Crashed Yokosuka D4Y 'Judy' (2 of 2)

Crashed Yokosuka D4Y 'Judy' (2 of 2)



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Crashed Yokosuka D4Y 'Judy' (2 of 2)

Here we see a Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (Comet) 'Judy' that has crashed in shallow water. This angle gives a good view of the layout of the cockpit.


USS Bataan (CVL-29)

USS Bataan (CVL-29/AVT-4), originally planned as USS Buffalo (CL-99) and also classified as CV-29, was an 11,000 ton Independence-class light aircraft carrier which was commissioned in the United States Navy during World War II on 17 November 1943. Serving in the Pacific Theatre for the entire war, taking part in operations around New Guinea, the Invasion of the Mariana Islands, the Battle of the Philippine sea, the Battle of Okinawa, and Attacks on the Japanese home islands. After World War II's end she was converted into an anti-submarine carrier and placed in reserve on 11 February 1947.

  • 6 Battle Stars (World War II)
  • 7 Battle Stars (Korea)
  • 11,120 long tons (11,300 t) light
  • 16,260 long tons (16,520 t) full load
  • Overall: 622.5 ft (189.7 m)
  • Waterline: 600 ft (180 m)
  • Extreme: 109 ft 2 in (33.27 m)
  • Waterline: 71 ft (22 m)
  • 26 × Bofors 40 mm guns (2×4, 9×2)
  • 18 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons (18×1)

She was reactivated on 13 May 1950 at Philadelphia, with Captain Edgar T. Neale in command in order to participate in the Korean War. After the war she returned to Pearl Harbor, and reported for a preinactivation overhaul on 26 August 1953. After moving to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, Bataan was decommissioned on 9 April 1954 and assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Francisco. Although she was reclassified an auxiliary aircraft transport and redesignated AVT-4 on 15 May 1959, her name was struck from the Navy List on 1 September 1959. She was sold to Nicolai Joffe Corp., Beverly Hills, California, on 19 June 1961 for scrapping.


Contents

The Japanese word kamikaze is usually translated as "divine wind" (kami is the word for "god", "spirit", or "divinity", and kaze for "wind"). The word originated from Makurakotoba of waka poetry modifying "Ise" [8] and has been used since August 1281 to refer to the major typhoons that dispersed Mongol-Koryo fleets who invaded Japan under Kublai Khan in 1274. [9] [10]

A Japanese monoplane that made a record-breaking flight from Tokyo to London in 1937 for the Asahi newspaper group was named Kamikaze. She was a prototype for the Mitsubishi Ki-15 ("Babs"). [11]

In Japanese, the formal term used for units carrying out suicide attacks during 1944–1945 is tokubetsu kōgekitai (特別攻撃隊), which literally means "special attack unit". This is usually abbreviated to tokkōtai (特攻隊). More specifically, air suicide attack units from the Imperial Japanese Navy were officially called shinpū tokubetsu kōgeki tai (神風特別攻撃隊, "divine wind special attack units"). Shinpū is the on-reading (on'yomi or Chinese-derived pronunciation) of the same characters as the kun-reading (kun'yomi or Japanese pronunciation) kamikaze in Japanese. During World War II, the pronunciation kamikaze was used only informally in the Japanese press in relation to suicide attacks, but after the war this usage gained acceptance worldwide and was re-imported into Japan. As a result, the special attack units are sometimes known in Japan as kamikaze tokubetsu kōgeki tai. [ citation needed ]

Background Edit

Before the formation of kamikaze units, pilots had made deliberate crashes as a last resort when their planes had suffered severe damage and they did not want to risk being captured, or wanted to do as much damage to the enemy as possible, since they were crashing anyway. Such situations occurred in both the Axis and Allied air forces. Axell and Kase see these suicides as "individual, impromptu decisions by men who were mentally prepared to die". [12] One example of this may have occurred on 7 December 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor. [13] First Lieutenant Fusata Iida's plane had taken a hit and had started leaking fuel when he apparently used it to make a suicide attack on Naval Air Station Kaneohe. Before taking off, he had told his men that if his plane were to become badly damaged he would crash it into a "worthy enemy target". [14] But in most cases, little evidence exists that such hits represented more than accidental collisions of the kind that sometimes happen in intense sea or air battles. [ citation needed ]

The carrier battles in 1942, particularly Midway, inflicted irreparable damage on the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS), such that they could no longer put together a large number of fleet carriers with well-trained aircrews. [15] Japanese planners had assumed a quick war and lacked comprehensive programmes to replace the losses of ships, pilots and sailors and Midway the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) and the New Guinea campaign (1942–1945), notably the Battles of Eastern Solomons (August 1942) and Santa Cruz (October 1942), decimated the IJNAS veteran aircrews, and replacing their combat experience proved impossible. [16]

During 1943–1944, U.S. forces steadily advanced toward Japan. Newer U.S.-made planes, especially the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair, outclassed and soon outnumbered Japan's fighter planes. Tropical diseases, as well as shortages of spare parts and fuel, made operations more and more difficult for the IJNAS. By the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 1944), the Japanese had to make do with obsolete aircraft and inexperienced aviators in the fight against better-trained and more experienced US Navy airmen who flew radar-directed combat air patrols. The Japanese lost over 400 carrier-based planes and pilots in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, effectively putting an end to their carriers' potency. Allied aviators called the action the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot".

On 19 June 1944, planes from the carrier Chiyoda approached a US task group. According to some accounts, two made suicide attacks, one of which hit USS Indiana. [17]

The important Japanese base of Saipan fell to the Allied forces on 15 July 1944. Its capture provided adequate forward bases that enabled U.S. air forces using the Boeing B-29 Superfortress to strike at the Japanese home islands. After the fall of Saipan, the Japanese High Command predicted that the Allies would try to capture the Philippines, strategically important to Tokyo because of the islands' location between the oilfields of Southeast Asia and Japan.

Beginnings Edit

Captain Motoharu Okamura, in charge of the Tateyama Base in Tokyo, as well as the 341st Air Group Home, was, according to some sources, the first officer to officially propose kamikaze attack tactics. With his superiors, he arranged the first investigations into the plausibility and mechanisms of intentional suicide attacks on 15 June 1944. [18]

In August 1944, it was announced by the Domei news agency that a flight instructor named Takeo Tagata was training pilots in Taiwan for suicide missions. [19]

One source claims that the first kamikaze mission occurred on 13 September 1944. A group of pilots from the army's 31st Fighter Squadron on Negros Island decided to launch a suicide attack the following morning. [20] First Lieutenant Takeshi Kosai and a sergeant were selected. Two 100 kg (220 lb) bombs were attached to two fighters, and the pilots took off before dawn, planning to crash into carriers. They never returned, but there is no record of an enemy plane hitting an Allied ship that day. [21]

According to some sources, on 14 October 1944, USS Reno was hit by a deliberately crashed Japanese plane. [22]

Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, the commander of the 26th Air Flotilla (part of the 11th Air Fleet), is sometimes credited with inventing the kamikaze tactic. Arima personally led an attack by about 100 Yokosuka D4Y Suisei ("Judy") dive bombers against a large Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Franklin, near Leyte Gulf, on or about 15 October 1944. Arima was killed and part of a plane hit Franklin. The Japanese high command and propagandists seized on Arima's example. He was promoted posthumously to Vice Admiral and was given official credit for making the first kamikaze attack. It is not clear that this was a planned suicide attack, and official Japanese accounts of Arima's attack bore little resemblance to the actual events. [ citation needed ]

On 17 October 1944, Allied forces assaulted Suluan Island, beginning the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Imperial Japanese Navy's 1st Air Fleet, based at Manila, was assigned the task of assisting the Japanese ships that would attempt to destroy Allied forces in Leyte Gulf. That unit had only 41 aircraft: 34 Mitsubishi A6M Zero ("Zeke") carrier-based fighters, three Nakajima B6N Tenzan ("Jill") torpedo bombers, one Mitsubishi G4M ("Betty") and two Yokosuka P1Y Ginga ("Frances") land-based bombers, and one additional reconnaissance aircraft. The task facing the Japanese air forces seemed impossible. The 1st Air Fleet commandant, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi, decided to form a suicide offensive force, the Special Attack Unit. In a meeting on 19 October at Mabalacat Airfield (known to the U.S. military as Clark Air Base) near Manila, Onishi told officers of the 201st Flying Group headquarters: "I don't think there would be any other certain way to carry out the operation [to hold the Philippines] than to put a 250 kg bomb on a Zero and let it crash into a U.S. carrier, in order to disable her for a week."

First unit Edit

Commander Asaichi Tamai asked a group of 23 talented student pilots, all of whom he had trained, to volunteer for the special attack force. All of the pilots raised both of their hands, volunteering to join the operation. Later, Tamai asked Lieutenant Yukio Seki to command the special attack force. Seki is said to have closed his eyes, lowered his head and thought for ten seconds before saying: "Please do appoint me to the post." Seki became the 24th kamikaze pilot to be chosen. He later said: "Japan's future is bleak if it is forced to kill one of its best pilots" and "I am not going on this mission for the Emperor or for the Empire . I am going because I was ordered to." [23]

The names of the four sub-units within the Kamikaze Special Attack Force were Unit Shikishima, Unit Yamato, Unit Asahi and Unit Yamazakura. [24] These names were taken from a patriotic death poem, Shikishima no Yamato-gokoro wo hito towaba, asahi ni niou yamazakura bana by the Japanese classical scholar, Motoori Norinaga. [25] The poem reads:

If someone asks about the Yamato spirit [Spirit of Old/True Japan] of Shikishima [a poetic name for Japan] – it is the flowers of yamazakura [mountain cherry blossom] that are fragrant in the Asahi [rising sun].

A less literal translation [26] is:

Asked about the soul of Japan,
I would say
That it is
Like wild cherry blossoms
Glowing in the morning sun.

Ōnishi, addressing this unit, told them that their nobility of spirit would keep the homeland from ruin even in defeat. [27]

Leyte Gulf: the first attacks Edit

Several suicide attacks, carried out during the invasion of Leyte by Japanese pilots from units other than the Special Attack Force, have been described as the first kamikaze attacks. Early on 21 October 1944, a Japanese aircraft deliberately crashed into the foremast of the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. [28] This aircraft was possibly either an Aichi D3A dive bomber, from an unidentified unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, [28] or a Mitsubishi Ki-51 of the 6th Flying Brigade, Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. [29] The attack killed 30 personnel, including the cruiser's captain, Emile Dechaineux, and wounded 64, including the Australian force commander, Commodore John Collins. [28] The Australian official history of the war claimed that this was the first kamikaze attack on an Allied ship. Other sources disagree because it was not a planned attack by a member of the Special Attack Force and was most likely undertaken on the pilot's own initiative. [28]

The sinking of the ocean tug USS Sonoma on 24 October is listed in some sources as the first ship lost to a kamikaze strike, but the attack occurred before the first mission of the Special Attack Force (on 25 October) and the aircraft used, a Mitsubishi G4M, was not flown by the original four Special Attack Squadrons.

On 25 October 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Kamikaze Special Attack Force carried out its first mission. Five A6M Zeros, led by Lieutenant Seki, were escorted to the target by leading Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa where they attacked several escort carriers. One Zero attempted to hit the bridge of USS Kitkun Bay but instead exploded on the port catwalk and cartwheeled into the sea. Two others dived at USS Fanshaw Bay but were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. The last two ran at USS White Plains. One, under heavy fire and trailing smoke, aborted the attempt on White Plains and instead banked toward USS St. Lo, plowing into the flight deck. Its bomb caused fires that resulted in the bomb magazine exploding, sinking the carrier. [30]

By 26 October day's end, 55 kamikazes from the Special Attack Force had also damaged three large escort carriers: USS Sangamon, Santee, and Suwannee (which had taken a kamikaze strike forward of its aft elevator the day before) and three smaller escorts: USS White Plains, Kalinin Bay, and Kitkun Bay. In total, seven carriers were hit, as well as 40 other ships (five sunk, 23 heavily damaged and 12 moderately damaged).

Main wave of attacks Edit

Early successes – such as the sinking of USS St. Lo – were followed by an immediate expansion of the program, and over the next few months over 2,000 planes made such attacks.

When Japan began to suffer intense strategic bombing by Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, the Japanese military attempted to use suicide attacks against this threat. During the northern hemisphere winter of 1944–45, the IJAAF formed the 47th Air Regiment, also known as the Shinten Special Unit (Shinten Seiku Tai) at Narimasu Airfield, Nerima, Tokyo, to defend the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. The unit was equipped with Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki ("Tojo") fighters, whose pilots were instructed to collide with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-29s approaching Japan. Targeting the aircraft proved to be much less successful and practical than attacks against warships, as the bombers made for much faster, more maneuverable and smaller targets. The B-29 also had formidable defensive weaponry, so suicide attacks against the plane demanded considerable piloting skill to be successful, which worked against the very purpose of using expendable pilots. Even encouraging capable pilots to bail out before impact was ineffective because vital personnel were often lost when they mistimed their exits and were killed as a result.

