Little Bits of History

Suicide Pilots

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2010

HMAS Australia bridge

View of the bridge and forward turrets of HMAS Australia, September 1944.

October 21, 1944: The Japanese try a new form of attack during World War II when the first kamikaze attack strikes the HMAS Australia. The kamikaze pilot, flying a specially designed dive bomber [a Yokosuka D4Y] crashed into the superstructure of the Australian heavy cruiser. Burning fuel and debris rained down on the decks killing 30 crew members, including the captain of the ship. Many more would have died in the crash if the 441 pound bomb carried in the plane had exploded.

Kamikaze raids began following sustained and significant defeats for the Japanese forces. The island nation was finding it draining to continue to wage war against the Allies’ military ability and their vast industrial capacity to supply their armed forces. The Japanese raids used planes fully fueled and carrying explosives and extra bombs. However, boats and even individual military personnel were also used in suicide missions.

The term “kamikaze” translates to “divine wind” and refers to a legend concerning a typhoon that saved Japan from a Mongol invasion fleet. During the war, the Japanese term for the units responsible for the suicide attacks was “tokubetsu kōgeki tai” which translates to “special attack unit.”

The planes used by the kamikaze pilots were further modified. Thousands of suicide pilots were trained. The peak use of the kamikaze came during April through June 1945. On April 6, 1945 alone, waves of planes attacked and sank 30 US warships and 3 US merchant ships at the cost of 1,465 Japanese planes. By the end of the war, the Japanese naval air service had sacrificed 2,525 pilots while the Japanese army added another 1,387. These suicide missions sank 81 ships, damaged another 195, and according to Japanese statistics, accounted for up to 80% of US losses in the final phase of the war.

“The only mystery in life is why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets” – Al McGuire

“As allied forces (pushed) forward in both the European and Pacific theaters in World War II, the enemy’s tactics, such as the cult of death among SS forces and the kamikazes in the Pacific, led to some of these bloodiest fighting of that war,” – Donald Rumsfeld

“I closed my eyes a few times, because I kind of understand what they were going through. In World War II, I was in the Navy, and we had a kamikaze plane hit our ship, and kill sixteen people.” – Ralph Wilson

“I would say to myself ‘So are you ready now?’ and there was a self that would answer ‘Yes sir! I’m ready to go’, but there was still another self who never stopped yelling ‘I don’t want to die!’” – Goro Nagamine, kamikaze pilot writing in his journal the night before his suicide mission

Also on this day, in 1990 the first Apple Day was held in England.

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3 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on October 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Those Japanese pilots were used as such as a last chance to avoid losing the war;but, many US pilots were trained as suicide pilots through the entire war, some actually being ordered to go on suicide attacks over water and some over land.

  2. kamikaze motos said, on January 15, 2014 at 7:18 am

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