There were more than 400 Allied vessels struck by Japanese special attack weapons in the last twelve months of World War II, including some vessels that were struck as many as six times in one attack. The one special weapon that is most often associated with World War II is the Japanese kamikaze aircraft. Kamikaze was used to describe the way the Japanese believed they would be victorious by destroying the Allied fleet by crashing aircraft into their ships. The word kamikaze originated as the name of major typhoons in 1274 and 1281, which dispersed Mongolian invasion fleets under Kublai Khan. The Allies referred to these special weapons as "suicide" attacks, and found it difficult to understand why an individual would intentionally crash an airplane into a ship, as the two cultures clashed in battle. Both Imperial Japanese Navy and Imperial Japanese Army had Special Attack Units organized specifically for this mission. Aircraft were not the only special attack weapons. Attack boats, suicide divers, and several types of submarines were also used to destroy ships and landing craft as the Allied forces advanced toward Japan.
1. Kamikaze aircraft
Kamikaze 神風, literally: "God wind"; common translation: "Divine wind" listen, official name: Tokubetsu Kōgekitai 特別攻撃隊, Tokkō Tai 特攻隊 or Tokkō 特攻 were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy warships more effectively than was possible with conventional attacks. Numbers quoted vary, but at least 47 Allied vessels, from PT boats to escort carriers, were sunk by kamikaze attacks, and about 300 damaged. During World War II, nearly 3.000 kamikaze pilots were sacrificed. About 14% of kamikaze attacks managed to hit a ship. The Japanese high command exaggerated the effectiveness of the tokko attacks, claiming six aircraft carriers, one escort aircraft carrier and ten battleships had been sunk.
1.1. Kamikaze aircraft Ohka
The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka also spelled Oka 櫻花; Shinjitai: 桜花; "cherry blossom"; Hebon-shiki transcription Ōka was a purpose-built kamikaze aircraft employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in the last months of World War II. US forces gave the aircraft the Japanese name Baka which loosely translates as "idiot" or "fool" in English.
Ohka was a small flying bomb that was carried underneath a Mitsubishi G4M "Betty", Yokosuka P1Y Ginga "Frances" or the planned Heavy Nakajima G8N Renzan Allied code name "Rita" transport type 43A/B and heavy bomber to within range of its target; on release, the pilot would first glide towards the target and, when close enough, he would fire the Ohka s engines and dive into the ship to destroy it. That final approach was almost unstoppable especially for the rocket-powered Ohka Type 11 because the aircraft was capable of attaining tremendous speed. Later versions were designed to be launched from coastal air bases and caves, and even from submarines equipped with aircraft catapults, although the war ended before they were used this way.
1.2. Kamikaze aircraft Tsurugi
The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi 剣 "Sabre" was a one-man purpose-built kamikaze aircraft developed by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in the closing stages of World War II in late 1945. More than 100 Ki-115s were completed.
1.3. Kamikaze aircraft Toka
The Toka 藤花, "Wisteria Blossom" was the IJN version of the Nakajima Ki-115 Ko. Showa was to build the Toka for the IJN.
1.4. Kamikaze aircraft Shusui
The Mitsubishi J8M Shūsui used by the Navy and Ki-200 for the Army. The Shusui "Sword Stroke" was a rocket powered interceptor. It was the Japanese copy of the German Me 163 rocket powered interceptor fighter that was specially designed for use against high flying B-29 bombers. The prototype flew on 7 July 45. The War ended before production.
1.5. Kamikaze aircraft Hiryu To-Go
The Hiryu To-Go, also known as the Ki-167 "Sakura-dan", was a Mitsubishi Ki-67 Kai Allied code name "Peggy" twin-engine bomber with guns removed and faired over, crew reduced to four men. This flying bomb was built with 3 ton thermite shaped-charge bomb behind the cockpit, pointed forward and angled slightly down, and a blast radius of 1 km. Two of these aircraft were known to have been built. One sorted 17 April 1945 and did not return.
1.6. Kamikaze aircraft Shinryu
The Mizuno Shinryu "Divine Dragon" was a proposed rocket-powered kamikaze aircraft designed for the Imperial Japanese Navy towards the end of World War II. It never reached production.