On 11 March, the U.S. carrier USS Randolph was hit and moderately damaged at Ulithi Atoll, in the Caroline Islands, by a kamikaze that had flown almost 4,000 km (2,500 mi) from Japan, in a mission called Operation Tan No. 2. On 20 March, the submarine USS Devilfish survived a hit from an aircraft just off Japan.

Purpose-built kamikaze planes, as opposed to converted fighters and dive-bombers, were also being constructed. Ensign Mitsuo Ohta had suggested that piloted glider bombs, carried within range of targets by a mother plane, should be developed. The First Naval Air Technical Bureau (Kugisho) in Yokosuka refined Ohta's idea. Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka rocket planes, launched from bombers, were first deployed in kamikaze attacks from March 1945. U.S. personnel gave them the derisive nickname "Baka Bombs" (baka is Japanese for "idiot" or "stupid"). The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi was a simple, easily built propeller aircraft with a wooden airframe that used engines from existing stocks. Its non-retractable landing gear was jettisoned shortly after takeoff for a suicide mission, recovered and reused. During 1945, the Japanese military began stockpiling hundreds of Tsurugi, Ohkas, other aircraft and suicide boats for use against Allied forces expected to invade Japan. The invasion never happened, and few were ever used. [31]

Allied defensive tactics Edit

In early 1945, U.S. Navy aviator Commander John Thach, already famous for developing effective aerial tactics against the Japanese such as the Thach Weave, developed a defensive strategy against kamikazes called the "big blue blanket" to establish Allied air supremacy well away from the carrier force. This recommended combat air patrols (CAP) that were larger and operated further from the carriers than before, a line of picket destroyers and destroyer escorts at least 80 km (50 mi) from the main body of the fleet to provide earlier radar interception and improved coordination between fighter direction officers on carriers. This plan also called for around-the-clock fighter patrols over Allied fleets, though the U.S. Navy had cut back training of fighter pilots so there were not enough Navy pilots available to counter the kamikaze threat. A final element included intensive fighter sweeps over Japanese airfields, and bombing of Japanese runways, using delayed-action bombs to make repairs more difficult. [32]

Late in 1944, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) used the good high-altitude performance of its Supermarine Seafires (the naval version of the Spitfire) on combat air patrol duties. Seafires were heavily involved in countering the kamikaze attacks during the Iwo Jima landings and beyond. The Seafires' best day was 15 August 1945, shooting down eight attacking aircraft with a single loss.

Allied pilots were more experienced, better trained and in command of superior aircraft, making the poorly trained kamikaze pilots easy targets. The U.S. Fast Carrier Task Force alone could bring over 1,000 fighter aircraft into play. Allied pilots became adept at destroying enemy aircraft before they struck ships.

Allied gunners had begun to develop techniques to negate kamikaze attacks. Light rapid fire anti-aircraft weapons such as the 20 mm Oerlikon autocannons were still useful though the 40 mm Bofors was preferred, and though their high rate of fire and quick training remained advantageous, they lacked the punch to take down a kamikaze bearing down on the ship they defended. [33] It was found that heavy anti-aircraft guns such as the 5"/38 caliber gun (127 mm) were the most effective as they had sufficient firepower to blow enemy planes out of the air at a safe range from the ship, which was preferable since even a heavily damaged kamikaze could reach its target. [34] [35] The speedy Ohkas presented a very difficult problem for anti-aircraft fire, since their velocity made fire control extremely difficult. By 1945, large numbers of anti-aircraft shells with radio frequency proximity fuzes, on average seven times more effective than regular shells, became available, and the U.S. Navy recommended their use against kamikaze attacks.

Final phase Edit

The peak period of kamikaze attack frequency came during April–June 1945 at the Battle of Okinawa. On 6 April 1945, waves of aircraft made hundreds of attacks in Operation Kikusui ("floating chrysanthemums"). [36] At Okinawa, kamikaze attacks focused at first on Allied destroyers on picket duty, and then on the carriers in the middle of the fleet. Suicide attacks by planes or boats at Okinawa sank or put out of action at least 30 U.S. warships [37] and at least three U.S. merchant ships, [38] along with some from other Allied forces. The attacks expended 1,465 planes. Many warships of all classes were damaged, some severely, but no aircraft carriers, battleships or cruisers were sunk by kamikaze at Okinawa. Most of the ships lost were destroyers or smaller vessels, especially those on picket duty. [37] The destroyer USS Laffey earned the nickname "The Ship That Would Not Die" after surviving six kamikaze attacks and four bomb hits during this battle. [39]

U.S. carriers, with their wooden flight decks, appeared to suffer more damage from kamikaze hits than the armored-decked carriers from the British Pacific Fleet. U.S. carriers also suffered considerably heavier casualties from kamikaze strikes for instance, 389 men were killed in one attack on USS Bunker Hill, greater than the combined number of fatalities suffered on all six Royal Navy armoured carriers from all forms of attack during the entire war. Bunker Hill and Franklin were both hit (in Franklin's case, although by a dive bomber and not a kamikaze) while conducting operations with fully fueled and armed aircraft spotted on deck for takeoff, an extremely vulnerable state for any carrier. Eight kamikaze hits on five British carriers resulted in only 20 deaths while a combined total of 15 bomb hits, most of 500 kg (1,100 lb) weight or greater, and one torpedo hit on four carriers caused 193 fatal casualties earlier in the war – striking proof of the protective value of the armoured flight deck. [40] [41]

The resilience of well-armoured vessels was shown on 4 May, just after 11:30, when there was a wave of suicide attacks against the British Pacific Fleet. One Japanese plane made a steep dive from "a great height" at the carrier HMS Formidable and was engaged by anti-aircraft guns. [42] Although the kamikaze was hit by gunfire, it managed to drop a bomb that detonated on the flight deck, making a crater 3 m (9.8 ft) long, 0.6 m (2 ft) wide and 0.6 m (2 ft) deep. A long steel splinter speared down through the hangar deck and the main boiler room (where it ruptured a steam line) before coming to rest in a fuel tank near the aircraft park, where it started a major fire. Eight personnel were killed and 47 were wounded. One Corsair and 10 Grumman Avengers were destroyed. The fires were gradually brought under control, and the crater in the deck was repaired with concrete and steel plate. By 17:00, Corsairs were able to land. On 9 May, Formidable was again damaged by a kamikaze, as were the carrier HMS Victorious and the battleship HMS Howe. The British were able to clear the flight deck and resume flight operations in just hours, while their American counterparts took a few days or even months, as observed by a U.S. Navy liaison officer on HMS Indefatigable who commented: "When a kamikaze hits a U.S. carrier it means six months of repair at Pearl Harbor. When a kamikaze hits a Limey carrier it's just a case of 'Sweepers, man your brooms'."

Twin-engine aircraft were occasionally used in planned kamikaze attacks. For example, Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryū ("Peggy") medium bombers, based on Formosa, undertook kamikaze attacks on Allied forces off Okinawa, while a pair of Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick") heavy fighters caused enough damage for USS Dickerson (DD-157) to be scuttled.

Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, the commander of the IJN 5th Air Fleet based in Kyushu, participated in one of the final kamikaze attacks on American ships on 15 August 1945, hours after Japan's announced surrender. [43]

As the end of the war approached, the Allies did not suffer more serious significant losses, despite having far more ships and facing a greater intensity of kamikaze attacks. Although causing some of the heaviest casualties on U.S. carriers in 1945, the IJN had sacrificed 2,525 kamikaze pilots and the IJAAF 1,387 – far more than it had lost in 1942 when it sank or crippled three carriers (albeit without inflicting significant casualties). In 1942, when U.S. Navy vessels were scarce, the temporary absence of key warships from the combat zone would tie up operational initiatives. By 1945, however, the U.S. Navy was large enough that damaged ships could be detached back home for repair without significantly hampering the fleet's operational capability. The only surface losses were destroyers and smaller ships that lacked the capability to sustain heavy damage. Overall, the kamikazes were unable to turn the tide of the war and stop the Allied invasion.

In the immediate aftermath of kamikaze strikes, British carriers with their armoured flight decks recovered more quickly compared to their US counterparts. Post-war analysis showed that some British carriers such as HMS Formidable suffered structural damage that led to them being scrapped, as being beyond economic repair. Britain's post-war economic situation played a role in the decision to not repair damaged carriers, while even seriously damaged American carriers such as USS Bunker Hill were repaired, although they were then mothballed or sold off as surplus after World War II without re-entering service.

The exact number of ships sunk is a matter of debate. According to a wartime Japanese propaganda announcement, the missions sank 81 ships and damaged 195, and according to a Japanese tally, kamikaze attacks accounted for up to 80% of the U.S. losses in the final phase of the war in the Pacific. In a 2004 book, World War II, the historians Willmott, Cross and Messenger stated that more than 70 U.S. vessels were "sunk or damaged beyond repair" by kamikazes. [44]

Approximately 2,800 Kamikaze attackers sank 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded over 4,800. Despite radar detection and cuing, airborne interception, attrition, and massive anti-aircraft barrages, 14 percent of Kamikazes survived to score a hit on a ship nearly 8.5 percent of all ships hit by Kamikazes sank. [45]

Australian journalists Denis and Peggy Warner, in a 1982 book with Japanese naval historian Sadao Seno (The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions), arrived at a total of 57 ships sunk by kamikazes. Bill Gordon, an American Japanologist who specializes in kamikazes, lists in a 2007 article 47 ships known to have been sunk by kamikaze aircraft. Gordon says that the Warners and Seno included ten ships that did not sink. He lists:

  • three escort carriers: USS St. Lo, USS Ommaney Bay, and USS Bismarck Sea
  • 14 destroyers, including the last ship to be sunk, USS Callaghan (DD-792) on 29 July 1945, off Okinawa
  • three high-speed transport ships
  • five Landing Ship, Tank
  • four Landing Ship Medium
  • three Landing Ship Medium (Rocket)
  • one auxiliary tanker
  • three Victory ships
  • three Liberty ships
  • two high-speed minesweepers
  • one Auk class minesweeper
  • one submarine chaser
  • two PT boats
  • two Landing Craft Support

It was claimed by the Japanese forces at the time that there were many volunteers for the suicidal forces. Captain Motoharu Okamura commented that "there were so many volunteers for suicide missions that he referred to them as a swarm of bees", explaining: "Bees die after they have stung." [46] Okamura is credited with being the first to propose the kamikaze attacks. He had expressed his desire to lead a volunteer group of suicide attacks some four months before Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, commander of the Japanese naval air forces in the Philippines, presented the idea to his staff. While Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome, commander of the second air fleet, was inspecting the 341st Air Group, Captain Okamura took the chance to express his ideas on crash-dive tactics. "In our present situation 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 is no other way. There will be more than enough volunteers for this chance to save our country, and I would like to command such an operation. Provide me with 300 planes and I will turn the tide of war." [47]

When the volunteers arrived for duty in the corps, there were twice as many persons as aircraft available. "After the war, some commanders would express regret for allowing superfluous crews to accompany sorties, sometimes squeezing themselves aboard bombers and fighters so as to encourage the suicide pilots and, it seems, join in the exultation of sinking a large enemy vessel." Many of the kamikaze pilots believed their death would pay the debt they owed and show the love they had for their families, friends and emperor. "So eager were many minimally trained pilots to take part in suicide missions that when their sorties were delayed or aborted, the pilots became deeply despondent. Many of those who were selected for a bodycrashing mission were described as being extraordinarily blissful immediately before their final sortie." [48]

As time wore on, modern critics questioned the nationalist portrayal of kamikaze pilots as noble soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives for the country. In 2006, Tsuneo Watanabe, editor-in-chief of the Yomiuri Shimbun, criticized Japanese nationalists' glorification of kamikaze attacks: [49] [50] [51]

It's all a lie that they left filled with braveness and joy, crying, "Long live the emperor!" They were sheep at a slaughterhouse. Everybody was looking down and tottering. Some were unable to stand up and were carried and pushed into the plane by maintenance soldiers.

When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills.

