Kamikaze

USS Reno fighting the fires on the USS Princeton

USS Reno fighting the fires on the USS Princeton

1 February 1942 is the earliest mention of a Kamikaze attack, but it was more likely an opportunist rather than a planned event. The USS Enterprise was damaged by the crashed plane. Admiral Takijiro Onishi did not create the Special Attacks Groups (Tokubetsu Kogeki Tai) until 19 October 1944, and gave them the title of Kamikaze after the ‘Divine Wind’ that scattered the Mongol invasion of Kublai Khan in 1274 and 1281.

Adm. Takijiro Onishi

Adm. Takijiro Onishi

These men volunteered mainly out of a sense of duty, generally university students, in their 20’s, being taught to “transcend life and death… which will enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination…” — an excerpt from the Kamikaze manual kept in their cockpit. Three times as many men volunteered as the number of planes available and experienced pilots were rejected. They would prepare for their fate by writing letters and poems to their loved ones. Each pilot received a “thousand-stitch sash” which was a cloth belt that 1,000 women had sewn one stitch as a symbolic union with the Kamikaze. A ceremony would be held and a last drink to give him a “spiritual lifting” and the toast – “Tennoheika Banzai!” (Long live the Emperor!) before take-off would seal his destiny.

Kamikaze receiving his sortie orders

Kamikaze receiving his sortie orders

Their initial mission was to attack the Allied shipping around the Philippines. 21 October 1944, the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy, the cruiser HMAS Australia was hit by a Kamikaze carrying a 441 pound bomb – it did not explode – but it killed 30 crew members. Four days later, the ship was hit again and forced to leave for repairs.

Shinbu kamikaze, 1945

Shinbu kamikaze, 1945

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf, antiaircraft fire was unable to stop a bomber from getting in and the 100 lb. bomb went through the flight deck of the USS Princeton. 25 October, Lt. Yukio Seki led five Zeros, with bombs on their wings, to fly below radar aimed at Admiral Sprague’s fleet. Two of the planes were shot down by the gunners on the Fanshaw Bay.

Kamikaze commander, Lt. Yukio Seki (why the life preserver?)

Kamikaze commander, Lt. Yukio Seki (why the life preserver?)

During the following months, over 2,000 planes were used in attacks and other suicide equipment was added. The Kaiten, a manned torpedo with a 3,000 lb. warhead; Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka “Cherry Blossom” rocket bombs, bakas – flying bombs and the Shinyo, which was a one-man exploding motorboat.

At Iwo Jima and Okinawa during February through May 1945, the Kamikaze wrecked havoc with the Allies and sailors did not take long to nickname them “devil divers.” Such prestigious names as USS Saratoga, Enterprise, Franklin, Bismark Sea and Hancock were hit. The destroyer, Laffey was bombarded by 20 aircraft at once.

US07Kamikaze.001

The idea of the Special Attack Groups was not a widely accepted concept back home in Japan. Just as parents in the Allied countries, they prayed their sons would return when the war ended – being a Kamikaze eliminated that hope and on 17 July, being a part of these units was no longer voluntary.

The nickname “Zero” was basically the term for every Japanese fighter, but the Kamikaze’s “flying coffin” was the Mitsubishi A6M2. It had a maximum speed of 332 mph and a range of 1,930 miles. It had a wingspan of 39 feet and was 29′ 9″ long and then modified to accommodate a heavier payload. Several thousand of these had been put in reserve in anticipation of an invasion on the Japanese mainland, which never happened.

On the eve of the Japanese surrender, Takijiro Onishi ended his own life. He left a note of apology to his dead pilots – their sacrifice had been in vain.

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Farewell Salutes –

Crissie Glendinning – born in Monticello, GA; US Marine Corps Women’s Reserves, WWII

Joseph B. Love Sr.. – Ellenwood, GA; US Army Air Corps, B-17 flight engineer, WWII

Jerome Martin Bronfman, DDS – W. Orange, NJ & Boca Raton, FL; US Army 1942-44, WWII and 1951-53 Captain in the Dental Corps, Korean War

Joseph Samuel Tarascio – Stuart, FL; US Navy, WWII

James Joseph Heaney – Salt Lake City, Utah; US Army Military Intelligence Specialist

Michael George Malinowski – Boynton Beach, Florida; Vietnam War ( gpcox met him many times)

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New Zealand Coast Watchers – update

After publishing my coast watcher’s post, I located this information – The 17 New Zealand coast watchers beheaded by the Japanese on 15 October 1942 were first located by a priest who found their bones in one grave and skulls in another; he re-buried them. The American organization, History Flight, assisted New Zealand in relocating the gravesite. Seventy years after their tragic deaths, a memorial service was held and the last surviving coast watcher, Jack Jones, placed the first wreath on his friend’s memorial in tribute to their sacrifice.

Jack Jones pays tribute

Jack Jones pays tribute

The first wreath

The first wreath

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resources: US history.org; “The Pacific War” by John Costello; “The Pacific War: Dad by Day” by John Davison; Wikipedia; the Palm Beach Post

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 25, 2013, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 104 Comments.