1.7. Kamikaze aircraft Maru-Ten
The Maru-Ten was Nakajimas designation for the Kōkoku Nigō Heiki 皇国二号兵器, "Imperial Weapon No.2". This was a suicide weapon with no landing gear, was catapult launched using Rocket Assisted Take Off RATO, used Ne-12B engines, and carried a single bomb. It was never built, as it evolved into the Nakajima Kikka 中島 橘花, "Orange Blossom".
1.8. Kamikaze aircraft Baika
The Kawanishi Baika 梅花, Ume Blossom" was a pulsejet-powered kamikaze aircraft under development for the Imperial Japanese Navy towards the end of World War II. The war ended before any were built. The design was greatly inspired by the manned version of the German V1 flying bomb, the Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg ".
2.1. Boats Shinyō
The Shinyō Japanese: 震洋, "Sea Quake" were Japanese suicide boats developed during World War II. They were part of the wider Special Attack Units program. These fast motorboats were driven by one man, to speeds of around 30 kn 56 km/h; 35 mph. They were typically equipped with 250 kg 551 lb of explosives packed in the bow with several impact fuses. The Shinyo units were known as Shimpu Tokubetsu-Kogekitai. About 6.200 Shinyo were produced for the Imperial Japanese Navy.
2.2. Boats Maru-Ni
An additional 3.000 of the Shinyo were produced for the Imperial Japanese Army as Maru-Ni. The Maru-Ni units were known as Shimbu Tokubetsu-Kogekitai. About 400 of these boats were sent to Okinawa and Formosa, the rest were stored on the coast of Japan for the ultimate defense against the invasion of the Home islands. The Mary-Ni attacked by dropping one or two shallow-set depth charges as close to the target ship as possible, with the intention of turning away as the depth charges were released off the stern.
3.1. Midget submarines Ko-hyoteki
The Type A Ko-hyoteki class was a class of Japanese midget submarines Ko-hyoteki was manufactured in three Types:
Type D Koryu 115 completed improved Type C with crew of 5 and radius increased to 1000 miles at 8 knots surfaced and 320 miles at 16 knots submerged.
Type A Ko-hyoteki -class midget submarines were used in the 1942 Attack on Sydney Harbour, Attack on Diego Suarez Harbor and the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Type C Midget Ha 62–76 similar to Type A with crew of 3 and radius increased to 350 nautical miles 650 km at 6 knots 11 km/h surfaced or 120 nautical miles 220 km at 4 knots 7.4 km/h submerged.
Type B Midget Ha 45 prototype built 1942 to test Type A improvements.
3.2. Midget submarines Kaiten
The Kaiten was a torpedo modified as a suicide weapon, and used by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the final stages of World War II.
Early designs allowed for the pilot to escape after the final acceleration towards the target, although whether this could have been done successfully is doubtful. There is no record of any pilot attempting to escape or intending to do so, and this provision was dropped from later production kaitens. The inventor of the Kaiten, Lt. Hiroshi Kuroki was lost during one of the first training missions. When the sub was raised a note was found with a note written during his final minutes before death, sending his respects to his family and detailing the cause of the accident and how to repair the defect.
3.3. Midget submarines Kairyu
The Kairyu was a Small, 2-man, midget submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy of 20 ton that was based on the Type A midget submarine that was used in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. All five of the Type A midget submarines used were captured 1 or destroyed 4. Midgets also attacked in Sydney all four lost and Madagascar in June 1942. The Kairyu mini-submarines were meant to meet the invading American Naval forces upon their anticipated approach of Tokyo. Although not intended only as a suicide weapon, crew survival was possible, but the odds of survival were not high. These mini-submarines were built so that they could be equipped with either two torpedoes or a 1.000 pound warhead in the bow, for crashing into ships as the kaiten did. Over 760 of these submarines were planned, and by August 1945, 200 had been manufactured, most of them at the Yokosuka shipyard, but of the 200, only 115 were ready for use at the time of surrender.
