II, the actual word Kamikaze was never, or rarely, used in Japan in relation to suicide attacks. U.S. translators during the war erroneously used the kun'yomi (indigenous Japanese pronunciation) for Shinpū, giving the English language the word kamikaze, for Japanese suicide units in general. This usage gained acceptance worldwide.
After the war, Japanese speakers re-imported the word and the English language pronunciation, under the influence of U.S. media sources. As a result, the special attack units are sometimes known in Japan as kamikaze tokubetsu kōgeki tai.
A kamikaze (just left of center near the top border), a Mitsubishi Zero in this case, about to hit the Missouri
Model 52c Zeros are sent back from Korea to Kyushû island, to take part in a Kamikaze attack (early 1945).
After six months of continuous victories following their Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces were checked at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942, defeated at the Battle of Midway in June of that year, and finally lost their momentum at Guadalcanal. During 1943-44, Allied forces, backed by the industrial might and rich resources of the United States, were advancing steadily towards Japan.
Japan's fighter planes were becoming outnumbered and outclassed by newer US-made planes, especially the F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat. Following losses at Midway, the battles of attrition which wore down IJN naval aviation in the Solomon Islands and over Rabaul, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea where Japan lost over 400 carrier-based planes and pilots (in an action referred to in the United States, albeit less so in recent years, as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot), skilled fighter pilots became extremely scarce. Low availability of parts and fuel made even normal flight operations difficult.
On July 15, 1944, the important Japanese base of Saipan fell to the Allied forces. Its capture provided adequate forward bases which enabled US air forces using B-29 Superfortress long-range bombers 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 due to their location between the oil fields of Southeast Asia and Japan.
The prediction came true in October 17, 1944, when 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 Mitsubishi Zero carrier-based fighters, three Nakajima B6N torpedo bombers, one Mitsubishi G4M and two Yokosuka P1Y land-based bombers, with one additional reconnaissance plane. The task facing the Japanese air forces seemed totally impossible. The 1st Air Fleet commandant, Vice Admiral Takijiro Onishi decided to form a suicide attack unit, the Kamikaze Special Attack Force. In a meeting at Magracut Airfield near Manila on October 19, Onishi, visiting the 201st Navy Flying Corps headquarters, suggested: "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."
The suicide attacks carried out against enemy ships by aircraft were called "Kamikaze" by the Navy and "Shinbu" by the Army.
The first kamikaze unit
) Yukio Seki wearing a life preserver.
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, thereby volunteering to join the operation. Later, Tamai asked Lt Yukio Seki to command the special attack force. Seki is said to have closed his eyes, lowered his head and thought for ten seconds, before asking Tamai: "please let me do that." Seki thereby became the 24th kamikaze pilot to be chosen. However, Seki later wrote: "Japan's future is bleak if it is forced to kill one of its best pilots. 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 poem (waka or tanka), "Shikishima no Yamato – gokoro wo hito, towaba Asahi ni niou Yamazakura Bama" by the Japanese classical scholar, Motoori Norinaga. The poem reads:
- If someone asks about the Yamato [predominant ethnic group in Japan] spirit of Shikishima [a poetic name for Japan]
- It is the flowers of yamazakura [mountain cherry blossom ] that are fragrant
- in the Asahi [rising sun].
The first attacks
The bridge and forward turrets of HMAS Australia
, in September 1944. The officer facing right is Captain Emile Dechaineux, killed during the first-ever kamikaze attack, on October 21, 1944.
At least one source cites Japanese planes crashing into the USS Indiana and USS Reno in mid-late 1944 as the first kamikaze attacks of World War II. However, there is little evidence that these hits were more than accidental collisions or last-minute decisions by pilots in doomed aircraft, of the kind likely to happen in intense sea-air battles.
Captain 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 (or "Judy") dive bombers against a large Essex class aircraft carrier, USS Franklin near Leyte Gulf, on (or about, accounts vary) October 15, 1944. Although Arima was killed, and part of a plane hit the Franklin, it is not clear that this was a planned suicide attack. 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. Official accounts of his attack bore little resemblance to the events concerned.