Tokkōtai pilot training, as described by Takeo Kasuga, [53] generally "consisted of incredibly strenuous training, coupled with cruel and torturous corporal punishment as a daily routine". Daikichi Irokawa, who trained at Tsuchiura Naval Air Base, recalled that he "was struck on the face so hard and frequently that [his] face was no longer recognizable". He also wrote: "I was hit so hard that I could no longer see and fell on the floor. The minute I got up, I was hit again by a club so that I would confess." This brutal "training" was justified by the idea that it would instill a "soldier's fighting spirit", but daily beatings and corporal punishment eliminated patriotism among many pilots. [54]

Irokawa Daikichi, Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

Pilots were given a manual that detailed how they were supposed to think, prepare and attack. From this manual, pilots were told to "attain a high level of spiritual training", and to "keep [their] health in the very best condition". These instructions, among others, were meant to make pilots mentally ready to die. [52]

The tokkōtai pilot's manual also explained how a pilot may turn back if he could not locate a target, and that a pilot "should not waste [his] life lightly". One pilot, a graduate from Waseda University, who continually came back to base was shot after his ninth return. [55]

The manual was very detailed in how a pilot should attack. A pilot would dive towards his target and "aim for a point between the bridge tower and the smoke stacks". Entering a smoke stack was also said to be "effective". Pilots were told not to aim at a carrier's bridge tower but instead to target the elevators or the flight deck. For horizontal attacks, the pilot was to "aim at the middle of the vessel, slightly higher than the waterline" or to "aim at the entrance to the aircraft hangar, or the bottom of the stack" if the former was too difficult. [52]

The tokkōtai pilot's manual told pilots to never close their eyes, as this would lower the chances of hitting their targets. In the final moments before the crash, the pilot was to yell "hissatsu" (必殺) at the top of his lungs, which translates to "certain kill" or "sink without fail". [52]

In 1944–45, US military leaders invented the term "State Shinto" as part of the Shinto Directive to differentiate the Japanese state's ideology from traditional Shinto practices. As time went on, Americans claimed, Shinto was used increasingly in the promotion of nationalist sentiment. In 1890, the Imperial Rescript on Education was passed, under which students were required to ritually recite its oath to offer themselves "courageously to the state" as well as protect the Imperial family. The ultimate offering was to give up one's life. It was an honour to die for Japan and the Emperor. Axell and Kase pointed out: "The fact is that innumerable soldiers, sailors and pilots were determined to die, to become eirei, that is 'guardian spirits' of the country. . Many Japanese felt that to be enshrined at Yasukuni was a special honour because the Emperor visited the shrine to pay homage twice a year. Yasukuni is the only shrine deifying common men which the Emperor would visit to pay his respects." [46] Young Japanese people were indoctrinated from an early age with these ideals.

Following the commencement of the kamikaze tactic, newspapers and books ran advertisements, articles and stories regarding the suicide bombers to aid in recruiting and support. In October 1944, the Nippon Times quoted Lieutenant Sekio Nishina: "The spirit of the Special Attack Corps is the great spirit that runs in the blood of every Japanese . The crashing action which simultaneously kills the enemy and oneself without fail is called the Special Attack . Every Japanese is capable of becoming a member of the Special Attack Corps." [56] Publishers also played up the idea that the kamikaze were enshrined at Yasukuni and ran exaggerated stories of kamikaze bravery – there were even fairy tales for little children that promoted the kamikaze. A Foreign Office official named Toshikazu Kase said: "It was customary for GHQ [in Tokyo] to make false announcements of victory in utter disregard of facts, and for the elated and complacent public to believe them." [57]

While many stories were falsified, some were true, such as that of Kiyu Ishikawa, who saved a Japanese ship when he crashed his plane into a torpedo that an American submarine had launched. The sergeant major was posthumously promoted to second lieutenant by the emperor and was enshrined at Yasukuni. [58] Stories like these, which showed the kind of praise and honour death produced, encouraged young Japanese to volunteer for the Special Attack Corps and instilled a desire in the youth to die as a kamikaze.

Ceremonies were carried out before kamikaze pilots departed on their final mission. The kamikaze shared ceremonial cups of sake or water known as "mizu no sakazuki". Many Army officer kamikaze took their swords along, while the Navy pilots (as a general rule) did not. The kamikaze, along with all Japanese aviators flying over unfriendly territory, were issued (or purchased, if they were officers) a Nambu pistol with which to end their lives if they risked being captured. Like all Army and Navy servicemen, the kamikaze would wear their senninbari, a "belt of a thousand stitches" given to them by their mothers. [59] They also composed and read a death poem, a tradition stemming from the samurai, who did so before committing seppuku. Pilots carried prayers from their families and were given military decorations. The kamikaze were escorted by other pilots whose function was to protect them en route to their destination and report on the results. Some of these escort pilots, such as Zero pilot Toshimitsu Imaizumi, were later sent out on their own kamikaze missions. [59]

While it is commonly perceived that volunteers signed up in droves for kamikaze missions, it has also been contended that there was extensive coercion and peer pressure involved in recruiting soldiers for the sacrifice. Their motivations in "volunteering" were complex and not simply about patriotism or bringing honour to their families. Firsthand interviews with surviving kamikaze and escort pilots has revealed that they were motivated by a desire to protect their families from perceived atrocities and possible extinction at the hands of the Allies. They viewed themselves as the last defense. [59]

At least one of these pilots was a conscripted Korean with a Japanese name, adopted under the pre-war Soshi-kaimei ordinance that compelled Koreans to take Japanese personal names. [60] Eleven of the 1,036 IJA kamikaze pilots who died in sorties from Chiran and other Japanese air bases during the Battle of Okinawa were Koreans.

It is said that young pilots on kamikaze missions often flew southwest from Japan over the 922 m (3,025 ft) Mount Kaimon. The mountain is also called "Satsuma Fuji" (meaning a mountain like Mount Fuji but located in the Satsuma Province region). Suicide-mission pilots looked over their shoulders to see the mountain, the southernmost on the Japanese mainland, said farewell to their country and saluted the mountain. Residents on Kikaishima Island, east of Amami Ōshima, say that pilots from suicide-mission units dropped flowers from the air as they departed on their final missions.

Kamikaze pilots who were unable to complete their missions (because of mechanical failure, interception, etc.) were stigmatized in the years following the war. This stigma began to diminish some 50 years after the war as scholars and publishers began to distribute the survivors' stories. [61]

Some Japanese military personnel were critical of the policy. Officers such as Minoru Genda, Tadashi Minobe and Yoshio Shiga, refused to obey the policy. They said that the commander of a kamikaze attack should engage in the task first. [62] [63] Some persons who obeyed the policy, such as Kiyokuma Okajima, Saburo Shindo and Iyozo Fujita, were also critical of the policy. [64] [65] Saburō Sakai said: "We never dared to question orders, to doubt authority, to do anything but immediately carry out all the commands of our superiors. We were automatons who obeyed without thinking." [66] Tetsuzō Iwamoto refused to engage in a kamikaze attack because he thought the task of fighter pilots was to shoot down aircraft. [67]


Yokosuka B3Y Type 92

In 1932 the Japanese Navy issued its 7-Shi requirements for a new torpedo bomber, to replace the B2M Type 89. Initially both Nakajima, with their B3N, and Mitsubishi, with their B3M, responded. Both designs proved to be failures: the B3N suffered from the poor reliability of its Hikari engine, and the single B3M prototype was destroyed in a crash. The naval air arsenal at Yokosuka started their design later than the other manufacturers and consequently the Yokosuka B3Y proved more reliable, and was accepted for service as the Type 92 Carrier Attack Bomber.

The B3Y was constructed of tubular steel with a fabric covering for the fuselage, and was equipped with wooden wings that hinged and could be folded backwards to reduce space requirements on aircraft carriers. It was powered by the Hiro Type 91 W-12 engine, which proved to be as unreliable as the Hikari and as a result the number produced was low – just 129 in total during a 3 year production run.

In service the B3Y was assigned to the 12 th Kokutai, which used the type along with its D1A bombers and A4N fighters during the Battle of Shanghai. The type proved relatively successful and was considered to be a stable and accurate bombing platform. However by 1937 the B3Y’s successors, the B4Y and B5N, were already either in service or being prepared for service and as a result the Type 92 was only to see action briefly.


Contents

The Japanese word kamikaze is usually translated as "divine wind" (kami is the word for "god", "spirit", or "divinity", and kaze for "wind"). The word originated from Makurakotoba of waka poetry modifying "Ise" [8] and has been used since August 1281 to refer to the major typhoons that dispersed Mongol-Koryo fleets who invaded Japan under Kublai Khan in 1274. [9] [10]

A Japanese monoplane that made a record-breaking flight from Tokyo to London in 1937 for the Asahi newspaper group was named Kamikaze. She was a prototype for the Mitsubishi Ki-15 ("Babs"). [11]

In Japanese, the formal term used for units carrying out suicide attacks during 1944–1945 is tokubetsu kōgekitai (特別攻撃隊), which literally means "special attack unit". This is usually abbreviated to tokkōtai (特攻隊). More specifically, air suicide attack units from the Imperial Japanese Navy were officially called shinpū tokubetsu kōgeki tai (神風特別攻撃隊, "divine wind special attack units"). Shinpū is the on-reading (on'yomi or Chinese-derived pronunciation) of the same characters as the kun-reading (kun'yomi or Japanese pronunciation) kamikaze in Japanese. During World War II, the pronunciation kamikaze was used only informally in the Japanese press in relation to suicide attacks, but after the war this usage gained acceptance worldwide and was re-imported into Japan. As a result, the special attack units are sometimes known in Japan as kamikaze tokubetsu kōgeki tai. [ citation needed ]

Background Edit

Before the formation of kamikaze units, pilots had made deliberate crashes as a last resort when their planes had suffered severe damage and they did not want to risk being captured, or wanted to do as much damage to the enemy as possible, since they were crashing anyway. Such situations occurred in both the Axis and Allied air forces. Axell and Kase see these suicides as "individual, impromptu decisions by men who were mentally prepared to die". [12] One example of this may have occurred on 7 December 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor. [13] First Lieutenant Fusata Iida's plane had taken a hit and had started leaking fuel when he apparently used it to make a suicide attack on Naval Air Station Kaneohe. Before taking off, he had told his men that if his plane were to become badly damaged he would crash it into a "worthy enemy target". [14] But in most cases, little evidence exists that such hits represented more than accidental collisions of the kind that sometimes happen in intense sea or air battles. [ citation needed ]

The carrier battles in 1942, particularly Midway, inflicted irreparable damage on the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS), such that they could no longer put together a large number of fleet carriers with well-trained aircrews. [15] Japanese planners had assumed a quick war and lacked comprehensive programmes to replace the losses of ships, pilots and sailors and Midway the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) and the New Guinea campaign (1942–1945), notably the Battles of Eastern Solomons (August 1942) and Santa Cruz (October 1942), decimated the IJNAS veteran aircrews, and replacing their combat experience proved impossible. [16]

During 1943–1944, U.S. forces steadily advanced toward Japan. Newer U.S.-made planes, especially the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair, outclassed and soon outnumbered Japan's fighter planes. Tropical diseases, as well as shortages of spare parts and fuel, made operations more and more difficult for the IJNAS. By the Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 1944), the Japanese had to make do with obsolete aircraft and inexperienced aviators in the fight against better-trained and more experienced US Navy airmen who flew radar-directed combat air patrols. The Japanese lost over 400 carrier-based planes and pilots in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, effectively putting an end to their carriers' potency. Allied aviators called the action the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot".

On 19 June 1944, planes from the carrier Chiyoda approached a US task group. According to some accounts, two made suicide attacks, one of which hit USS Indiana. [17]

The important Japanese base of Saipan fell to the Allied forces on 15 July 1944. Its capture provided adequate forward bases that enabled U.S. air forces using the Boeing B-29 Superfortress to strike at the Japanese home islands. After the fall of Saipan, the Japanese High Command predicted that the Allies would try to capture the Philippines, strategically important to Tokyo because of the islands' location between the oilfields of Southeast Asia and Japan.

Beginnings Edit

Captain Motoharu Okamura, in charge of the Tateyama Base in Tokyo, as well as the 341st Air Group Home, was, according to some sources, the first officer to officially propose kamikaze attack tactics. With his superiors, he arranged the first investigations into the plausibility and mechanisms of intentional suicide attacks on 15 June 1944. [18]

In August 1944, it was announced by the Domei news agency that a flight instructor named Takeo Tagata was training pilots in Taiwan for suicide missions. [19]

One source claims that the first kamikaze mission occurred on 13 September 1944. A group of pilots from the army's 31st Fighter Squadron on Negros Island decided to launch a suicide attack the following morning. [20] First Lieutenant Takeshi Kosai and a sergeant were selected. Two 100 kg (220 lb) bombs were attached to two fighters, and the pilots took off before dawn, planning to crash into carriers. They never returned, but there is no record of an enemy plane hitting an Allied ship that day. [21]

According to some sources, on 14 October 1944, USS Reno was hit by a deliberately crashed Japanese plane. [22]

Rear Admiral Masafumi Arima, the commander of the 26th Air Flotilla (part of the 11th Air Fleet), is sometimes credited with inventing the kamikaze tactic. Arima personally led an attack by about 100 Yokosuka D4Y Suisei ("Judy") dive bombers against a large Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Franklin, near Leyte Gulf, on or about 15 October 1944. Arima was killed and part of a plane hit Franklin. The Japanese high command and propagandists seized on Arima's example. He was promoted posthumously to Vice Admiral and was given official credit for making the first kamikaze attack. It is not clear that this was a planned suicide attack, and official Japanese accounts of Arima's attack bore little resemblance to the actual events. [ citation needed ]

On 17 October 1944, Allied forces assaulted Suluan Island, beginning the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Imperial Japanese Navy's 1st Air Fleet, based at Manila, was assigned the task of assisting the Japanese ships that would attempt to destroy Allied forces in Leyte Gulf. That unit had only 41 aircraft: 34 Mitsubishi A6M Zero ("Zeke") carrier-based fighters, three Nakajima B6N Tenzan ("Jill") torpedo bombers, one Mitsubishi G4M ("Betty") and two Yokosuka P1Y Ginga ("Frances") land-based bombers, and one additional reconnaissance aircraft. The task facing the Japanese air forces seemed impossible. The 1st Air Fleet commandant, Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi, decided to form a suicide offensive force, the Special Attack Unit. In a meeting on 19 October at Mabalacat Airfield (known to the U.S. military as Clark Air Base) near Manila, Onishi told officers of the 201st Flying Group headquarters: "I don't think there would be any other certain way to carry out the operation [to hold the Philippines] than to put a 250 kg bomb on a Zero and let it crash into a U.S. carrier, in order to disable her for a week."

