THIS WEEK IN WORLD WAR II
The Divine Wind
The First Kamikaze Attack of the War
If you enjoy reading about World War 2 and in particular this story associated with the Battle Leyte Gulf, may I suggest a multipart post on my companion website, USS Hornet (CV-12) – A Father’s Untold War Story which begins HERE
On October 25, 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was underway in the pacific theater and the Japanese began to deploy kamikaze, known as the “divine wind” for the first time. The kamikazes were suicide bombers deployed against the American warships. It was a costly endeavor for both the Japanese and the allies.
Leyte is an island in the Philippines. By this point in the war, almost three years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were desperate. The failure of conventional naval and aerial engagements against the Americans was the reason behind the decision.
“I firmly believe that the only way to swing the war in our favor is to resort to crash-dive attacks with our planes…. There will be more than enough volunteers for this chance to save our country.”
–Japanese Naval Captain, Motoharu Okamura
The First Kamikaze Force:
- 24 volunteer pilots of the 201st Navy Air Group
- Targets were U.S. escort carriers.
- The USS St. Lo was struck by a A6M Zero fighter and sunk in less than an hour. 100 Americans were killed
- Throughout the Battle of Leyte Gulf, more than 5,000 kamikaze pilots died taking out 34 ships.
In kamikaze raids, the Japanese used both conventional aircraft and ones specially designed for the purpose. The Japanese called these Ohka or Cherry Blossom. The American’s called them Baka or Fool as they saw them as an act of desperation. This Baka was a rocket-powered plane that was brought to the target attached to the belly of a bomber.
By the end of the war, more than 1,321 Japanese aircraft took a kamikaze dive and about 3,000 Americans and British died; however the allies still captured the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.