In any case, the idea of suicide attacks was not new and — according to eyewitness accounts by Allied personnel — the first kamikaze attack was carried out by an unknown pilot, who was not a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Force; the target was the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy, HMAS Australia. The attack took place on October 21, 1944, near Leyte Island; gunners from HMAS Australia and HMAS Shropshire fired at, and reportedly hit, an unidentified Japanese aircraft. The plane then flew away from the ships, before turning and flying into Australia, striking the ship's superstructure above the bridge, and spewing burning fuel and debris over a large area, before falling into the sea. A 200 kg (440 pound) bomb carried by the plane failed to explode; if it had, the ship might have been effectively destroyed. At least 30 crew members died as a result of the attack, including the commanding officer, Captain Emile Dechaineux; among the wounded was Commodore John Collins, the Australian force commander.
On October 25, 1944 the Australia was hit again and was forced to retire to the New Hebrides for repairs. That same day, 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 an escort carrier, the USS St. Lo. Although only one plane actually hit the St. Lo, its bomb caused fires that resulted in the bomb magazine exploding, sinking the carrier. Others hit and damaged several other Allied ships.
A Mitsubishi Zero (A6M5 Model 52) towards the end of its run at the escort carrier USS White Plains
(CVE-66) on October 25, 1944. The aircraft exploded shortly after this picture was taken, scattering debris across the deck.
Starboard horizontal stabilizer] from the tail a "Judy" on the deck of USS Kitkun Bay
By day's end on October 26, 55 kamikaze from the special attack force had also damaged the large escort carriers USS Sangamon (CVE-26), USS Suwannee (CVE-27), USS Santee (CVE-29), and the smaller escorts USS White Plains, USS Kalinin Bay, and USS Kitkun Bay. In total seven carriers had been hit, as well as 40 other ships (five sunk, 23 heavily damaged, and 12 moderately damaged).
HMAS Australia returned to combat at the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in January 1945. However, on January 5, 6, 8 and 9, the ship was again attacked by kamikazes and suffered damage which forced it to retire once more. The ship lost about 70 crew members to kamikaze hits. Other Allied ships which survived repeated hits from kamikazes during World War II included the Franklin and another Essex class carrier, USS Intrepid.
is attacked by a kamikaze off Lingayen Gulf, 6 January 1945
The kamikaze hits Columbia
at 17:29. The plane and its bomb penetrated two decks before exploding, killing 13 and wounding 44.
The main wave of kamikaze attacks
- Transcend life and death. When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills.
(A paragraph from the kamikaze pilots' manual.)
Early successes, such as the sinking of the St. Lo were followed by an immediate expansion of the program, and over the next few months over 2,000 planes made such attacks.
Purpose-built kamikaze planes, as opposed to converted fighters and dive-bombers, had no landing gear at all. A specially-designed propellor plane, the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi, was a simple, easy-to-build plane, intended to use up existing stocks of engines, in a wooden airframe. The undercarriage was non-retractable: it was jettisoned shortly after take-off for a suicide mission, and then re-used on other planes. Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka rocket-bombs — essentially anti-ship missiles guided by pilots; were first used in March 1945. These were also used against B-29 formations over Japanese cities, and were derisively known as the Baka Bomb ("baka" is Japanese for "fool"). Small boats packed with explosives, and manned torpedoes, called Kaiten were also manufactured.
In early 1945, Commander John Thach, a U.S. Navy air operations officer, who was already famous for developing effective aerial tactics against the Japanese such as the Thach Weave, developed an anti-kamikaze strategy called the "big blue blanket". This plan called for round-the-clock fighter patrols over Allied fleets. However, the US Navy had cut back training of fighter pilots due to a perceived need for a higher percentage of pilots to fly bombers and transport aircraft, so there were not enough Navy pilots available to counter the kamikaze threat. The Navy hurriedly began to cross-train their carrier pilots on the F6F Hellcat, and brought Marine F4U Corsair squadrons aboard aircraft carriers.
Thach also recommended larger combat air patrols (CAP), further from the carriers than had previously been the case, intensive fighter sweeps over Japanese airfields, the bombing of Japanese runways with delayed action fuses, to make repairs more difficult, a line of picket destroyers and destroyer escorts at least 50 miles (80 km) from the main body of the fleet, to provide earlier radar interception, and improved coordination between fighter direction officers on carriers.