First unit Edit

Commander Asaichi Tamai asked a group of 23 talented student pilots, all of whom he had trained, to volunteer for the special attack force. All of the pilots raised both of their hands, volunteering to join the operation. Later, Tamai asked Lieutenant Yukio Seki to command the special attack force. Seki is said to have closed his eyes, lowered his head and thought for ten seconds before saying: "Please do appoint me to the post." Seki became the 24th kamikaze pilot to be chosen. He later said: "Japan's future is bleak if it is forced to kill one of its best pilots" and "I am not going on this mission for the Emperor or for the Empire . I am going because I was ordered to." [23]

The names of the four sub-units within the Kamikaze Special Attack Force were Unit Shikishima, Unit Yamato, Unit Asahi and Unit Yamazakura. [24] These names were taken from a patriotic death poem, Shikishima no Yamato-gokoro wo hito towaba, asahi ni niou yamazakura bana by the Japanese classical scholar, Motoori Norinaga. [25] The poem reads:

If someone asks about the Yamato spirit [Spirit of Old/True Japan] of Shikishima [a poetic name for Japan] – it is the flowers of yamazakura [mountain cherry blossom] that are fragrant in the Asahi [rising sun].

A less literal translation [26] is:

Asked about the soul of Japan,
I would say
That it is
Like wild cherry blossoms
Glowing in the morning sun.

Ōnishi, addressing this unit, told them that their nobility of spirit would keep the homeland from ruin even in defeat. [27]

Leyte Gulf: the first attacks Edit

Several suicide attacks, carried out during the invasion of Leyte by Japanese pilots from units other than the Special Attack Force, have been described as the first kamikaze attacks. Early on 21 October 1944, a Japanese aircraft deliberately crashed into the foremast of the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia. [28] This aircraft was possibly either an Aichi D3A dive bomber, from an unidentified unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, [28] or a Mitsubishi Ki-51 of the 6th Flying Brigade, Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. [29] The attack killed 30 personnel, including the cruiser's captain, Emile Dechaineux, and wounded 64, including the Australian force commander, Commodore John Collins. [28] The Australian official history of the war claimed that this was the first kamikaze attack on an Allied ship. Other sources disagree because it was not a planned attack by a member of the Special Attack Force and was most likely undertaken on the pilot's own initiative. [28]

The sinking of the ocean tug USS Sonoma on 24 October is listed in some sources as the first ship lost to a kamikaze strike, but the attack occurred before the first mission of the Special Attack Force (on 25 October) and the aircraft used, a Mitsubishi G4M, was not flown by the original four Special Attack Squadrons.

On 25 October 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Kamikaze Special Attack Force carried out its first mission. Five A6M Zeros, led by Lieutenant Seki, were escorted to the target by leading Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa where they attacked several escort carriers. One Zero attempted to hit the bridge of USS Kitkun Bay but instead exploded on the port catwalk and cartwheeled into the sea. Two others dived at USS Fanshaw Bay but were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. The last two ran at USS White Plains. One, under heavy fire and trailing smoke, aborted the attempt on White Plains and instead banked toward USS St. Lo, plowing into the flight deck. Its bomb caused fires that resulted in the bomb magazine exploding, sinking the carrier. [30]

By 26 October day's end, 55 kamikazes from the Special Attack Force had also damaged three large escort carriers: USS Sangamon, Santee, and Suwannee (which had taken a kamikaze strike forward of its aft elevator the day before) and three smaller escorts: USS White Plains, Kalinin Bay, and Kitkun Bay. In total, seven carriers were hit, as well as 40 other ships (five sunk, 23 heavily damaged and 12 moderately damaged).

Main wave of attacks Edit

Early successes – such as the sinking of USS St. Lo – were followed by an immediate expansion of the program, and over the next few months over 2,000 planes made such attacks.

When Japan began to suffer intense strategic bombing by Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, the Japanese military attempted to use suicide attacks against this threat. During the northern hemisphere winter of 1944–45, the IJAAF formed the 47th Air Regiment, also known as the Shinten Special Unit (Shinten Seiku Tai) at Narimasu Airfield, Nerima, Tokyo, to defend the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. The unit was equipped with Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki ("Tojo") fighters, whose pilots were instructed to collide with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-29s approaching Japan. Targeting the aircraft proved to be much less successful and practical than attacks against warships, as the bombers made for much faster, more maneuverable and smaller targets. The B-29 also had formidable defensive weaponry, so suicide attacks against the plane demanded considerable piloting skill to be successful, which worked against the very purpose of using expendable pilots. Even encouraging capable pilots to bail out before impact was ineffective because vital personnel were often lost when they mistimed their exits and were killed as a result.

On 11 March, the U.S. carrier USS Randolph was hit and moderately damaged at Ulithi Atoll, in the Caroline Islands, by a kamikaze that had flown almost 4,000 km (2,500 mi) from Japan, in a mission called Operation Tan No. 2. On 20 March, the submarine USS Devilfish survived a hit from an aircraft just off Japan.

Purpose-built kamikaze planes, as opposed to converted fighters and dive-bombers, were also being constructed. Ensign Mitsuo Ohta had suggested that piloted glider bombs, carried within range of targets by a mother plane, should be developed. The First Naval Air Technical Bureau (Kugisho) in Yokosuka refined Ohta's idea. Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka rocket planes, launched from bombers, were first deployed in kamikaze attacks from March 1945. U.S. personnel gave them the derisive nickname "Baka Bombs" (baka is Japanese for "idiot" or "stupid"). The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi was a simple, easily built propeller aircraft with a wooden airframe that used engines from existing stocks. Its non-retractable landing gear was jettisoned shortly after takeoff for a suicide mission, recovered and reused. During 1945, the Japanese military began stockpiling hundreds of Tsurugi, Ohkas, other aircraft and suicide boats for use against Allied forces expected to invade Japan. The invasion never happened, and few were ever used. [31]

Allied defensive tactics Edit

In early 1945, U.S. Navy aviator Commander John Thach, already famous for developing effective aerial tactics against the Japanese such as the Thach Weave, developed a defensive strategy against kamikazes called the "big blue blanket" to establish Allied air supremacy well away from the carrier force. This recommended combat air patrols (CAP) that were larger and operated further from the carriers than before, a line of picket destroyers and destroyer escorts at least 80 km (50 mi) from the main body of the fleet to provide earlier radar interception and improved coordination between fighter direction officers on carriers. This plan also called for around-the-clock fighter patrols over Allied fleets, though the U.S. Navy had cut back training of fighter pilots so there were not enough Navy pilots available to counter the kamikaze threat. A final element included intensive fighter sweeps over Japanese airfields, and bombing of Japanese runways, using delayed-action bombs to make repairs more difficult. [32]

Late in 1944, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) used the good high-altitude performance of its Supermarine Seafires (the naval version of the Spitfire) on combat air patrol duties. Seafires were heavily involved in countering the kamikaze attacks during the Iwo Jima landings and beyond. The Seafires' best day was 15 August 1945, shooting down eight attacking aircraft with a single loss.

Allied pilots were more experienced, better trained and in command of superior aircraft, making the poorly trained kamikaze pilots easy targets. The U.S. Fast Carrier Task Force alone could bring over 1,000 fighter aircraft into play. Allied pilots became adept at destroying enemy aircraft before they struck ships.

Allied gunners had begun to develop techniques to negate kamikaze attacks. Light rapid fire anti-aircraft weapons such as the 20 mm Oerlikon autocannons were still useful though the 40 mm Bofors was preferred, and though their high rate of fire and quick training remained advantageous, they lacked the punch to take down a kamikaze bearing down on the ship they defended. [33] It was found that heavy anti-aircraft guns such as the 5"/38 caliber gun (127 mm) were the most effective as they had sufficient firepower to blow enemy planes out of the air at a safe range from the ship, which was preferable since even a heavily damaged kamikaze could reach its target. [34] [35] The speedy Ohkas presented a very difficult problem for anti-aircraft fire, since their velocity made fire control extremely difficult. By 1945, large numbers of anti-aircraft shells with radio frequency proximity fuzes, on average seven times more effective than regular shells, became available, and the U.S. Navy recommended their use against kamikaze attacks.

Final phase Edit

The peak period of kamikaze attack frequency came during April–June 1945 at the Battle of Okinawa. On 6 April 1945, waves of aircraft made hundreds of attacks in Operation Kikusui ("floating chrysanthemums"). [36] At Okinawa, kamikaze attacks focused at first on Allied destroyers on picket duty, and then on the carriers in the middle of the fleet. Suicide attacks by planes or boats at Okinawa sank or put out of action at least 30 U.S. warships [37] and at least three U.S. merchant ships, [38] along with some from other Allied forces. The attacks expended 1,465 planes. Many warships of all classes were damaged, some severely, but no aircraft carriers, battleships or cruisers were sunk by kamikaze at Okinawa. Most of the ships lost were destroyers or smaller vessels, especially those on picket duty. [37] The destroyer USS Laffey earned the nickname "The Ship That Would Not Die" after surviving six kamikaze attacks and four bomb hits during this battle. [39]

U.S. carriers, with their wooden flight decks, appeared to suffer more damage from kamikaze hits than the armored-decked carriers from the British Pacific Fleet. U.S. carriers also suffered considerably heavier casualties from kamikaze strikes for instance, 389 men were killed in one attack on USS Bunker Hill, greater than the combined number of fatalities suffered on all six Royal Navy armoured carriers from all forms of attack during the entire war. Bunker Hill and Franklin were both hit (in Franklin's case, although by a dive bomber and not a kamikaze) while conducting operations with fully fueled and armed aircraft spotted on deck for takeoff, an extremely vulnerable state for any carrier. Eight kamikaze hits on five British carriers resulted in only 20 deaths while a combined total of 15 bomb hits, most of 500 kg (1,100 lb) weight or greater, and one torpedo hit on four carriers caused 193 fatal casualties earlier in the war – striking proof of the protective value of the armoured flight deck. [40] [41]

The resilience of well-armoured vessels was shown on 4 May, just after 11:30, when there was a wave of suicide attacks against the British Pacific Fleet. One Japanese plane made a steep dive from "a great height" at the carrier HMS Formidable and was engaged by anti-aircraft guns. [42] Although the kamikaze was hit by gunfire, it managed to drop a bomb that detonated on the flight deck, making a crater 3 m (9.8 ft) long, 0.6 m (2 ft) wide and 0.6 m (2 ft) deep. A long steel splinter speared down through the hangar deck and the main boiler room (where it ruptured a steam line) before coming to rest in a fuel tank near the aircraft park, where it started a major fire. Eight personnel were killed and 47 were wounded. One Corsair and 10 Grumman Avengers were destroyed. The fires were gradually brought under control, and the crater in the deck was repaired with concrete and steel plate. By 17:00, Corsairs were able to land. On 9 May, Formidable was again damaged by a kamikaze, as were the carrier HMS Victorious and the battleship HMS Howe. The British were able to clear the flight deck and resume flight operations in just hours, while their American counterparts took a few days or even months, as observed by a U.S. Navy liaison officer on HMS Indefatigable who commented: "When a kamikaze hits a U.S. carrier it means six months of repair at Pearl Harbor. When a kamikaze hits a Limey carrier it's just a case of 'Sweepers, man your brooms'."

Twin-engine aircraft were occasionally used in planned kamikaze attacks. For example, Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryū ("Peggy") medium bombers, based on Formosa, undertook kamikaze attacks on Allied forces off Okinawa, while a pair of Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick") heavy fighters caused enough damage for USS Dickerson (DD-157) to be scuttled.

Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, the commander of the IJN 5th Air Fleet based in Kyushu, participated in one of the final kamikaze attacks on American ships on 15 August 1945, hours after Japan's announced surrender. [43]

As the end of the war approached, the Allies did not suffer more serious significant losses, despite having far more ships and facing a greater intensity of kamikaze attacks. Although causing some of the heaviest casualties on U.S. carriers in 1945, the IJN had sacrificed 2,525 kamikaze pilots and the IJAAF 1,387 – far more than it had lost in 1942 when it sank or crippled three carriers (albeit without inflicting significant casualties). In 1942, when U.S. Navy vessels were scarce, the temporary absence of key warships from the combat zone would tie up operational initiatives. By 1945, however, the U.S. Navy was large enough that damaged ships could be detached back home for repair without significantly hampering the fleet's operational capability. The only surface losses were destroyers and smaller ships that lacked the capability to sustain heavy damage. Overall, the kamikazes were unable to turn the tide of the war and stop the Allied invasion.

