Monday, November 3, 2014

Day of the Kamikaze (2007)

I watched this documentary on Netflix recently and learned something new and disturbing in what is already a very disturbing part of history.  I had always regarded the kamikaze attacks as a really stupid and ineffective strategy, but it turns out that the purpose-built bomb planes (no landing gear, no range, rocket motors at the rear) had to be dropped over target by bombers, and both required fighter escorts to drop point.  This meant that everyone young Japanese pilot giving his life in these useless attacks required the air support of a bomber and several fighters.  You wonder what those planes could have done to the American fleet if not sending young men off to die in suicide missions.  The documentary also points out that the kanikazes snd the widespread civilian suicides on Okinawa were motivating forces for atomic bomb use.  The Japanes government at the end was promoting the doctrine of 100 million dying in defense of the homeland, making invasion so costly that Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem humane by comparison.  It is unfortunate that historians pushing the claim that these were war crimes, choose to ignore these details in their hatred of the U.S.

If someone wants to write a supernatural thriller: the kamikaze commander led a fleet of 15 planes towards the American fleet on the last day of the war.  They were never seen again.  It's easy to imagine that flight wandering the skies for eternity looking for targets.


Ernst Stavro Blofeld said...

The Kamikazes were very effective, given the alternatives available to the Japanese. At that point in the war they were badly behind in trained pilots, and had no prospects for getting more. Their aircraft were behind the technology curve. In any sort of conventional fight they would have lost, badly. Even in 1943 an attack on a US carrier group typically resulted in 50-60% losses, and it would have been worse by 1945.

About 20 American ships were sunk and 150 badly damaged during Okinawa, including some fleet carriers. It was an extremely hard fight for the Navy. An invasion of Kyshu such as that planned for Operation Olympic would have been even worse; the Japanese had more aircraft and a shorter flight to the invasion fleet.

Allen Cogbill said...

My recollection is that more sailors died during the Okinawa campaign, largely from kamikaze attacks, than marines in the land battles. Fairly effective, I think. It was, I suppose, a precursor to the suicide bomber.

Windy Wilson said...

"[I]magine that flight wandering the skies for eternity looking for targets."

So they turn into the entity in the Star Trek the original series episode that fed on the anger and terror of people.

StormCchaser said...

Kamikazis were very effective, because they were terminal guided precision weapons. The US had no significant equivalent, and also not much of an effective defense against the,.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld said...

A little less than half of those killed were in the Navy--about 5000 vs about 7500 in the Army and Marine Corps.

You can think of the Kamikazes as the original cruise missiles. As I mentioned, the invasion of Kyushu would have been worse--the Japanese pilots were so badly trained that they could barely navigate, and the long flight over water to Okinawa gave the Allied forces more warning time and more opportunities to attrit the incoming attacks. A short flight over ground and a hop from the beach to the support ships off shore would have less radar warning.

bud said...

I remember when I was a kid, probably around '49, '50, seeing an exhibit of a Kamikaze boat. Basically a big runabout with a warhead in the nose. What really gave me the willies (and still does, thinking of it) was the shoes the driver was locked into- literally padlocked. Diver's shoes with 30# lead soles. I guess that was the equivalent of "no parachute" for the pilots.

Will said...

For more info on end-of-war kamakazi capability, read this book:

"Hell To Pay", by D M Giangreco. Shelved at 940.5425 in a library.

This is an in-depth look at the Japanese preparations for our intended invasions.
This clearly shows both the Allies, and the Japanese people, benefited greatly by our dropping those two A-bombs. Our expected casualties were in the 1 million range, to pacify the home islands. Problem there is that they had no idea of the extensive planning and prepping that had been going on for years, at the accurately estimated invasion sites. We would have been in a world of hurt.

For instance, our top Army general was considering using our A-bomb stocks for tactical applications against the invasion sites! Imagine running an entire army through multiple, still hot, ground zeros. Then imagine trying to explain it to our home nations, or trying to hide it from them.

The Japanese had immense stocks of aircraft and fuel stored underground, dedicated just to interdict our invasion fleets, mostly as kamikazes. This hording was so extensive, that we thought they had virtually nothing left. On the order of 15,000 planes! They also discovered that their wooden training type aircraft were virtually invisible to our radar, and the short range they would be used at, would leave very little time for visual target acquisition. IIRC, they took out 3 ships with one each, and the 4th was lost. The list of bad news just goes on and on.

They were willing to sacrifice a huge percentage of their population (20-40%+?) to stop us. I suspect that after losing huge numbers of our navy and army, we would have decided to just sit back and "bounce the rubble" for a few years. I could see those islands glowing in the dark for a long time. When the Allies body count started to resemble the Soviets war losses, the home fronts would have demanded it.

RevGreg said...

They have one of the surviving Ohka ("Cherry Blossom") bombs at the Udvar-Hazy museum at Dulles. I showed it to my father and explained it's usage to him...he was a young Marine SeaBee floating in a tin can in the Pacific when the Japanese surrendered and was happy he'd never seen one before!