There were problems with the bomb device, though.It had to be carried into battle underneath a Betty bomber, and the bombers were slow and very vulnerable to attack. Until it was released from its mother-plane it was basically a sitting target for attacking U.S. fighters.
There is also always the question of whether or not the kamikazes were efficient use of personnel. In one series of attacks on Okinawa, for example, a June 4, 1945 article in Newsweek noted that twin-engine bombers and troops were used in a suicide attack on U.S. positions. After all was finished, the Japanese had managed to damage 11 light naval units, but at a cost of 166 Japanese planes destroyed and the deaths of every single attacker.
A brief history of the kamikaze attacks
January 3, 1941. A new code of ethics for the soldiers is issued by General Tojo stating that soldiers should commit suicide rather than surrender, making suicide official military policy.
December 7, 1941: Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor, causing the U.S. to officially enter World War II. This attack became this generations "Remember the Alamo" as far as a rallying cry was concerned and helped to make the Pacific war a matter of vengeance, making this different from the mental attitude used in the war against the Nazis. This helped lead to atrocities on both sides of the battle line later in the war.
June 19-21, 1944: The Battle of the Philippine sea, also called the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot in which U.S. airman downed 300 Japanese planes, losing only 29 of their own.
June 25, 1944. At a conference, Emperor Hirohito sanctions the use of kamikazes. He stated that he wanted the Army and the Air Force to cooperate (which was not very likely; there was a lot of rivalry between the two groups).
July, 1944: Saipan falls to American forces.
August, 1944: Tinian and Guam fall to American forces.
October 1, 1944: The Jinrai Butai (Thunder God Special Attack Corps) is formed in which use will be made of the piloted rocket bombs.
October 25,1944. The kamikaze attack results in the sinking of the St. Lo, a CVE (small escort carrier.) Several other small carriers and hit and badly damaged by the kamikazes. The Japanese reported two ships sunk but only one actually was.
November 5, 1944: Kamikazes attack U.S. carrier combers in Philippines.
November 25 through the 28th: Kamikazes attack U.S. forces off Leyte.
December 13, 1944: Light cruiser Nashville is struck by a kamikaze.
December 15, 1944: Kamikazes sink two landing ships at Mindoro.
December 21, 1944: Kamikazes sink two more landing ships and damage several others.
December 30-31: Kamikazes sink 5 U.S. ships and damage more.
January 4 through mid-January 1945: Kamikazes sink 24 ships, kill 800 sailors, damage 67 other ships. The Japanese, meanwhile, develop Ten-Go, "Heavenly Operation" in order to defend Okinawa. 4,000 aircraft and hundreds of suicidal speedboats were to be used along with the last of Japan's warships.
January 21: A new kamikaze unit attacks Task Force 38 near Formosa.February 21: Kamikazes attack Task Force 58 at Iwo Jima.
March 9/10: B-29's firebomb Tokyo. Around 100,000 people were killed, 267,000 buildings destroyed by the raging fire. Bombers in later raids attack Nagoya, Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama and Kawasaki.
March 18-21: Kamikazes are brought into action at Okinawa.
March 18 through May 29, statistics from Newsweek of June 11, 1945: 4,729 killed in the Navy and Coast Guard; 5,492 in the Army and Marine Corps. 25 ships lost according to the Navy (500 lost according to the Japanese reports.
April 6 through June 22: A series of ten kamikaze waves. During the first one the last Japanese warships, including the great battleship Yamato, headed for Okinawa. On the way there they were spotted by U.S. subs and soon attacked by American. The Yamato, a light cruiser and four destroyers were sunk. 3,655 Japanese sailors were killed while U.S. losses were 84. This battle basically destroyed the Japanese navy once and for all.
(Note: here is where one of the problems occurs in looking into these attacks. Sources differ. For example, one source for the above attack said only three destroyers, not four, were sunk along with the Yamato and no light cruiser. One source said 84 airmen were killed; another listed only 12. Even these are historical events and not that incredibly long ago sources will differ in the numbers they use to describe losses.)