In the immediate aftermath of kamikaze strikes, British carriers with their armoured flight decks recovered more quickly compared to their US counterparts. Post-war analysis showed that some British carriers such as HMS Formidable suffered structural damage that led to them being scrapped, as being beyond economic repair. Britain's post-war economic situation played a role in the decision to not repair damaged carriers, while even seriously damaged American carriers such as USS Bunker Hill were repaired, although they were then mothballed or sold off as surplus after World War II without re-entering service.

The exact number of ships sunk is a matter of debate. According to a wartime Japanese propaganda announcement, the missions sank 81 ships and damaged 195, and according to a Japanese tally, kamikaze attacks accounted for up to 80% of the U.S. losses in the final phase of the war in the Pacific. In a 2004 book, World War II, the historians Willmott, Cross and Messenger stated that more than 70 U.S. vessels were "sunk or damaged beyond repair" by kamikazes. [44]

Approximately 2,800 Kamikaze attackers sank 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded over 4,800. Despite radar detection and cuing, airborne interception, attrition, and massive anti-aircraft barrages, 14 percent of Kamikazes survived to score a hit on a ship nearly 8.5 percent of all ships hit by Kamikazes sank. [45]

Australian journalists Denis and Peggy Warner, in a 1982 book with Japanese naval historian Sadao Seno (The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions), arrived at a total of 57 ships sunk by kamikazes. Bill Gordon, an American Japanologist who specializes in kamikazes, lists in a 2007 article 47 ships known to have been sunk by kamikaze aircraft. Gordon says that the Warners and Seno included ten ships that did not sink. He lists:

  • three escort carriers: USS St. Lo, USS Ommaney Bay, and USS Bismarck Sea
  • 14 destroyers, including the last ship to be sunk, USS Callaghan (DD-792) on 29 July 1945, off Okinawa
  • three high-speed transport ships
  • five Landing Ship, Tank
  • four Landing Ship Medium
  • three Landing Ship Medium (Rocket)
  • one auxiliary tanker
  • three Victory ships
  • three Liberty ships
  • two high-speed minesweepers
  • one Auk class minesweeper
  • one submarine chaser
  • two PT boats
  • two Landing Craft Support

It was claimed by the Japanese forces at the time that there were many volunteers for the suicidal forces. Captain Motoharu Okamura commented that "there were so many volunteers for suicide missions that he referred to them as a swarm of bees", explaining: "Bees die after they have stung." [46] Okamura is credited with being the first to propose the kamikaze attacks. He had expressed his desire to lead a volunteer group of suicide attacks some four months before Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, commander of the Japanese naval air forces in the Philippines, presented the idea to his staff. While Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome, commander of the second air fleet, was inspecting the 341st Air Group, Captain Okamura took the chance to express his ideas on crash-dive tactics. "In our present situation 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 is no other way. There will be more than enough volunteers for this chance to save our country, and I would like to command such an operation. Provide me with 300 planes and I will turn the tide of war." [47]

When the volunteers arrived for duty in the corps, there were twice as many persons as aircraft available. "After the war, some commanders would express regret for allowing superfluous crews to accompany sorties, sometimes squeezing themselves aboard bombers and fighters so as to encourage the suicide pilots and, it seems, join in the exultation of sinking a large enemy vessel." Many of the kamikaze pilots believed their death would pay the debt they owed and show the love they had for their families, friends and emperor. "So eager were many minimally trained pilots to take part in suicide missions that when their sorties were delayed or aborted, the pilots became deeply despondent. Many of those who were selected for a bodycrashing mission were described as being extraordinarily blissful immediately before their final sortie." [48]

As time wore on, modern critics questioned the nationalist portrayal of kamikaze pilots as noble soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives for the country. In 2006, Tsuneo Watanabe, editor-in-chief of the Yomiuri Shimbun, criticized Japanese nationalists' glorification of kamikaze attacks: [49] [50] [51]

It's all a lie that they left filled with braveness and joy, crying, "Long live the emperor!" They were sheep at a slaughterhouse. Everybody was looking down and tottering. Some were unable to stand up and were carried and pushed into the plane by maintenance soldiers.

When you eliminate all thoughts about life and death, you will be able to totally disregard your earthly life. This will also enable you to concentrate your attention on eradicating the enemy with unwavering determination, meanwhile reinforcing your excellence in flight skills.

Tokkōtai pilot training, as described by Takeo Kasuga, [53] generally "consisted of incredibly strenuous training, coupled with cruel and torturous corporal punishment as a daily routine". Daikichi Irokawa, who trained at Tsuchiura Naval Air Base, recalled that he "was struck on the face so hard and frequently that [his] face was no longer recognizable". He also wrote: "I was hit so hard that I could no longer see and fell on the floor. The minute I got up, I was hit again by a club so that I would confess." This brutal "training" was justified by the idea that it would instill a "soldier's fighting spirit", but daily beatings and corporal punishment eliminated patriotism among many pilots. [54]

Irokawa Daikichi, Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

Pilots were given a manual that detailed how they were supposed to think, prepare and attack. From this manual, pilots were told to "attain a high level of spiritual training", and to "keep [their] health in the very best condition". These instructions, among others, were meant to make pilots mentally ready to die. [52]

The tokkōtai pilot's manual also explained how a pilot may turn back if he could not locate a target, and that a pilot "should not waste [his] life lightly". One pilot, a graduate from Waseda University, who continually came back to base was shot after his ninth return. [55]

The manual was very detailed in how a pilot should attack. A pilot would dive towards his target and "aim for a point between the bridge tower and the smoke stacks". Entering a smoke stack was also said to be "effective". Pilots were told not to aim at a carrier's bridge tower but instead to target the elevators or the flight deck. For horizontal attacks, the pilot was to "aim at the middle of the vessel, slightly higher than the waterline" or to "aim at the entrance to the aircraft hangar, or the bottom of the stack" if the former was too difficult. [52]

The tokkōtai pilot's manual told pilots to never close their eyes, as this would lower the chances of hitting their targets. In the final moments before the crash, the pilot was to yell "hissatsu" (必殺) at the top of his lungs, which translates to "certain kill" or "sink without fail". [52]

In 1944–45, US military leaders invented the term "State Shinto" as part of the Shinto Directive to differentiate the Japanese state's ideology from traditional Shinto practices. As time went on, Americans claimed, Shinto was used increasingly in the promotion of nationalist sentiment. In 1890, the Imperial Rescript on Education was passed, under which students were required to ritually recite its oath to offer themselves "courageously to the state" as well as protect the Imperial family. The ultimate offering was to give up one's life. It was an honour to die for Japan and the Emperor. Axell and Kase pointed out: "The fact is that innumerable soldiers, sailors and pilots were determined to die, to become eirei, that is 'guardian spirits' of the country. . Many Japanese felt that to be enshrined at Yasukuni was a special honour because the Emperor visited the shrine to pay homage twice a year. Yasukuni is the only shrine deifying common men which the Emperor would visit to pay his respects." [46] Young Japanese people were indoctrinated from an early age with these ideals.

Following the commencement of the kamikaze tactic, newspapers and books ran advertisements, articles and stories regarding the suicide bombers to aid in recruiting and support. In October 1944, the Nippon Times quoted Lieutenant Sekio Nishina: "The spirit of the Special Attack Corps is the great spirit that runs in the blood of every Japanese . The crashing action which simultaneously kills the enemy and oneself without fail is called the Special Attack . Every Japanese is capable of becoming a member of the Special Attack Corps." [56] Publishers also played up the idea that the kamikaze were enshrined at Yasukuni and ran exaggerated stories of kamikaze bravery – there were even fairy tales for little children that promoted the kamikaze. A Foreign Office official named Toshikazu Kase said: "It was customary for GHQ [in Tokyo] to make false announcements of victory in utter disregard of facts, and for the elated and complacent public to believe them." [57]

While many stories were falsified, some were true, such as that of Kiyu Ishikawa, who saved a Japanese ship when he crashed his plane into a torpedo that an American submarine had launched. The sergeant major was posthumously promoted to second lieutenant by the emperor and was enshrined at Yasukuni. [58] Stories like these, which showed the kind of praise and honour death produced, encouraged young Japanese to volunteer for the Special Attack Corps and instilled a desire in the youth to die as a kamikaze.

Ceremonies were carried out before kamikaze pilots departed on their final mission. The kamikaze shared ceremonial cups of sake or water known as "mizu no sakazuki". Many Army officer kamikaze took their swords along, while the Navy pilots (as a general rule) did not. The kamikaze, along with all Japanese aviators flying over unfriendly territory, were issued (or purchased, if they were officers) a Nambu pistol with which to end their lives if they risked being captured. Like all Army and Navy servicemen, the kamikaze would wear their senninbari, a "belt of a thousand stitches" given to them by their mothers. [59] They also composed and read a death poem, a tradition stemming from the samurai, who did so before committing seppuku. Pilots carried prayers from their families and were given military decorations. The kamikaze were escorted by other pilots whose function was to protect them en route to their destination and report on the results. Some of these escort pilots, such as Zero pilot Toshimitsu Imaizumi, were later sent out on their own kamikaze missions. [59]

While it is commonly perceived that volunteers signed up in droves for kamikaze missions, it has also been contended that there was extensive coercion and peer pressure involved in recruiting soldiers for the sacrifice. Their motivations in "volunteering" were complex and not simply about patriotism or bringing honour to their families. Firsthand interviews with surviving kamikaze and escort pilots has revealed that they were motivated by a desire to protect their families from perceived atrocities and possible extinction at the hands of the Allies. They viewed themselves as the last defense. [59]

At least one of these pilots was a conscripted Korean with a Japanese name, adopted under the pre-war Soshi-kaimei ordinance that compelled Koreans to take Japanese personal names. [60] Eleven of the 1,036 IJA kamikaze pilots who died in sorties from Chiran and other Japanese air bases during the Battle of Okinawa were Koreans.

It is said that young pilots on kamikaze missions often flew southwest from Japan over the 922 m (3,025 ft) Mount Kaimon. The mountain is also called "Satsuma Fuji" (meaning a mountain like Mount Fuji but located in the Satsuma Province region). Suicide-mission pilots looked over their shoulders to see the mountain, the southernmost on the Japanese mainland, said farewell to their country and saluted the mountain. Residents on Kikaishima Island, east of Amami Ōshima, say that pilots from suicide-mission units dropped flowers from the air as they departed on their final missions.

Kamikaze pilots who were unable to complete their missions (because of mechanical failure, interception, etc.) were stigmatized in the years following the war. This stigma began to diminish some 50 years after the war as scholars and publishers began to distribute the survivors' stories. [61]

Some Japanese military personnel were critical of the policy. Officers such as Minoru Genda, Tadashi Minobe and Yoshio Shiga, refused to obey the policy. They said that the commander of a kamikaze attack should engage in the task first. [62] [63] Some persons who obeyed the policy, such as Kiyokuma Okajima, Saburo Shindo and Iyozo Fujita, were also critical of the policy. [64] [65] Saburō Sakai said: "We never dared to question orders, to doubt authority, to do anything but immediately carry out all the commands of our superiors. We were automatons who obeyed without thinking." [66] Tetsuzō Iwamoto refused to engage in a kamikaze attack because he thought the task of fighter pilots was to shoot down aircraft. [67]


Father Joe, Rabbi Time: This American Chaplain Became a Hero When His AIrcraft Carrier Was Attacked

Aboard the USS Franklin, Father O’Callahan provided comfort and courage during her darkest hour.

On March 3, 1945, the 27,100-ton aircraft carrier USS Franklin churned out of Pearl Harbor and headed westward for the war zone. She was accompanied by the battlecruiser USSGuam. At the great U.S. naval base of Ulithi, the Franklin’s Task Group 58.2 merged with three other forces to form Task Force 58. Its mission was to launch the first carrier strike against the Japanese Home Islands since the Doolittle raid of April 1942.

The armada steamed northward, stretching for 50 miles across the Pacific Ocean. On the night of March 17, the fleet closed to a mere hundred miles from the Japanese coast. An hour before dawn the following morning, the flattops launched their fighters and dive-bombers against airfields on Kyushu.

Americans Draw First Blood

The raids continued all day long, and the Franklin’s air group alone downed 18 enemy aircraft and destroyed many others on the ground. The Japanese reacted with characteristic fanaticism, and a dozen suicide planes were shot down almost within sight of the American task force.

The fateful day of March 19, 1945, dawned coolly as the Franklin swung into the wind to launch her first flight—a fighter group armed with special heavy rockets to attack enemy naval units at Kure.

At 6:55 am that St. Joseph’s Day, another flight swept off the deck, bound for a strike at Kobe. A thousand yards away, the carrier USS Hancock was sending up her first planes of the day. Ahead and astern of the Franklin were the light carriers Bataan and San Jacinto.

A Quiet Breakfast Rudely Interrupted

Thirty more Helldivers warmed up on the Franklin’s flight deck, while in the wardroom a few officers were eating breakfast. Among them was gentle, scholarly Lt. Cmdr. Joseph T. O’Callahan of Massachusetts, the ship’s Roman Catholic chaplain.

