World War II in the Pacific
Japanese Suicide Attacks at Sea.
It is not uncommon in warfare for a wounded soldier to "Take one with
him." The most dramatic is that of a pilot on either side with a damaged plane, with no hope
of getting home, to ram the enemy, either in the air, on the ground, or at sea.
19 June44. Japanese carrier-based aircraft attack Fifth Fleet covering
Saipan operation ; battleship Indiana (BB-58) is damaged by a suicide pilot.
14 October44. Japanese aerial counterattacks continue on TF 38, inflicting damage on
light cruiser Reno (CL-96) by a suicide plane.
Late in the war, the Japanese established a policy of intentional suicide,
called "special attack". From 23 October 1944, the policy of suicide
attack inflicted much damage on the U.S. fleet.
Kamikaze -- Japanese Navy suicide plane.
The Army also used suicide planes.
- 21 Oct44 Two planes with volunteers flew from the Philippines to attack U.S. carriers and crashed HMAS Australia.
- 25-26 Oct44. Off Leyte, 55 Kamikaze pilots, in the first planned mass suicide
attacks of the war, coordinated with the IJN attack in Leyte Gulf, hit the escort carriers and sank
St. Lo (CVE-63) and damaged the large escort carriers Sangamon (CVE-26), Suwannee (CVE-27), Santee (CVE-29), and small escort carriers White Plains, Kalinin Bay, and
Kitkun Bay. In all, 7 carriers were hit and 40 other types damaged;
five ships were sunk, 23 heavily damaged, and 12 moderate damage.
- 25Mar45-21Jun45. Off Okinawa -- Ten "Kikusui", swarms of Kamikaze, up to 350
attackers at a time, 1,900 in total, damaged 250 ships with 34 destroyers
and smaller ships sunk. Several ships were damaged so badly they were
not repaired. One in seven of all naval causalities occurred off Okinawa.
- 3,500 naval planes and an additional 1,500 army planes are hidden on
Kyushu for the "final battle" and just as many for orthodox use ;
once suicide planes were used up, the orthodox pilots would become Kamikazes.
This is a number sufficient to sink or damage 1,000 ships of an invading fleet.
Mitsubishi J8M/Ki-200 Shusui -- rocket powered interceptor.
Japanese copy of German Me163 rocket powered interceptor fighter specially
designed for use against B-29. The prototype flew on 7July45. The War
ended before production.
Nakajima Ki-115. -- Specially built, basic aircraft that could carry a bomb for kamikaze attacks.
Hundred and four were build before the war ended, but had not yet reached combat units.
Training planes were typically used by inexperienced pilots as kamikazes.
Shinten Special Unit 47th Air Regiment -- to defend the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.
The unit was equipped with Nakajima Ki-44-II Shoki ("Tojo") fighters (Army equivalent of Zero), with which they were to ram B-29s in their attacks on Japan.
Reppu. -- Specially designed kamikaze for use against
B-29 ; the war ended before production.
Mitsubishi A7M Reppu (Sam) was planned replacement for A6M Zero fighter. Six built. Comparable to Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
Yokosuka Ohka. -- A piloted glide bomb, called
"BAKA" (idiot) by the allies.
The Baka piloted glide bomb was carried to within 12 miles of the target
by a medium bomber. It would glide towards the target then activate
rockets (model 11) or jet engine (model 22) to dive into the target and explode
its one ton warhead. The Baka was difficult to stop, but its mother plane
was extremely vulnerable.
- 21Mar45. Japanese make first known operational use of Baka piloted bombs
in unsuccessful air attack against TF-58.
- 12Apr45. Off Okinawa, destroyer Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) is sunk by Baka -- she is
the first U.S. Navy ship to be sunk by that type of weapon. Destroyer Stanly
(DD-478) is damaged by Baka. High speed minesweeper Jeffers (DMS-27) is
damaged by Baka and kamikaze.
- 4 May45. Light minelayer Shea (DM-30) is damaged by a Baka.
Minesweeper Gayety (AM-239) is damaged by near-misses of kamikaze and Baka.
- 10May45 -- In a crash program to counter the Japanese Baka (suicide) bomb,
the Navy authorized development of Little Joe,
a ship-to-air guided missile powered with a standard JATO unit.
- 11May45. Destroyer Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774) is damaged by Baka.
Ki-167 or Hiryu To-Go -- Bomber with 3 ton thermite bomb.
A Ki-67 Kai (Peggy) twin-engine bomber with guns removed and
faired over, with crew reduced to four men, a 6,400 pound thermite bomb
was installed with a blast radius of 1 km. Two are known to have been
built, one sorted 17Apr45 for the USN fleet and disappeared, likely shot
down by a Hellcat.
Shinyo and Maru-ni -- Motorboat with explosives in the bow.
Great numbers -- 6,200 Navy (Shinyo) and 3,000 Army (Maru-ni) -- were built and stored in caves for the invasion. 400 were at Okinawa and Formosa ; thousands waited in the coves of Japan proper. The speedboat had one man and, typically, two depth charges as explosives.
See stories. A slightly larger 2-man speedboat was also available.
- 10Jan45. Six ships damaged and two gunboats sunk by Japanese suicide boats in Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippines. War Hawk (AP-161) 81 killed..
- 31Jan45. PC-1129 sunk by Japanese suicide
boat off Nasugbu, Luzon, Philippine Islands.
- 16Feb45. LCS(L)-7, LCS(L)-26, and LCS(L)-49 sunk by suicide boats off Mariveles,
Corregidor Channel, Luzon.
