1944. War in Pacific is going bad for Japan. Many soldiers are patriotic enough to suicide if they have been captured. So what is the solution? Kamikaze attacks.
As I mentioned before, 1944 wasn’t a good year for Imperial Japan. I mean, most islands still belongs to Japan but they can’t catch up to America about aircraft and naval industries. Main reason behind this is that Japan don’t have their land for long enough to use resources %100. There is also the Chinese Front factor. It is mostly in a stalemate and you can’t just abonden the whole operation. It would cost many casualties while retreating. They can’t just try to sign a white peace either because China could think that Japan is in a bad situation secretly and try to attack all along the front, which would result in mass casualties again. I should tell you that every day, fuel, ammunition and food goes to front and you can’t cancel these either.
First usage of kamikaze attacks
On October 20, 1944 Allies start a campaign on Philippines and Japan has only 30 Zero Fighter aircraft in that area. Obviously, they will lose all of them against overwhelming airforce of Allies, so they start to modifie most of their Zero’s. They remove the machine guns and armor then add additional fuel tanks and 250 kg. bombs each. Purpose was clear: A volunteer pilot would crash into an enemy vessel. American’s were in total suprise. I’ll explain whether it cause decent damage or not.
Japan wasn’t doing good on naval either, so they invented Kaiten. It’s a human guided torpedo launched from a submarine. Main reason behind this that back in WW2, there wasn’t target-locking technology so American ships could evade normal torpedos by dodging thme. But a human could see the ships location instantly via periscope and change its direction. It has 1400 kg. warhead and can reach 50 km/h. Overall, it wasn’t better than the ”Long Lance” torpedos and according to American sources, they only sunk USS Mississinewa and USS Underhill.
Okha, meaning ”Cherry Blossom” was a suicide aircraft used by Japan. There is a metaphor here: When the cherry blossom falled from its tree, it never comes back. Tree is the flight and the cherry blossom is the volunteer pilot, you see.
It was jet powered and has a small range but it can reach high speeds. Wings were small in order to highen speeds and minimaze the target. They didn’t carried guns nor radio, but they do carried extra fuel and bombs. When the cockpit is closed, it was locked. Reason? If pilot is scared at the last moment, they knew they had no chance to escape. Only the pilot, his aircraft and the enemy vessel.
Japan had faith in these Ohka’s but they weren’t many of them, only around 600 were produced because of the constant bombardment by American B-17‘s and B-19’s.
Do kamikaze attacks were succesful or not?
Okay, I know you waited for it. What is the result of all these efforts? Luckily, Norman Freidman did some calculations on 1944 and 1945 about this torpedo topic. Okay, let’s set the scene:
Imagine 120 Japanese torpedo bombers planning to attack a US vessel. About %60 of these planes would be shot down by US fighters, thus leaving us 48 aircraft. Of these planes, about %33 of them would be shot down by AA fire, leaving us 32 planes. Of these 32 planes, about %15 would succesfuly hit their target and we have 4-5 hits.
Now let’s make this calculation reverse for kamikaze planes. Although the Freidman said that %100 of kamikaze planes hit their target, I think he made a mistake. Let’s lower that number to %80. For 5 hits, (6.25 actually) 7 planes were needed. Usually, kamikaze pilots didn’t do evasive maneuvers, thus making it easier to hit with AA, thus making the loss ratio to %50 percent. That makes the plane number 14. %60 Fighter rule still effects and that brings us to 35 planes.
35 Losses + Kamikaze attack bonus V 88 Losses
I think the winner is very clear now. So yes, kamikaze attacks were succesful.