Suddenly, at 7:07 am, a Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Judy bomber flashed out of a cloudbank and hurtled down toward the Franklin at 360 miles an hour. The carrier’s 5-inch and 40mm guns opened up on the plane as it released two 500-pound armor-piercing bombs, pulled up, and turned away only 50 feet above the flight deck.

The first bomb slammed into the forward hangar deck, ripping a great hole in the three-inch armor plate and setting fire to fueled and armed planes. The second bomb smashed through two after-decks and exploded on the third deck near the petty officers’ quarters.

The Franklin Becomes an Inferno

The flattop reeled as a column of black smoke poured from the forward elevator well and a sheet of flame shot up from the forward starboard edge of the hangar deck. Smoke and flame engulfed the planes on the flight and hangar decks, and violent explosions began to convulse the carrier.

Ready-ammunition lockers filled with rockets and shells detonated, and smoke billowed into the engine rooms below. Scores of men perished on the flight, hangar, and gallery decks. The proud Franklin was an inferno.

Chaplain O’Callahan hastily left his unfinished breakfast and made his way through the shambles of smoke, flames, and torn steel to do what he could to comfort the wounded and steady the able-bodied. He seemed to be everywhere—helping, cajoling, inspiring. His quiet courage heartened all who came in contact with him, and the big white cross on his helmet became a beacon of hope for the dazed crew of the stricken ship.

“Look at the old man [Captain Leslie E. Gehres on the bridge] up there,” O’Callahan told the sailors. “Don’t let him down.”

A Life Dedicated to Serving God and Man

During his few days aboard the Franklin, Chaplain O’Callahan had made many friends among crewmen of all faiths. To the Protestant sailors, he was “Padre Joe.” To the Jews, he was “Rabbi Tim.”

Born in the Roxbury section of Boston on May 14, 1905, Joseph Timothy O’Callahan attended St. Mary’s Parochial School in Cambridge, and then went on to Boston College High School. He was a solid student in the college preparatory course. He wrote for the class magazine, acted in the dramatic society, and ran on the relay team.

Deciding on a career in the service of God and man, young Joseph entered the Society of Jesus at the St. Andrew-on-Hudson Novitiate in Poughkeepsie, NY, in July 1922. Two years later, he pronounced his first vows as a Jesuit. After completing philosophical studies at Weston College, he joined the Boston College physics department as a teaching member in 1929.

Then it was back to Weston College in 1931 to begin formal theology studies. He was ordained on June 20, 1934. After tertianship at St. Robert’s Hall in Pomfret Center, Conn., and a year of special studies at Georgetown University, O’Callahan was appointed to teach cosmology to his brother Jesuits at Weston College. In 1938, he was transferred to Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., to teach mathematics and physics.

By 1940, the priest-scholar who loved both mathematics and poetry was head of the math department and had founded a math library. His students admired their energetic, friendly, and sometimes fiery instructor.

His Country Called him to Service

But much of the world was by now at war, and Joseph O’Callahan grew restless. He applied for a commission as a Navy chaplain.

His colleagues tried to dissuade him. They felt his talents could serve the war effort best at Holy Cross, soon to have one of the leading Naval ROTC units in the country. But logical argument was no match for O’Callahan’s quiet determination, and on August 7, 1940, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Navy Chaplain Corps.

His first assignment was teaching calculus at the Pensacola, Fla., Naval Air Station. But he yearned for sea duty, preferably aboard a carrier. After 18 months of shore duty, Chaplain O’Callahan went to sea. In April 1942 he reported aboard the carrier USS Ranger.

The Ranger made few headlines but saw plenty of action from the Arctic to the Equator. She played a leading part in the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, and in an October 1943 raid on German shipping in Norwegian waters.

Chief Morale Officer

With the rank of lieutenant commander, O’Callahan served as the Ranger’s chief morale officer. He made many friends, and at his funeral 20 years later officers and men from the carrier presented a crucifix in memory of their padre.

After two and a half years aboard the Ranger, O’Callahan was reassigned to shore duty—at naval air stations at Alameda, Calif., and Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He was able to relax after the rigors of combat and spent his free evenings reading poetry.

But he also had time to worry. His youngest sister, Alice, now Sister Rose Marie, a Maryknoll nun, was imprisoned in a Japanese detention camp. For three years the family had not heard a word about her. Chaplain O’Callahan prayed that he would be assigned to the Philippines so that he could learn the fate of his sister.

Chaplain O’Callahan Sets Sail on Big Ben

The Navy had something else in store for him, however. He was ordered back to sea. At Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of March 2, 1945, amid piles of potatoes and ammunition, Chaplain O’Callahan reported for duty aboard the carrier USS Franklin (CV-13).

Known affectionately by her crew as the “Big Ben,” the Essex-class carrier was the fifth American warship to bear the name. The carrier’s keel had been laid at Newport News, Va., on July 12, 1942, and she had been completed on January 31, 1944. When O’Callahan went aboard her, she had already seen much action and had almost been sunk.

As part of Task Group 58.2 in the Pacific Theater, the Franklin had sent her planes against Japanese bases in the Bonin Islands, Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, Ha Ha Jima, Guam, Palau, Yap, Peleliu, and Luzon. She had had several close calls, saved only by the skilled seamanship of her commanding officer, Captain James M. Shoemaker, and her crew.

Japanese Navy Threatens and Seventh Fleet Responds

As the flagship of Task Group 38.4, the Big Ben was present with the mighty Seventh Fleet on October 21, 1944, when troops of the U.S. Sixth Army poured ashore at Leyte. Three Japanese fleets threatened the Americans at Leyte, and Task Group 38.4 wheeled westward to engage the enemy.

The Japanese super battleships Musashi and Yamato staggered beneath bombs from Franklin’s planes. Two enemy cruisers were hard hit, one was left dead in the water, and another blew up. Off the entrance to Leyte Gulf, fighters from the Franklin sank the large enemy carrier Zuiho.

Early on the afternoon of October 29, 1944, a small group of well-camouflaged Japanese suicide planes approached the Franklin’s force. Cruisers and destroyers closed in tightly around the Big Ben and the carriers Enterprise, Belleau Wood, and San Jacinto. Every 5-inch gun in the formation opened up.

Big Ben Takes Direct Hit but Limps Home

The enemy pilots pressed home their attacks. A suicide plane crashed into the after-end of the Franklin’s island, and a great explosion rocked the flattop. Flames and smoke smothered the hangar and flight decks. Two dozen men died in the blast, and many gunners were scorched by flames and blinded by fumes. Damage-control parties fought the fires, and 20 minutes later another great blast shook the Big Ben. She listed to starboard.

The ship had lost 57 men and suffered severe damage, but she stayed afloat and gained an even keel after hours of effort by her crew. She retired to Ulithi, where Captain Shoemaker was relieved by Captain Gehres. After brief repairs in Pearl Harbor, the flattop was ordered to the Bremerton, Wash., Navy Yard for an overhaul.

The repairs were completed in January 1945, and the Franklin took on a new air group at Alameda before steaming back to Pearl Harbor.

The Darkest Hour

Now, on the morning of March 19, 1945, the inferno aboard the Big Ben intensified as 40,000 gallons of aviation fuel on the aft hangar deck fed the fires. Hundred-foot-high flames shot up past the carrier’s island, and a column of smoke rose a mile above the clouds.

Heedless of danger, the destroyer USS Miller eased alongside the stricken flattop and trained her hoses on the fires. At 8:30 am, only the Franklin’s two after-fire rooms and the after-engine room were still operative, but the heat and smoke became unbearable and they had to be evacuated.

Dozens of sailors had been blown overboard by the force of the explosions, and others had jumped into the sea to escape the flames. Many sailors below decks were trapped, and they struggled to make their way topside. Everyone in the ship’s hospital ward—doctors, corpsmen, and patients—died after a futile struggle against fire and suffocation.

Courage Amid the Flames

Although wounded himself by shrapnel, Chaplain O’Callahan dashed about the slanting flight deck, administering last rites to dying sailors and comforting the wounded. He led officers and men into the flames, carrying live bombs and shells to the edge of the deck for jettisoning. O’Callahan personally recruited a damage-control party and led it into one of the main ammunition magazines to wet it down and prevent it from exploding. Back on deck, he grabbed a hose to dampen live bombs that were rolling dangerously about.

Captain Gehres later called O’Callahan “the bravest man I ever saw.” The chaplain retorted, “Any priest in like circumstances should do, and would do, what I did.” He dismissed later publicity as “exaggerated.”

The cruiser USS Santa Fe moved alongside, all hoses pouring water on the Franklin’s burning decks. The carrier listed lower and lower. Steam ceased to flow from the boilers, and she lost steering control at 9:30 am. She lay dead in the water a mere 50 to 60 miles from Japan, the closest any American surface ship had approached so far during the war.

The Ship That Wouldn’t Die

The Santa Fe took off the carrier’s wounded, and destroyers circled around picking up survivors. After one abortive try, the cruiser USS Pittsburgh managed to connect her tow line with the crippled flattop and start hauling her southward at a speed of three and a half knots.

Firemen slowly worked their way back to the engineering spaces, and by 7 pm that St. Joseph’s Day most of the fires below decks were under control. For the second time, the USS Franklin had refused to sink despite severe damage. She would henceforth be known as “the ship that wouldn’t die.”

That night, the Japanese were out in force dropping flares on the horizon in their search for the Franklin, but their efforts to finish her off were foiled. Instead, they encountered American task groups, and a furious encounter raged through the night just 10 miles away from the limping flattop.

Japanese Determined to Finish off the Franklin

Shortly before dawn on March 20, the engineers labored over their engines trying to find a way to get up more steam. Still under tow, the ship was moving at a mere six knots and was still only 85 miles from Japan. Yankee ingenuity won out, and by 10 am the Big Ben was churning forward under her own power at 14 knots. Her escorts were the battlecruisersGuam and Alaska and a pair of destroyers. The little group steamed slowly southward, but the enemy had not given up in its determination to finish off the Franklin. That afternoon, Japanese planes bore down on the five ships.

The cruisers drew in close to shield the carrier, for another hit could send her to the bottom. One enemy plane swept in close to loose a bomb on the carrier, but her few remaining antiaircraft mounts opened fire with such speed and accuracy that the astonished Japanese pilot was forced to swerve away. His bomb fell harmlessly into the sea a hundred feet from the ship.

Repeatedly, the Japanese sent bombers in a desperate effort to reach the Franklin, but each time they were chased off by fighters from a task group 30 miles away.

“God Won’t Let Me Go Until He’s Ready!”

Meanwhile, Chaplain O’Callahan stayed at his post for three wearying days and nights. Strafing Japanese fighters failed to shake him. When his skipper yelled, “Why don’t you duck?” the chaplain shouted back with a grin, “God won’t let me go until He’s ready!”

The carrier continued to pick up speed, and by sunset on March 20, she was steaming at more than 20 knots. By dawn the following day, she was 300 miles from Japan. That evening, she rejoined Task Group 58.2, which was retiring to Ulithi.

On March 24, the Big Ben dismissed the screening destroyers Miller, Marshall, and Hunt to take her place in the column of ships steaming into Ulithi Lagoon. Two days later, accompanied by a pair of destroyer escorts, the Franklin and Santa Fe set course for Pearl Harbor. They arrived on April 3, 1945.

Solemnity and Humor Greet the Wounded Franklin

It was an emotional event when the battered, blackened carrier inched into Pearl Harbor. Hardened Navy veterans wept openly at the sight. But there was a touch of wry humor, too, as a nondescript band made up of tin pans, an accordion, and two horns, and organized by Father O’Callahan, played and sang, “Oh, the old Big Ben, she ain’t what she used to be.”

During a five-day stay at Pearl Harbor, the doughty chaplain set about organizing “a most exclusive club,” the 704 Club. This comprised the 704 survivors of the March 19 bombing who stayed aboard the Franklin and would sail her home.

On April 9, the carrier started her engines, lifted her anchors, and got underway eastward from Pearl Harbor. A week later, she inched through the Panama Canal, and on April 28, 1945, she arrived off Gravesend Bay, NY. Two days later, she eased into the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she was to undergo extensive repairs.

Unsurpassed Survival and 388 Decorations For Franklin Crew

After a merciless battering by bombs, fires, and explosions, and an incredible 13,000-mile voyage that was a testament to the seamanship and fortitude of her crew, the old Big Ben was home. Her survival was unsurpassed in U.S. Navy annals. As Captain Gehres said simply, “A ship that will not be sunk, cannot be sunk.”

No less than 388 decorations were bestowed on the crew of the Franklin. It was the greatest number of medals ever awarded to the personnel of a single ship in American history.

Meanwhile, the crew went on rehabilitation leave as Navy Yard crews went to work on the hulk, toiling day and night to cut away entire sections of blasted deck. She was still undergoing repairs when the war ended.

Heroic Chaplain Receives Medal of Honor

Chaplain O’Callahan was assigned briefly to the Office of Public Information at the Navy Department, and then the Newport, RI, Naval Training Station. He returned to his alma mater, Georgetown University, as commencement speaker on June 17. He received an honorary doctor of science degree and told the graduates, “Take life seriously, which means for your happiness that you live your life as God would have you lead it.”