The peak in kamikaze attacks came during the period of April-June 1945, at the Battle of Okinawa. On April 6, 1945 waves of planes made hundreds of attacks, in Operation Kikusui ("floating chrysanthemums"). At Okinawa, kamikaze attacks focused at first on Allied destroyers on picket duty, and then on the carriers in the middle of the fleet. Suicide attacks by planes or boats at Okinawa sank or put out of action at least 30 US warships and at least three US merchant ships, along with some from other Allied forces. The attacks expended 1,465 planes. Many warships of all classes were damaged, some severely, but no aircraft carriers, battleships or cruisers were sunk by kamikaze at Okinawa. Most of the ships destroyed were destroyers or smaller vessels, especially those on picket duty.
Almost all Army kamikaze pilots during the Okinawan campaign in 1945 were between 17 and 22. The youngest pilot to complete a suicide attack was 16.
US aircraft carriers, with their wooden flight decks, were more vulnerable to kamikaze hits, than the reinforced steel-decked carriers from the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) which operated in the theatre during 1945. The resilience of well-armoured vessels was shown on May 4. Just after 11.30 a.m. there was a wave of attacks against the BPF. One Japanese plane made a steep dive from "a great height" at the carrier HMS Formidable and was engaged by AA guns. The kamikaze was hit at close range, but crashed into the flight deck, making a massive dent about 10 feet (3 m) long, two feet (0.6 m) wide and two feet deep in the armoured flight deck. A large steel splinter speared down through the hangar deck and the centre boiler-room, where it ruptured a steam line, and came to rest in a fuel tank, starting a major fire in the aircraft park. Eight crew members were killed and 47 were wounded. One Corsair and 10 Grumman Avengers were destroyed. However, the fires were gradually brought under control and the crater in the deck was repaired with concrete and steel plate. By 5 p.m., Corsairs were again able to land on Formidable.
The Japanese resistance at Okinawa included a one-way mission by the battleship Yamato, which failed to get anywhere near the action, after being set upon by Allied planes, several hundred miles away. (See Operation Ten-Go.)
As the end of the war approached, the Allies did not suffer significantly more damage, despite having far more ships than was previously the case and being attacked in far greater density. Due to their poor training, kamikaze pilots tended to be easy targets for experienced Allied pilots, who also flew superior aircraft. Moreover the U.S. Fast Carrier Task Force alone could bring over 1,000 fighter aircraft into play. Allied pilots also became adept at destroying enemy aircraft before they struck ships. Allied naval crews had also begun to develop techniques to negate kamikaze attacks, such as firing their high-caliber guns into the sea in front of attacking planes flying near sea level, in order to create walls of water which would swamp the attacking planes. Although such tactics could not be used against Okhas and other fast, high angle attacks, these were in turn more vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire.
During 1945, the Japanese military began stockpiling hundreds of Tsurugi, other propellor planes, Ohka, and suicide boats, for use against Allied forces expected to invade Japan. Few were ever used.
A Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.
Use of the tactic for air raid defense
When Japan began to be subject to intense strategic bombing by B-29 Bombers after the capture of Iwo Jima, the Japanese military attempted to use suicide attacks against this threat.
However, it proved much less successful and practical since an airplane is a much faster, more maneuverable, and smaller target than a warship. Taken with the fact that the B-29 model also had formidable defensive weaponry, suicide attacks against the plane type demanded considerable piloting skill to be successful. That worked against the very purpose of using expendable pilots and even encouraging capable pilots to bail out before impact was ineffective because vital personnel were often lost when they mistimed when to exit and were killed as a result.
A crewman in an AA gun aboard the battleship USS New Jersey
watches as a kamikaze plane prepares to strike USS Intrepid
By the end of World War II, the Japanese naval air service had sacrificed 2,525 kamikaze pilots and the army air force had given 1,387. According to an official Japanese announcement, the missions sank 81 ships and damaged 195, and according to a Japanese tally, suicide attacks accounted for up to 80 percent of US losses in the final phase of the war in the Pacific.
According to a U.S. Air Force webpage:
- Approximately 2,800 Kamikaze attackers sunk 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded over 4,800. Despite radar detection and cuing, airborne interception and attrition, and massive anti-aircraft barrages, a distressing 14 percent of Kamikazes survived to score a hit on a ship; nearly 8.5 percent of all ships hit by Kamikazes sank.