Kikusui No. 1, the first of the attacks, featured 700 Japanese aircraft, almost half of those being kamikaze, and some of the Ohka bombs. The U.S. set up a picket line of destroyers sixty miles away from the carriers to give them early warning of an attack. The kamikazes wrecked havoc on the destroyers but again ignored the fact that their main targets were the carriers. Of the 700 airplanes 476 planes were shot down before they even got to the invasion fleet. The U.S. lost two destroyers, a minesweeper and one other ship along with a number of ships damaged. During Kikusui 2 a destroyer was sunk by one of the Ohka rocket bombs.
Kikusui 3 had 300 Japanese aircraft attacking and again the kamikaze pilots went after the lower-priority targets. Kikusui 4 was on April 27, featuring 115 suicide craft. Some ships were sunk, including a hospital ship. By the end of April kamikaze attacks had accounted for 115 U.S. ships sunk vs. 1,000 kamikaze pilots killed. 61 other ships had to be repaired.
Kikusui 5 started on May 3. They managed to sink several ships. This wave of attacks accounted for 12 more ships sunk with 420 men killed. Kikusui 6 started on May 11, again with some success for the attackers. Further Kikusui attacks featured fewer and fewer planes, and Okinawa was declared secure on June 18th.
One source lists he overall count for the entire run of attacks as 26 American ships sunk, 164 ships damaged. The Japanese, however, did not stop the American invasion.
One side effect of the kamikaze attacks was a greater American willingness to use the atomic bomb rather than stage a massive invasion of the Japanese homeland. The number of Americans that would have been casualties during such an invasion could have been as high as a million. This does not count the number of Japanese deaths that would have occurred, soldiers and civilians alike since the civilians were being trained to fight the American soldiers with anything they could use.
August 6, 1945: The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.
August 9, 1945: The second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki.
August 15, 1945: Emperor Hirohito announces the surrender of Japan. (If the surrender had not been made, Tokyo would probably have been the next target for a nuclear weapon. Some Japanese soldiers tried to stage a coup to prevent the surrender announcement from being broadcast, but the coup failed.)
August 30, 1945: Kamikazes operating independently attack British forces in Hong Kong.
Damage from the attacks
Not everyone believed that the kamikaze was an effective force.. According to a Newsweek article from June 11, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. "...dismissed the Kamikaze planes as a ‘damned nuisance rather than a menace.'"
This was later to be shown to be a wildly inaccurate statement, though, as the kamikazes managed to run sink boats, down planes and kill men in relatively decent numbers. Even Newsweek of June 11, 1945 said "From a military viewpoint, it is the best set of tactics the Japans have worked on during the war."
There is no doubt that the kamikaze attacks did a lot of damage to U.S. shipping and a lot of soldiers lost their lives in the attacks. There is also no doubt that this was a method of attack which was feared by the soldiers and could slow down American advances.
At the same time, though, it was a form of attack which did not manage to stop the American advances. It cost the Japanese a lot of planes and a lot of lives, both of which would have been useful in defending the homeland against an American invasion. The method did manage to cause Americans to hate the Japanese even more, increased the level of misunderstanding between the cultures and finally helped the government to decide to use the atomic bomb rather than a direct invasion.
The kamikazes were deadly and attention-getting, for sure, but ultimately there were not enough to stop the U.S. from ultimately defeating Japan.
This is a 1997 book which goes into the Kamikaze subject in considerable detail. It includes where the kamikaze pilots were recruited from; the relationship of Bushido to the kamikaze; specific people and specific kamikaze missions, and various other kamikaze attacks beyond the one commonly associated with the kamikaze, and that was the airplane attacks. Various other forms of attacks were used, and the book even includes information on the use of balloons to attack the US mainland.
A very good, very interesting book.
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