  1. Please read this

    https://nasudanasuko.wordpress.com/2017/08/11/tokko-taiyasukuni-shrine-%e7%89%b9%e6%94%bb%e9%9a%8a%e3%81%a8%e9%9d%96%e5%9b%bd%e7%a5%9e%e7%a4%be%e3%80%80/

    Kamikaze is the official name of the Navy “Shinpu(神風) Special Attack Corps.”

    神風 in Not “Kamikaze”,it’s “Shinpu”.

    The official name of the Army is “Army Special Attack Corps”.

    Both the Army and the Navy, the Special Squad separated.

    Army in Chiran Special Corps is “ShinbuCorps”(not Kamikaze).

    There was no compulsion or command, it was all own volunteers.

    Do you think that when you will want to become the pilot, Who feel scary of “Die” ?

    Philippines, Taiwan, had been occupied ,Next,Okinawa..

    So,if Nobody did it,at tha time the mainland is occupied,

    and our parents, brothers and sisters get harmed.

    So, we wanted to go the Special Squadron.

    Somebody says that ” throw out only own life” “Tokko-tai were compulsion or command” ,

    That’s All big lie!!

    After defending the motherland JAPAN, we will die, we promised to meet in front of the Yasukuni Shrine.

    When everyone will gathers, We go through the Yasukuni gate (Torii) and

    enter the tomb of Yasukuni,we promised

    I has been living,I only.

    So, I can not fulfill our promise with everyone,yet.

    Like

  2. This is a great article… I was totally immersed in it as if I was actually there. I remembered a series in Discovery Channel (or was it in National Geo) that the US army found some one man submarine prototype made by Japan aimed at carrying a “kamikaze” and a payload of bomb which was designed to hit a boat like a torpedo…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope you put all these articles together in a book. they are priceless.

    Like

  4. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    A great history lesson for me. Excellent writing. Check it out!!

    Like

  5. A great history lesson for me. I love history …. as an adult I can appreciate it more. Worked with American veterans for almost 28yrs. Their stories were amazing …. Re-blog ….
    in …. http://hrexach.wordpress.com/

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    • I’m certain in your work over the years, you have many stories of your own to tell.

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      • Yes, I did. And it’s been a honor for me to have been able to work with so many of them. They let me in, the accepted me, they taught me …. a special breed indeed. Sad to say that when they return, the system lets them down.
        Your writing and your information is superb!! Good day ….. 🙂

        Like

  6. Reblogged this on Masako and Spam Musubi and commented:
    A stellar accounting of the kamikaze by gpcox!

    Like

  7. Another excellently researched article, gpcox!! I won’t try to add to your facts. However, I will try to add one poignant note that not too many people outside of the kamikaze know.

    I was with my Aunt Eiko and her second cousin and her husband. We went to ETAJIMA, the island home of the Japan Naval Academy and Naval Museum in 1999. We were given a private tour by the second in command after a private meeting with the admiral. You will understand why.

    At the end of the tour was this very old building. Towering doors opened up to let us in. (BTW, cameras were prohibited.) We were greeted by two staircases that led up to two huge crypts; each contained a lock of hair from Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and Admiral Nelson.

    We were led into a humidity controlled hallway. It was lined by HUNDREDS of final letters from the soon to be dead young kamikaze to his mother, wife, or other person. Each was accompanied by a lock of hair or nail clippings. My aunt began sobbing uncontrollably as she was able to read them.

    But I still wondered why we were given this private and honored tour…especially since I was American. I found out. At the end of the corridor was a rotunda that contained 2,633 tiles, each with the name of a dead kamikaze. The second cousin’s hand went up and he said simply, “There.” He was pointing to the name of his uncle.

    It should be noted that similar to the Army/Navy bickering here, Japan was no different. In fact, it may even be bitter back then. We need to note this honored hall did not cover any of the Japanese Imperial Army kamikaze dead.

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  8. I remember the Kamikaze pilots being talked about during the war when I was a child. It didn’t mean much to me then, but your post is fascinating. Your mention of Iwo Jimo and Okinawa reminded me of the book written by E. B. Sledge, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, which I read a while ago. It really brought home the horrors of war.

    Like

  9. OMG. Excellent post, thank you!

    Like

  10. EmilyAnn Frances

    I commend you for an excellent and well-balanced presentation of this very difficult subject. This is a subject that hits a very raw nerve with me deep down inside.

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment, but may I ask why it is a sore subject for you in particular?

      Like

      • EmilyAnn Frances

        WWII-Japan—Kamikaze and suicide missions
        WWII-Germany–Storm Troopers–Concentation Camps
        2001-Jihadists

        And so on. We like to discuss this and hope that humanity learns it’s lessons. Yet those who could benefit from the lessons are the ones that the lessons don’t seem to reach. Poverty and ignorance make their victims open to all kinds of manipulations where reason and sense are unable to reach.

        Like

        • So true, Emily. If we can only reach one; maybe it’s worth it.