In October 1945, the chaplain reported for precommissioning duty aboard a brand-new carrier, the 45,000-ton USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. His proudest moment came on January 23, 1946, when he stood in the White House while President Harry S Truman placed the pale blue ribbon of the Medal of Honor around his neck for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity.” O’Callahan’s mother watched. He was the first Roman Catholic chaplain to be awarded the nation’s highest decoration for heroism. He also received the Purple Heart and five campaign ribbons.

In June 1946, O’Callahan was appointed escort chaplain to accompany the body of Filipino President Manuel Quezon to Manila aboard a U.S. Navy vessel. On November 12, 1946, he was released from service with the rank of captain.

Franklin Decommissioned and O’Callahan Returns to Academia

The Franklin, meanwhile, was decommissioned on February 17, 1947. She had earned four battle stars on the Asiatic Pacific service ribbon.

O’Callahan went back to Holy Cross to teach philosophy and locked his Medal of Honor in the Dinand Library safe. The war had taken a toll on him, and he would never again enjoy good health.

In December 1949, he suffered his first stroke. His right arm was paralyzed, but he exercised daily to restore the limb to usefulness. It was a tough fight, but each summer he would prepare meticulously for the fall classes, hoping that by September he would be strong enough to return to the classroom. He started writing what would be a best-selling memoir, I Was Chaplain on the Franklin, and a personal letter from President Truman spurred him on.

O’Callahan’s greatest source of strength was daily Mass. He received permission to offer his Mass sitting down, for on some days he had to literally drag himself to the altar. His health continued to fail, and on some days he was able to compose only a short paragraph for his book.

Father O’Callahan Remembered With Ship Dedication

Transferred to a room at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Father O’Callahan took a turn for the worse on the afternoon of March 18, 1964. At 10:40 that night, while five Jesuit brother priests and two Sisters of Providence prayed, the chaplain of the Franklin died. Three days later in the little cemetery at Holy Cross, he was buried in a simple Jesuit ceremony. A Navy bugler sounded taps over the grave while the Navy chief of chaplains, three Catholic bishops, and O’Callahan’s 90-year-old mother listened.

Along with the ship that would not die, Chaplain O’Callahan was now part of U.S. Navy history.

In July 1968, Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston officiated at the commissioning of a destroyer escort named for Father Joe at the Boston Navy Yard, saying he was “an inspiration for all future time.” The ship was christened by the chaplain’s youngest sister, Alice, then Sister Rose Marie. She was the first nun to christen a U.S. warship.

Chaplain’s Courage Serves as Inspiration and Guidance to Future Sailors

Father Joe also was memorialized at the Chaplains Memorial in Valley Forge, Pa. his helmet, rosary, and miraculous medal are on display in the USS Franklin CV-13 Museum aboard the carrier USS Yorktown in Charleston, SC and a stained-glass window honors him in the sacristy of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

The epic of the USS Franklin inspired both the Navy and the public. The Navy used the story to produce a training film to teach recruits about duty, firefighting, and survival, and a color documentary, Saga of the Franklin, was made.

Hollywood Swings and Misses on Telling his Story

In 1956, Columbia Pictures released Battle Stations, a semifictional account of the Franklin. John Lund starred as Chaplain McIntyre, loosely based on Chaplain O’Callahan, and the film costarred William Bendix, Richard Boone, and Keefe Brasselle. Lewis Seiler directed. The film received poor reviews. Critics said that it was riddled with stereotypical characters and that the script contained every service movie cliché imaginable.

An NBC-TV special documentary, The Ship That Wouldn’t Die, was telecast in April 1969. It featured interviews with several crewmen, and was narrated by Gene Kelly.

This article by Michael D. Hull first appeared in the Warfare History Network on July 21, 2015.


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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Bill says:
2 Oct 2010 11:35:14 AM

Lt. Yoshinori Yamaguchi flying his Yokosuka
D4Y3 Suisei,(Judy) dive bomber into the USS Essex November 25, 1944. Aircraft number is 17.

The Judy crashed into the flight deck just
missing parked planes. Sixteen men died in the attack, along with Yamaguchi.
Yamaguchi flew from Malabacat Air Field
located in the Philippines, and was part of
the Yoshino Special Attack Corps.

Lt. Yamaguchi was among the thousands of Imperial Navy and Army pilots, who died in Kamikazes attacks.

34 US ships sunk and 368 damaged.
3,048 US sailors killed and 6,025 wounded

2. Bill says:
2 Oct 2010 12:17:55 PM

At the end of the war, Japan still had over
10,000 aircraft. And 5,000 were modified
for Kamikaze attacks.

During the Okinawa campaign the Imperial Navy
and Army lost 1,900 aircraft in such attacks.
2,255 in combat operations,2,655 in accidents
1,000 destroyed on the ground.
Plus 3,000 Navy and 2,000 Army pilots.

Surprise attack will be successful the first
time, maybe two or three times, but what fool
would continue the same attack for ten months

-Saburo Sakai-
Imperial Japanese Navy (Ret.)

Japanese term Hissatsu meaning:
(Critical Strike)

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.


Chief Morale Officer

With the rank of lieutenant commander, O’Callahan served as the Ranger’s chief morale officer. He made many friends, and at his funeral 20 years later officers and men from the carrier presented a crucifix in memory of their padre.

After two and a half years aboard the Ranger, O’Callahan was reassigned to shore duty—at naval air stations at Alameda, Calif., and Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. He was able to relax after the rigors of combat and spent his free evenings reading poetry.

But he also had time to worry. His youngest sister, Alice, now Sister Rose Marie, a Maryknoll nun, was imprisoned in a Japanese detention camp. For three years the family had not heard a word about her. Chaplain O’Callahan prayed that he would be assigned to the Philippines so that he could learn the fate of his sister.


Thanks.
Indeed - what a display that would be.

Seems the F4U Corsair was also captured.

At least one by the Germans in Norway.

Supposedly the Japanese also captured one. Details are sketchy though.

Speaking of sketches, the colour sketches of the F4Us with enemy markings are just that - sketches. I assume, they are made with 'artistic lisence,' as there most likely does not exist much detailed evidence of how they would have looked (the Mustangs supposedly are the real deal).

B&W pic supposedly of Japanese inspecting a F4U.

On 18 July 1944, a British Corsair F4U-1A, JT404 of 1841 Naval Air Squadron, was involved in anti-submarine patrol from HMS Formidable en route to Scapa after Operation Mascot (an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz). It flew in company with a Fairey Barracuda. Due to technical problems the Corsair made an emergency landing in a field on Hamarøy north of Bodø, Norway. The pilot, Lt Mattholie, was taken prisoner and the aircraft captured undamaged. Luftwaffe interrogators failed to get the pilot to explain how to fold the wings so as to transport the aircraft to Narvik. The Corsair was ferried by boat for further investigation. Later the Corsair was taken to Germany and listed as one of the captured enemy aircraft (Beuteflugzeug) based at Erprobungsstelle Rechlin, the central German military aviation test facility and the equivalent of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, for 1944 under repair. This was probably the only Corsair captured by the Germans.

In 1945, a F4U Corsair was captured near the Kasumigaura flight school by U.S. forces. The Japanese had repaired it, covering damaged parts on the wing with fabric and using spare parts from crashed F4Us. It seems Japan captured two force landed Corsairs fairly late in the war and may have even tested one in flight.

. the Japanese learned form analysis of aircraft shot down or captured. American intelligence received a shock in the summer of 1945 when an aerial photo taken late that May over the Japanese base Tachikawa revealed a large four-engine bomber, dubbed the "Tachikawa Field 104." After the war investigators discovered the plane had actually been an American B-17 Flying Fortress. The plane was a product of Japanese air technical intelligence. Tachikawa happened to be the location of the Army's Aviation Technical Research Institute. Yokosuka, of course, housed the Navy's 1st Air Technical Research Arsenal. Both units sent specialized teams right in behind the Japanese assault troops. From Clark Field the Japanese recovered the turbo-supercharger of a B-17 plus other kinds of spare parts. Eventually an entire B-17E was put together from the collection. Another would be recovered in the Netherlands East Indies, put together from the remains of fifteen B-17s wrecked on airfields there, and a third was found in pretty good shape in the same area. Designer Kikuhara Shizuo, who had originated the [Kawanishi H8K] Emily flying boat, noted how impressed he was that the United States had perfected the B-17's subsystems to such a degree that a minimum of controls were needed in the cockpit.

What the Japanese did with the B-17 they tried with many other planes, studying crashed aircraft, making photos and drawings, salvaging parts, and so on. This effort, like so many others, began as early as the China Incident, where the Japanese recovered a P-40E fighter and an A-20A twin-engine bomber. Within the JNAF these studies were conducted by the same people who did the design work for Navy planes. Thus, of 327 personnel at the Yokosuka main office of the Research Technical Arsenal and 186 at the branch office in Isogo, it has been estimated that roughly 10 officers, 10 civilian designers, and 150 enlisted men worked on studies of foreign aircraft.

Navy Lieutenant Toyoda Takago was one designer who worked in the foreign-technology program. He reports that the Japanese Army sent out most of the field teams, subsequently supplying the JNAF with copies of their reports and lending them aircraft as desired. The single team Takogo remembers the JNAF dispatching went to Burma to study a crashed Mosquito light bomber. But the Navy center would be sent aircraft recovered in the Southern Areas and would send teams to crash sites in the Empire area, including Okinawa, where an F6F Hellcat was recovered after raids in October 1944. British carrier raids in the Netherlands East Indies earlier that year yielded a TBM-1C Avenger. Yokosuka's specialists were surprised at the "extremely strong construction." When an F4U Corsair was captured near the Kasumigaura flight school, "we were surprised there were places on the wing covered with fabric." The JNAF recovered the flight manual for the B-24 Liberator in the summer of 1944, and flew a captured F6F Hellcat. The comparable Army unit also flew the Brewster Buffalo, the Hawker Hurricane, the B-17D and E, and the PBM Mariner.

Flying experience and ground studies were used to compile reports on the foreign aircraft, but because the specialists were preoccupied by their own design work, the studies of foreign planes were fairly basic. Only very late in the war was a special section of three officers and twelve to fourteen men formed just to track foreign technology, first under Commander Nomura Suetsu, then under Iwaya Eichi.

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Service history

World War II

After fitting out at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Bataan conducted preliminary shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay before sailing to the West Indies on 11 January 1944. Two days later, while enroute to Trinidad, she suffered her first loss when a Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter crashed into her number 2 stack and burst into flames, killing three crewmen.

Returning to Philadelphia on 14 February, she underwent post-shakedown repairs and inspections until 2 March when she got underway for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal on 8 March, she arrived in San Diego on the 16th. Two days later, she sailed for Hawaii with her flight and hangar decks full with passengers, planes, and cargo. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on the 22 March, the she conducted a week of pilot qualification drills in preparation for "forward area deployment". The warship lost her second plane on 31 March when a "Hellcat" crashed the landing barrier and went over the side although the pilot survived without injury.

Bataan departed Pearl Harbor on 4 April accompanied by her destroyers and steamed to the Marshall Islands. She arrived at Majuro Atoll on the 9th and reported for duty with the fast carriers of Task Force 58 (TF 58) that same day. On 13 April, she sailed with the carriers Hornet, Belleau Wood, Cowpens and the rest of Task Group (TG) 58.1 for air operations against Hollandia, New Guinea (now known as Jayapura). These raids were intended to support American amphibious operations in the Humboldt Bay-Tanahmerah Bay region of New Guinea.

On 21 April, Bataan launched five fighter sweeps to attack Japanese aircraft and ground installations on New Guinea. The pilots claimed hits on numerous buildings, flak guns, coastal barges and three aircraft on the ground. Meanwhile, the carrier's Combat Air Patrol (CAP) shot down a Mitsubishi G4M1 Betty bomber and a Mitsubishi Ki-21 Sally.

The Task Group then headed north and struck the Japanese base at Truk Lagoon on 29 April. Bataan launched a fighter sweep and three bombing raids, with the Grumman/General Motors TBM Avenger torpedo bombers dropping 13 short tons (12 t) of bombs on the Japanese base. One TBM Avenger was shot down during the attack, but the crew was rescued by submarine Tang, which was engaged in lifeguard duty - patrolling for such survivors during the battle. On 30 April, Bataan ' s task group turned toward Ponape (now Pohnpei), Caroline Islands and, the next day, she flew CAP and Anti-Submarine Patrol (ASP) missions over the battleships bombarding that island. The warships then steamed to the Marshall Islands, arriving at Kwajalein lagoon on 4 May. [1]

Invasion of the Mariana Islands

Bataan moved to Majuro on 14 May for repairs to her forward elevator but local repair crews could not fix the problem. She sailed to Pearl Harbor for repairs and returned to Majuro on 2 June. Once there, Bataan began hurried preparations for Operation Forager, the planned invasion of the Marianas. Tasked with neutralizing Japanese airfields in the Marianas, the 15 fleet carriers of TF 58 planned to attack Saipan, Guam, and nearby island groups. They also prepared for a major fleet battle in case the Japanese carriers attempted to interfere.

