Kamikaze

Sea Stories

“The suicide attack represents by far the most difficult antiaircraft problem yet faced by the fleet. Expert aviation opinion agrees that an unhindered and undamaged plane has virtually a 100% chance of crashing a ship of any size regardless of her evasive action.”

Antiaircraft Action Summary, April 1945

BB55 under attack off Okinawa, April 7, 1945. Note splash of enemy plane to left of Battleship.

BB55 under attack off Okinawa, April 7, 1945. Note splash of enemy plane to left of Battleship.

“These kamikaze tactics started while we were at Puget Sound and this was our first time actually see them [November 1944]. We have been informed about them but really seeing kamikazes brought it home how terrifying they were. They generally would only put a carrier out of operation about an hour unless they also had a bomb on the plane. They did kill a lot of men and men were injured with flash burns. These attacks were endured every time we left port until the war ended. I saw an awful lot of suicide dives on ships. There were a lot of hits and misses too. It is an awful thing to witness. It makes you very angry and helpless. You have to hit the plane and cause him to veer off course…. It is maddening to think a person is willing to sacrifice his life to do this.”

-C.J. Baker, FireControlman 3/c

  “While at General Quarters at Batt II with Commander Stryker during an air attack a kamikaze pilot flew his plane very, very close, right at our level. In the glare of all antiaircraft guns firing, his being not more than 40 feet from where we were standing, looked squarely into our eyes, then in a flash passed forward, with his plane flipping into the sea over the port bow.”

-Ensign Paul Rhyne

  “We all became trigger happy whenever any aircraft were sighted within or near the formation. One morning we launched our Kingfishers on a mission to rescue downed pilots. Five minutes before the launch and for every minute thereafter until the planes cleared the formation we alerted our Task Group that they were “friendlies.” In spite of those announcements they were taken under fire five separate times by our own ships as they climbed to operating altitude and departed the formation.”

-Captain Tracy Wilder [then Lt(jg) Wilder]

  “When the kamikazes came in we set up our window [chaff] fire just like an umbrella. Some got through. It didn’t hit us but we shot a lot of their planes down but some get through. They always do. They would get between us and another ship and you couldn’t fire at them. That’s casualties of war I guess.”

-Henry Okuski, Fireman 3/c

  “When the kamikazes hit that was the most demoralizing part of the whole war as far as I was concerned. They sank some ships but they didn’t seem to do as much damage. They put some carriers out of commission but it was the fact that they were throwing everything up there and they were still coming in. There isn’t anything you can do. That was about the worst part of the war as far as I was concerned. The sky went black with flack and everything. These guys were still coming in. It almost had to be a direct hit to get them. You saw some of them with part of a wing coming off but they would still be there, almost like a missile. Diving. Nothing turned them away.”

-Harold Smith, FireControlman 1/c

  “We have been in Hell for the last four days. It is getting late so I will close and go to bed, the first time in four days and nights and I can say this much, we are really tired but we are ready for more planes.”

-Joseph A. Halas, Seaman 1/c March 21, 1945, after days at battle stations

 

Japanese kamikaze pilot saluting as he receives his sortie orders, 1944-45.

Japanese kamikaze pilot saluting as he receives his sortie orders, 1944-45.

“Went to air defense at 0100 this morning. Many enemy planes came in and we opened up at 12000 yards and we shot one down. We were at air defense the greatest part of the day. Three planes came in today and there were shot down. One Japanese plane came in this morning at G.Q. at about 12000 yards. We didn’t open fire but several ships did. The three that came in were in the afternoon and late morning. I was on watch in Spot One at the time they came in. The first one was at a high altitude and flew right over the ship. I was on him with my periscope. We opened up with everything we had and finally shot him down.”

-Jerry Kass, FireControlman April 16 and 17, 1945

  “Okinawa is where we got hit. It is when the Japanese came out with everything they had or almost everything they had. There were a lot of suicide planes. We didn’t get hit by a suicide plane but we fired at a lot of them, knocked some down.”

-Anonymous

  “We had been participating in the pre-invasion bombardments and aerial attacks on Okinawa since March 4th [1945] during which time the Task Force had been subjected to hundreds of kamikaze attacks. April 6th was different only in that the kamikazes were even more numerous than usual. By 1300 the NORTH CAROLINA alone had shot down two kamikazes and at least three others were splashed by other ships. Our fighters shot down several more. “We picked him up visually when he came hedge-hopping over the ships in the center of the formation heading directly for us. We had just shot down our second kamikaze of the day and were unable to bear on the bomber until he was over the ship. He passed over the radar mast just aft of Sky 2, so low and so near that from my elevated perch in Sky 2 I could almost look the pilot in the eye.”

-Ensign Al Dunn

  “Our chief enemy has become the single fanatic suicide attacks during the daytime. The suicide attack is even more difficult for the A.A. batteries because the Japanese use our returning strikes to keep hidden from our radar…and they have learned much about our radar and their fade zone. He comes in high and dives down through the fade zone. We must be alert and have our machine guns alerted to cover the limitations of radar. An overhead lookout will be stationed on every 20mm group.”

-General A.A. Procedure memorandum, BB55

 

Learn More About Kamikazes!

The origin of the name “kamikaze” derives from the Mongol invasion fleet that was destroyed by a tornado as it sailed towards Japan in 1281. The people believed that Tenshi, the Son of Heaven, had intervened saving them by unleashing a “kamikaze,” the Divine Wind.

Literature 

“Kamikaze: A Japanese Pilot’s Own Spectacular Story of the Famous Suicide Squadrons,” by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon Allred “Kamikaze Nightmare,” by Ron Burt “I Was A Kamikaze,” by Ryuji Nagatsuka

 

Japanese Attacks on U.S. Navy carriers, March 20, 1945. “This film shows several ships as Japanese planes attacked. The ships shown include the USS Hancock (CV-19), the USS Enterprise (CV-6), the USS North Carolina (BB-55), and the USS Cleveland (CL-55).”