Fukuryu Japanese:伏龍, Fukuryu "Crouching dragons" suicide divers were a part of the Special Attack Units prepared to resist the invasion of the Home islands by Allied forces. They were equipped with a diving jacket and trousers, diving shoes, and a diving helmet fixed by four bolts. They were typically weighed down with 9 kg 20 lb of lead, and had two bottles of compressed air at 150 bars. They were expected to be able to walk at a depth of 5 to 7 m 16 to 23 ft, for about six hours. The Fukuryu were armed with a 15 kg 33 lb mine fired with a contact fuse, fitted onto the end of a 5 m 16 ft bamboo pole. To attack, they would swim under a ship and slam the mine onto the ships hull, destroying themselves in the process. This new weapon is only known to have been used a few times operationally:
February 10, 1945: Attempted attack on surveying ship USS Hydrographer AGS-2 by suicide divers in Schonian Harbor, Palaus.
January 8, 1945: Infantry landing craft gunboat LCIG-404 damaged by suicide divers in Yoo Passage, Palaus.
5.1. Land-based suicide weapons Nikaku
Although the Nikaku were not specifically designated as anti-ship weapons, the mental conditioning and training they received prepared them to pilot a Maru Ni, should the need arise. Nikaku were IJA soldiers with explosives strapped to their bodies, acting as human anti-tank mines. The method used in the attack was very simple: the soldier would crawl between the tank treads or allow the tank to drive over him, then explode the charge. The army pioneered this technique in the Philippines and on Okinawa. Other methods used were where the weapon was a shaped-charge on a spike or a simple hand grenade.
5.2. Land-based suicide weapons Giretsu Kūteitai
Giretsu 義烈空挺隊, Giretsu Kūteitai was an airlifted special forces unit of the Imperial Japanese Army formed from Army paratroopers, in November 1944 as a last-ditch attempt to reduce and delay Allied bombing raids on the Japanese home islands. These forces were airlifted and crash landed onto Allied Army or Marine air strips, with the intention of destroying as many aircraft as possible before being killed. On 24 May 1945, a Giretsu force of five Mitsubishi Ki-21 bombers, commanded by Captain Chuichi Suwabe, attacked Yontan airfield, in northern Okinawa. The planes crash-landed on the airfield, where the suicide commandos destroyed nine aircraft, damaged 29 others and set on fire 70.000 gallons of fuel. All the Japanese paratroopers were slain save one, which managed to reach the Japanese lines. Two US servicemen were killed in action.
6. List of ships
This table list every known ship that was attacked and damaged by a Japanese special weapon. Not included are ships that were not damaged from a near miss, or were damaged when debris from another ship that was attacked and hit fell or flew on or into it.
Unless otherwise noted, these ships were hit by one kamikaze aircraft.
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a c. 1825 painting by Sarah Goodridge SS Gilbert Stuart, on the List of Allied vessels struck by Japanese special attack weapons during World War II
USS Carina AK - 74 in the north end of Buckner Bay, Okinawa. List of Allied vessels struck by Japanese special attack weapons Japanese suicide craft. US Navy. 1946
Special Attack Unit were a part of the Japanese Special Attack Units of military aviators who initiated suicide attacks for the Empire of Japan against
but neither could attack because of the speed of the Japanese ships - 22 knots 25 mph 41 km h - and their extreme zigzagging. The Allied forces around Okinawa
on the day of the attack The P - 40 pilots were in the main little experienced in combat. A total of 65 Allied warships and merchant vessels were in Darwin
weapon system evaluation program, the USAF weapons instructor course, and William Tell. The squadron maintains three 120 - foot drone recovery vessels and
of desperate measures, including a variety of Special Attack Units which were popularly called kamikaze. By May 1945, most of the Imperial Japanese Navy
of Japanese forces in Shanghai and Hangzhou during the Second Sino - Japanese War. In 1940, she was assigned to patrol and cover landings of Japanese forces
the surrender of Japan After the end of the war, she was demilitarized and used as a repatriation vessel and was struck from the navy list on 5 October
close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy IJN was incapable of conducting major operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent
Fubuki - class destroyer and the eighth in a class of twenty - four vessels built for the Imperial Japanese Navy following World War I. When introduced into
only a single Japanese vessel a large wooden barge, was found, which Renshaw took under fire and destroyed while she came under air attack On 31 December