- 4 April 45. USS LCI(G)-82 and LSM-12 sunk by Japanese suicide boats off Okinawa.
- 27April 45. USS Hutchins (DD-476) seriously damaged by a Japanese suicide boat in Buckner
Bay, Okinawa, and not repaired after the end of the war.
- Hundreds, if not thousands, planned for defense of home islands.
Fukuryu -- Human mine - Swimmers carry an explosive charge beneath
a ship or landing craft.
Water's Edge Surprise Attack Force
- 08 Jan45. Infantry landing craft (gunboat) LCI(G)-404
is damaged by suicide swimmers, Yoo Passage, Palaus.
- 10Feb45. Japanese suicide swimmers attempt attack upon
surveying ship Hydrographer (AGS-2) in Schonian Harbor, Palaus.
Nikaku -- Human anti-tank mine - Soldiers with
explosives strapped to their bodies.
The army had developed the technique in Philippines and on Okinawa to attack tanks by strapping explosive on a soldier who would crawl between the treads. Others were a shaped-charge on a spike and a simple hand granade. Motto : "One man - one tank".
Kaiten -- Submarine launched, human guided torpedo.
48 feet, 3 feet diameter, 8.3 tons, 3,400 pound TNT warhead.
Kairyu -- Small, 2-man, midget submarines. 20 ton.
- 20Nov'44 Mississinewa (AO-59) destroyed at Ulithi Anchorage by Kiaten launched from I-47. Tanker-burns. DDs drops ash-cans" video - 2 minute
The first trial run was the most successful of the Kiaten program. Three subs left the Inland Sea Nov 8th each carrying four kaiten. I-37 was sunk at Kossol Roads, Palau by two DE's . I-36 could not launch her's. I-47 launched all four towards Ulithi lagoon anchorage containing 200 U.S. ships. Mississinewa made three explosions : the initial hit, the avgas tank, the magazine, which were reported by the mother sub as three aircraft carriers destroyed. The Kiaten program went into full production.
- 11Jan45. Begin Operation KONGO, employing suicide torpedoes [Kaitens].
I-36 launches Kaitens that damage ammunition ship Mazama
(AE-9) and infantry landing craft LCI-600 at Ulithi.
- 12Jan45. Operation KONGO continues; submarine I-47
launches Kaitens that damage U.S. freighter Pontus H. Ross off Hollandia,
New Guinea. Other Kaiten attacks are not successful -- I-53 at Kossol Roads, Palau; I-56 at Manus, in the Admiralties; and by I-58 at Apra Harbor, Guam.
- 20Jan45. Operation KONGO concludes with Japanese submarine I-48 carrying out
unsuccessful Kaiten attack on U.S. shipping at Ulithi. I-48
is sunk by destroyer escorts 23Jan45.
- 28Mar45. Japanese submarine I-47 (equipped with Kaitens) is damaged by
5th Fleet surface ships/craft off Okinawa and forced to return to Kure for repairs.
From 26Apr45 to 10Aug45, ten ships were reported sunk. Other Kaiten contacts include:
- 6 May45. Submarine I-366, en route to take delivery of Kaitens, is
damaged by mine off Hikari.
- 27May45. Destroyer escort Gilligan (DE-508) is damaged by dud torpedo Kaiten
launched from Japanese submarine I-367.
- 28June45. Japanese submarine I-136 carries out unsuccessful Kaiten
attack on stores ship Antares (AKS-3) southeast of the Marianas ; destroyer
Sproston (DD-577) comes to Antares's aid, sinking one Kaiten and
- 24July45. Destroyer escort Underhill (DE-682), destroyed while intercepting
4 Kaitens from Japanese submarine I-53 off Luzon.
- 05 Aug45. Destroyer escort Earl V. Johnson (DE-702) is damaged by
explosion of a near-miss of Kaiten fired by submarine I-53 in Philippine Sea.
- 09 Aug45. Destroyer escort Johnnie Hutchins (DE-360) on the convoy
route between Leyte and Okinawa, sinks what may have been Kaitens launched by I-58.
- 12Aug45. Japanese submarine I-58 conducts unsuccessful Kaiten attack
on dock landing ship Oak Hill (LSD-7) while she is en route from Okinawa
to Leyte Gulf.
- A shore based Kaiten station was established in preparation for the invasion on the SE tip of Kyushu, on Hachijojima Island, and others were being prepared on Shikoku and Honshu.
- About 1,000 available at war end.
Although not intended only as a suicide weapon, survival rates were not high.
Recall that all five in the "Special Attack Unit" used in the sneak attack on
Pearl Harbor were destroyed. Midgets also attacked in Sydney (all four lost)
and Madagascar in June'42. 300 new submarines were built that could be equipped with either two torpedoes OR a special 1,000 pound warhead in the bow for crashing into ships as the kaiten did.
Koryu -- Medium Midget Submarines. 60 ton.
Five hundred 5-man, two torpedo submarines were being built for coastal defense
with 115 completed at the time of surrender.
Civilian Resistance Training.
Patriotic Citizens Fighting Corps. Schools were suspended. Teenaged boys and girls were taught how to use grenades and spears.
Civilians, including women armed with spears, made attacks on Okinawa, 21April, and Ie Shima. 23April.
Unable to provide uniforms, they were equipped with a patch. One million people on Kyushu were eligible. Chance of their survival improved after Hiroshima.
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About this page: Suicide - A full range of suicide "special attack"
weapons were used towards the end of the War.
Last updated on January 23, 2009 -- add photos
April 15, 2004 -- Separate Kairyu and Koryu
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