Divine Wind of Death
|Remains of a kamikaze attack on the U.S.S. Bunker Hill, 11 May 1945.|
The first Kamikaze attack was not planned out far in advance. Captain Motoharu Okamura, a staff officer at the Tateyama Base in Tokyo, began studying the idea on 15 June 1944. An experimental attack by two planes was made on 13 September 1944 from the 31st Fighter Squadron on Negros Island. Nobody knows what happened to those planes, and the experiment was not soon repeated, but the idea remained alive.
About a month later, Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, the commander of the 26th Air Flotilla (part of the 11th Air Fleet) then personally led a large attack of about 100 Yokosuka D4Y Suisei ("Judy") dive bombers against the USS Franklin aircraft carrier. The attack was unsuccessful, as the Franklin was only lightly damaged (one bomb hit and killed three men, but the Franklin remained operational). Since Arima died during the attack, however, the Japanese propaganda services turned his death into a glorious suicide mission. This apparently gave others in the Japanese military ideas.
|Takahiro Onishi and his sword.|
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.As Onishi stated, many of the attacks were carried out in Zeros, at least until special-purpose planes became available. The initial objective was not even to sink the target, but just put it out of action. Due to the ultimate success of the program, Onishi came to be known as the father of the kamikaze. He committed ritual suicide (seppuku) with his sword in his quarters following the surrender of Japan.
|The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi was a one-man kamikaze aircraft developed by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in the closing stages of World War II in late 1945.|
|Kamikaze pilots, May 1945.|
|Kamikaze pilot with cherry blossoms.|
|A 1944 Japanese magazine showing a pre-flight tea party for kamikaze pilots.|
|Kamikaze attack on the USS Yorktown. Shells would be purposely fired into the sea to form a "curtain of water" that could down a plane.|
|Close-up of Japanese Kamikaze just before he crashed on USS Essex, November 25, 1944 Photographed by Lt. Comdr. Earl Colgrove, USNR.|
|A Japanese Kamikaze plane smashes into the side of the Battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) during the invasion of Okinawa.|
- Approximately 8.5% of all ships hit were sunk;
- 34 ships sunk;
- 368 ships damaged (many, as noted above, never repaired);
- 4900 sailors killed;
|Sonia Ki-51 special attack aircraft of Japanese Army Sekicho Squadron diving at USS Columbia in Lingayen Gulf, Philippine Islands, 1729 hours, 6 Jan 1945. Photo was taken from USS California.|
- Ommaney Bay (4 January 1945);
|USS Saratoga off Iwo Jima.|
|USS Randolph after a kamikaze attack, March 11, 1945, showing the massive hole in the stern deck.|
USS Intrepid AttackThere is a good sequence of photographs taken of one particular attack, that by a kamikaze on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (CV-11) on 25 November 1944 north of Luzon. This was part of the conquest of the Philippines.
The Air Group report from the incident states that shortly after noontime that day, a large force of Japanese aircraft approached the carrier. Within five minutes, two kamikazes hit the carrier. The death toll was six officers and fifty-nine crew, though it didn't become clear until much later how many were lost (the actual report from Air Group 18 states "sixty were dead, fifteen missing, and about one hundred wounded.")
Incredibly, Intrepid remained fully operational throughout and stayed in its station within the task group. Due to efficient fire-fighting practices, the blaze was extinguished in less than two hours and the carrier proceeded on with its mission, carrying out strikes within days. The carrier survived the war, helped recover space capsules for NASA in the 1960s, and now is on permanent display at the Hudson River in Manhattan, New York.
Taken from the Battleship New Jersey (BB-62). A Japanese kamikaze plane approaches the aircraft carrier Intrepid. 25 November 1944. (U.S. Naval Academy)|
|The flaming remains of the shot-up Japanese plane that manages to hit the carrier Intrepid.|
|A few moments later, the Intrepid is hit. Notice all the anti-aircraft crew on the battleship - this is why not a single US battleship was put out of action by kamikazes during the war and less-protected ships were chosen as targets.|