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          • On a personal note, I not only pray for peace, but for heightened consciousness amongst all of humanity. Sometimes it’s not just poverty that is the root origin of this kind of behavior. There are those who know better but pursue such courses out of a bizarre desire for some kind of glory or control. Education is the key but how to open the door or tear down the obstructing walls is something I have no answer for. That is why I said I get so worked up on this. Thank you for asking and giving me an opportunity to express it here.

            When I worked at the regional Japanese bank rep offices I never knew how to face my co-workers and bosses on the anniversary of Hiroshima. They, in turn, were always awkward with me on Pearl Harbor Anniversary Day. Yet, here we were decades later working in the same place, for out mutual benefit and that of our societies. Our parents may have seen each side as the enemy but here we were, the children of those parents working and living in the same city at the same place.

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            • Just as Smitty wrote in his letter when he and a buddy took a ride and came upon the Japanese cemetery; they were once a flesh and blood enemy, now, they were buried – such a waste.

              Like

  11. My understanding is that the final ‘drink’ was a purely ceremonial toast, a symbolic wee nip of the national joy-juice that wouldn’t register at all in the hiccup scale.

    I read (no idea how true) that the manned bomb thingy was called “Oka” (meaning something lofty) but the irreverent targets renamed it “Baka” meaning stupid, foolish … there goes the rest of my morning, verifying that. Thank heavens for the web, I say~!

    Like

  12. Interesting, informative, intriguing… you do it every time, gpcox. Thank you for your dedication for researching the truth.

    Like

    • I do my best, Judy. I try to get as much info in as small a space as possible – I don’t want people to feel they are back in school or have to read a long dissertation before they click a ‘Like’ button.

      Like

  13. You’ve really humanized them here and also shown the futility of this kind of thinking.

    Like

  14. Carol Schlaepfer

    My heart breaks wide open for our brave military. I am learning so much with these storys.

    Like

    • I’m glad, Carol. It makes my day to hear someone say that. With your background, you can surely teach us a few things in aviation. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  15. Profoundly moving to read your update on the coast watchers.

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  16. A heartbreaking glimpse of history. Thanks for sharing it.

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  17. Interested in the NZ references, thanks for the follow-up to your earlier post. What a profound experience that service must have been for Mr Jones.

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  18. I left the screen on for my human Jamie to read this after I got through with it. We both enjoyed it! Thank you so much for an informative post on an interesting subject! Woof!

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  19. Grim reality is a potent teacher. Another brilliant post, thank you.

    Like

  20. The Kamikaze, for me anyway, were made know through old movies. I understand fighting to the death for your beliefs but it’s still such a sad, sad story. All those young lives sacrificed on both sides. Your update on the Coast Watchers brought tears.

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    • It has always seemed sad to me that bright, young men die. The coast watchers were on so many islands and atolls, it makes me wonder how many others are still out there. Thanks for stopping in, Linda.

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  21. This post brought me to tears. The sash of one thousand stitches and the suicide note of Takijiro Onishi. We humans are designed to love and serve one another. War takes such terrible advantage of that.

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  22. Not sure how those pilots were brave enough to do that for their country. Maybe for family, but they must have been brain washed to feel the need to sacrifice their life for just the possibility that their country would be the victor. Can’t help but wonder if they were coerced in some way to perform this kind of sacrifice. Such a wasted loss…in my opinion.

    Like

    • It was a waste in the long run, although their actions really inflicted quite a bit of damage to the Allies. Their beliefs made them think very differently from the Western people, that’s why they relied on MacArthur so much. He had lived in the Orient and understood the Eastern mind better than most.

      Like

  23. They look like boys in your photos! How sad. Some of the delusions they were fed like ‘transcending life and death…’ Sound eerily like suicide bombers today. Interesting as always – thanks.

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  24. Very interesting. I did not know how organized it was. I thought it happened during the odd volunteer mission when the target was too far away and the only way for a plane reach it was a one way trip. I’d like to read more about this. Thank you for another very informative post. Much to think about.
    Elephant

    Like

    • I’m very glad to hear that I piqued your interest. Enemy or not, these were very brave young men. Thanks for reading and stopping in to tell me.

      Like

  25. Very interesting reading! I’ve not known an awful lot about the Kamikaze before I read this other than that they existed of course. Thank you for sharing this story and the pictures

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  26. I know we see them as villains but those boys must have been brave. Was the last drink alcoholic? I know that I would need a couple of stiff ones if I was going to fly my plane into a warship!

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    • Isn’t that the truth!! I only said a drink, because I found conflicting reports – some say sake and others say water. (if I was doing that – I’d take the rice wine or stronger)

      Like

  27. The kamikaze mentality is fascinating, isn’t it? Informative and interesting post.

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    • They were caught up in the honor of defending their Emperor and country, much like our men say things like, “I’d follow that general into hell.”

      Like

  28. An interesting post but so, so sad. What a waste of precious young lives 😦

    Like

  29. Pierre Lagacé

    A reblogué ceci sur Lest We Forget and commented:
    Great post again…

    Like

  30. Pierre Lagacé

    Great!

    Like

  31. Pierre Lagacé

    I don’t have to read this post. I know it’s great… (pun intended)

    Like

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