In a 2004 book, World War II, the historians Wilmott, Cross & Messenger stated that more than 70 U.S. vessels were "sunk or damaged beyond repair" by kamikazes.
Traditions and folklore
While 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.
Special ceremonies were often held, immediately prior to kamikaze missions, in which pilots, carrying prayers from their families, were given military decorations. Such practices honored and legitimized the suicide missions.
According to legend, young pilots on kamikaze missions often flew southwest from Japan over the 922 metre (~3000 ft) Mount Kaimon. The mountain is also called "Satsuma Fuji" (meaning a geometrically symmetrical beautiful mountain like Mount Fuji, but located in the Satsuma Province region). Suicide mission pilots looked over their shoulders to see this, the most southern mountain on the Japanese mainland, while they were in the air, said farewell to their country, and saluted the mountain.
Chiran high school girls wave farewell with cherry blossom branches to departing kamikaze pilot in a Ki-43-II Hayabusa
Residents on Kikaijima island, east of Amami Oshima, say that pilots from suicide mission units dropped flowers from the air, as they departed on their final missions. According to legend, the hills above Kikaijima airport have beds of cornflower that bloom in early May (Source: Jiro Kosaka, 1995, Kyō ware Ikiteari).
With the passing of time, some prominent Japanese military figures who survived the war became critical of the policy. Saburo Sakai, an IJN ace said:
- A kamikaze is a surprise attack, according to our ancient war tactics. Surprise attacks will be successful the first time, maybe two or three times. But what fool would continue the same attacks for ten months? Emperor Hirohito must have realized it. He should have said "Stop."
- Even now, many faces of my students come up when I close my eyes. So many students are gone. Why did headquarters continue such silly attacks for ten months! Fools! Genda, who went to America — all those men lied that all men volunteered for kamikaze units. They lied.
- Personnel involved in the development of World War II suicide attacks
- List of Kamikaze Commanders,Supporters and Units (WWII)
- Giretsu special forces operations
- Operation Tan No. 2
- Suicide weapon
- Vehicle explosion
- Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, a Japanese comic book
- The article contains materials from Mr. Nobu's personal website with permission for use.
- Axell, Albert; Hideaki Kase (2002). Kamikaze: Japan's Suicide Gods. New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-77232-X.
- Hoyt, Edwin P. (1993). The Last Kamikaze. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-94067-5.
- Millot, Bernard (1971). DIVINE THUNDER: The life and death of the Kamikazes. Macdonald. ISBN 0-356-03856-4.
- Sheftall, M.G. (2005 (paperback 2006)). Blossoms in the Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze. New York: New American Library/Penguin. ISBN 0-451-21487-0.
- Ugaki, Matome; Masataka Chihaya (Translator) (1991). Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941-1945. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 0-8229-3665-8.
- Warner, Denis & Peggy; Sadao Seno (1984). The Sacred Warriors: Japan’s Suicide Legions. Avon Books, 400pp. ISBN 0-380-67678-8.
- Wilmott, H.P; Robin Cross & Charles Messenger (2004). World War II. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN.
- ^ (Albert Axell & Hideaki Kase, 2002. Kamikaze: Japan's Suicide Gods. London: Pearson Education, p.16.
- ^ Bill Coombes, 1995, "Divine Wind The Japanese secret weapon - kamikaze suicide attacks"
- Kamikaze Images - Explores different Western and Japanese portrayals and perceptions of kamikaze pilots.
- Kamikaze Footage - Kamikaze footage from WWII
- An ex-kamikaze pilot creates a new world
- "Who became Kamikaze Pilots..."
- "The kamikaze pilot who chose life before empire"
- www.geocities.jp (Book collection)
- Excerpt from Kamikaze Diaries
- Kaiten Photos of the Kaiten Suicide Submarine at the NJ Naval Museum in Hackensack, NJ
- Okinawa Suicide Boat Photos of the Japanese Suicide Demolition Boat at the Battleship Cove Naval Museum in Fall River, MA
Categories: Articles to be merged since October 2006 | Articles with unsourced statements | Imperial Japanese Navy | Japanese words and phrases | Military history of Japan | Suicide bombing | World War II Japanese suicide weapons | Aviators who committed suicide | Mass suicides