Bataan joined Hornet, Yorktown, and Belleau Wood in TG 58.1 and put to sea on 6 June. Five days later, Bataan launched fighters against the Japanese base on Rota in support of operations against Saipan. One section of four F6F Hellcats flying "rescue submarine cover patrol" near that island shot down three Mitsubishi A6M Zeke carrier fighters without American losses. Another F6F Hellcat, flying CAP over Bataan, shot down a Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-49 Helen bomber. That evening, TG 58.1 sailed south toward Guam.

On 12 June, Bataan flew CAP and ASP over the task group while the three other carriers launched strikes at Orote air field on Guam. Her F6F Hellcats spotted two Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Judy bombers close to the task group and shot both down. Another attack of Rota on 13 June, Bataan aircraft concentrated on bombing Japanese antiaircraft gun positions and Piti Harbor. During recovery operations, a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bomber jumped Bataan ' s landing barrier and damaged four planes. The task group sailed for the Bonin Islands on the evening of 14 June.

The task group was ordered to strike Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima in an effort to catch the airfields full of Japanese planes staging to the Marianas, fighter and bomber raids hit the islands on the 15 June. Meanwhile, Bataan ' s aircraft, flying CAP and ASP as usual, bombed and heavily damaged the 1,900-long-ton (1,900 t) Tatsutagawa Maru. On 16 June, after a morning fighter sweep over Iwo Jima, the task group received reports of a large Japanese force closing the Marianas from the Philippines. The planned afternoon strikes on Iwo Jima were canceled and Bataan ' s task group hurried south to rejoin TF 58. [1]

Battle of the Philippine Sea

Bataan and her task group rendezvoused with the other three fast carrier groups about noon on 18 June, approximately 150 miles (240 km) west of Saipan. On the morning of 19 June, while waiting to hear from dawn search missions, Bataan launched CAP and ASP aircraft to guard TG 58.1. At 0925, a TBM Avenger shot down a Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe seaplane fighter. Less than an hour later, starting at 1014, reports of multiple enemy raids caused the light carrier to launch all her available fighters. Over the next six hours, Bataan ' s fighters helped break up four major raids, disrupting the Japanese attacks. Only one enemy formation approached TG 58.1 and only one out of the 16 torpedo bombers got close enough to be shot down by antiaircraft fire from the screening ships. The light carrier also sent a TBM Avenger strike against Rota around mid-day to help suppress Japanese land-based aircraft. During the first day of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Bataan ' s aircraft claimed 10 Japanese planes out of the approximately 300 enemy aircraft lost in the battle dubbed the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot."

On the morning of the 20 June, Bataan launched CAP and ASP as normal and steamed west as the task force prepared for a second day of battle. The enemy carriers, however, had turned toward Japan the previous evening, and American search planes could not find them. The only activity for Bataan ' s planes occurred at 1320 when a Hellcat splashed a lone Betty near the task group. Finally, upon hearing a sighting report at 1613, the light carrier launched 10 fighters to accompany a massive 206-plane strike. The raid, catching the retreating Japanese at dusk, sank Japanese aircraft carrier Hiyō and damaged another. The American planes then returned to their carriers, landing with difficulty in the darkness after the task force turned on its deck and search lights. Eventually, two Yorktown planes landed on Bataan, the second of which crashed and fouled the deck. Nine of Bataan ' s own fighters landed on other carriers, and one was lost.

After a futile search for the Japanese carriers on 22 June, the American task force turned back toward the Marianas. On 23 June, Bataan ' s planes bombed Pagan Island, damaging the airfield and shooting down four Zekes and a Betty. That afternoon, TG 58.1 turned northwest toward the Bonin Islands, attempting to complete the attacks canceled on the 16 June. Bataan launched 17 fighters for the attack on Iwo Jima at dawn on 24 June but these, and the 34 Hellcats from Yorktown and Hornet, met a Japanese incoming strike about halfway to the target. A second melee developed near the carriers when another Japanese raid met with task force's CAP. Bataan ' s air group lost three planes in these battles but claimed 25 in return. The task group then retired toward the Marshalls, anchoring at Eniwetok on 27 June.

The brief rest ended when the task group sailed back to the Bonins on 30 June. The task force's planes struck at Iwo Jima on 3 and 4 July, interdicting Japanese efforts to reinforce Guam. The warship's crew, however, suffered another loss on 4 July when ad arresting gear cable snapped and killed one man and injured three others. In preparation for the landings planned for Guam in mid-July, Bataan ' s aircraft conducted sweeps over Pagan Island on 5 July and then repeatedly bombed Guam from 6 to 11 July. On 12 July, her forward elevator failed permanently and she received orders to head home for repairs. She steamed by way of Eniwetok and Oahu before arriving in San Francisco on 30 July. [1]

Drydock Refit and Training

Bataan entered the naval dry docks at Hunters Point on 30 July 1944 and, over the next two months, the yard workers repaired her elevator, painted the hull, and installed a second catapult, an air-search radar, deck lighting, rocket stowage, and a second aircraft landing barrier. She got underway for Hawaii on 7 October, arriving at Pearl Harbor on the 13 October.

Assigned to TG 19.5, Bataan spent the next four months preparing for operations against the Bonin and Ryukyu Islands which were the targets of invasions planned by the Americans for early 1945. Iwo Jima was needed to provide emergency airfields for B-29s bombing Japan from the Marianas and a base for their fighter escorts, while Okinawa was needed to support any future invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Bataan spent most of November and December conducting pilot training exercises and night-fighter operations in Hawaiian waters. Seven planes were lost in accidents, including one Wildcat that crashed into her number 2 stack but only two pilots were injured. In January and February 1945, the focus of training operations shifted to night-fighter direction and ground-attack exercises. Accidents claimed another five planes, including a Vought F4U Corsair fighter that burned on the flight deck on 28 January 1945, but again no pilots were lost. The carrier entered the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard on 16 February, undergoing repairs to her flight deck and receiving three new 40-millimeter antiaircraft guns. [1]

Battle of Okinawa

On 3 March 1945, Bataan departed Pearl Harbor for Ulithi, arriving at that atoll on the 13 March. There she joined Task Unit (TU) 58.2.1, an ad hoc convoy comprising carriers Franklin, Hancock, San Jacinto, two battleships, two heavy cruisers and a host of destroyers formed for the short trip back to the Fast Carrier Task Force (TF-58). The task force conducted a series of raids to support the last major amphibious operation of the war, the invasion of Okinawa. Tasked with suppressing Japanese aircraft on Kyushu, one of the Japanese home islands, fighter sweeps and bomber strikes hit airfields on 18 March and struck at Japanese naval bases at Kure and Kobe. Over the next three days, vigorous counter-attacks by Japanese aircraft were mostly broken up by CAP, although a few planes got through and severely damaged Franklin. Other attacks targeted Bataan, whose antiaircraft guns claimed kills on two Judys and a Nakajima B6N Jill bomber. Bataan ' s air group lost four aircraft in these actions while the ship's company suffered one man killed and eleven injured from shell fragments.

Between 23 and 28 March, Bataan ' s planes struck at Kerama Retto and conducted fighter sweeps over Okinawa. She then launched a raid on Kyushu on 29 March where her fighters claimed a Judy before returning to Okinawa operations. After the amphibious landings there on 1 April, the light carrier flew CAP over the amphibious forces and began intensive air strikes in support of Marine Corps operations ashore. Her planes also raided southern Kyushu, where Japanese kamikazes tended to congregate before major attacks.

On 7 April, Bataan ' s planes took part in the Battle of the East China Sea, when American search aircraft spotted a Japanese task force built around battleship Yamato. Swarms of carrier aircraft attacked the Japanese force as it steamed south in an effort to disrupt the American invasion of Okinawa. Bataan ' s pilots claimed four torpedo hits on the giant battleship, as well as hits on a cruiser and two destroyers, that helped sink most of the Japanese task force.

Bataan spent the next 10 days alternating between CAP sweeps over Okinawa and air strikes on southern Kyushu and nearby islands. Every three days or so, she retired eastward to refuel, rearm, and replenish at sea. During four enemy attacks on the task group over this period, one crew member was killed and 24 wounded when the ship was sprayed with shell fragments. [1]

Attack on Japanese home islands

On 18 April, Bataan launched an antisubmarine patrol that assisted in the sinking of Japanese submarine I-56 at Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found. . [4] Following this, her aircraft returned to several weeks of air attacks on Okinawa and Kyushu. The heaviest Japanese counter-attack took place on 14 May when eight crewmen were killed and 26 others wounded. During these April and May operations, her gunners and pilots claimed a share in dozens of kills at a cost of nine planes and four air crewmen. Finally, on 29 May, she steamed south to the Philippines anchoring in San Pedro Bay on 1 June.

Following a month of minor repairs to the warship and liberty for her crew, Bataan sailed in company with TG 38.3 on 1 July for the Japanese home islands. There her planes struck airfields in the Tokyo Bay area on 10 July, hit shore installations in northern Honshu and Hokkaido on 14 and 15 July, and helped to damage Japanese battleship Nagato in Yokosuka Harbor on 18 July. Then her planes struck the naval base at Kure on 24 July, helping to sink Japanese battleship Hyūga and 15 small craft in the harbor. Bad weather canceled most of her air strikes late in the month, limiting her planes to attacks on 28 and 30 July, and, because a typhoon passed through the area, raids did not resume until 9 August. On that day her planes struck Misawa Air Base in northern Japan and on 10 August they battered Aomori. She returned to Honshu on 13 August working over the Tokyo area until 0635 on 15 August 1945 when all strikes were canceled following news that the Japanese intended to surrender. [1]

Post War

After the formal surrender ceremony on 2 September, Bataan ' s planes air-dropped supplies to Allied prisoners of war at Zentzuji Camp in Shikoku. The carrier steamed into Tokyo Bay on the 6 September to pick up crew members ashore before departing for Okinawa that afternoon. After picking up 549 passengers there, she sailed for home on 10 September, steaming via Pearl Harbor and the Panama Canal and arriving in New York on 17 October.

Bataan then sailed to the Boston Naval Shipyard on 30 October. Following two weeks of repairs, she was converted to a troop transport in preparation for Operation Magic Carpet, the return of soldiers from overseas. Bataan sailed for Europe on 21 November and moored in Naples harbor on the 29th where she embarked 2,121 Army officers and men. Arriving at Norfolk on 8 December, the troop-carrying warship then transported 890 Italian prisoners of war back to Naples, arriving there on the 23d. The following day, Bataan steamed out of the Bay of Naples with 2,089 Army troops embarked and arrived at Norfolk on 2 January 1946.

On the 10 January 1946, Bataan reported for inactivation at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. After conversion to an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) carrier, she was placed out of commission, in reserve, on 11 February 1947. [1]

Korean War

In 1949, heightened international tensions between the United States and NATO on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and communist China on the other, led to increased military spending. As a result, the Navy began to expand in 1950. Bataan was recommissioned on 13 May 1950 at Philadelphia, Captain Edgar T. Neale in command. On 25 June, North Korean forces invaded into South Korea. Two days later, under United Nations (UN) auspices, the United States intervened in the conflict. Suddenly needed to train and deliver pilots and aircraft to the Korean theater, Bataan steamed for the west coast on 15 July, passed through the Panama Canal on the 21st, and arrived at San Diego on 28 July.

Bataan spent the next four months conducting training operations out of San Diego. She embarked naval air squadrons for carrier landing qualifications and antisubmarine warfare exercises. On 16 November, Bataan loaded Air Force cargo and personnel and sailed for Japan. After unloading her cargo there, she sailed on 14 December to report for duty with Task Force (TF) 77 off Korea's northeastern coast. [1]

First Deployment

Bataan joined the task force at a critical juncture in the conflict. Since 24 November, when some 30 Chinese divisions had intervened in the Korean war, bitter fighting had forced UN troops to retreat from the Yalu and Taedong Rivers. By mid-December, the American and South Korean troops on the east coast had fallen back to Hungnam. The soldiers, along with their vehicles, supplies, and almost 100,000 Korean refugees, were being shipped south to the Pusan perimeter. On 22 December, Bataan began flying Vought F4U-4 Corsair fighters of Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-212 over Hungnam to help cover the final phase of this evacuation. Her planes, along with aircraft from the carriers Sicily and Badoeng Strait, provided air cover to ground forces and shipping in the port area. Following the end of the evacuation on 24 December, her Corsairs then flew armed reconnaissance and close air support missions over the central mountains along the 38th parallel.

On 31 December, a second communist offensive pushed south toward Seoul and Hanchon. In an attempt to stem the tide, Bataan was reassigned to Task Group (TG) 96.9 on the west coast of Korea. There, her planes attacked enemy troop concentrations below Seoul. After a replenishment period at Sasebo between 9 and 15 January 1951, Bataan relieved HMS Theseus in the Yellow Sea on 16 January.

Wearing the flag of Commander, Task Element (CTE) 95.1.1, Bataan ' s mission was to blockade the west coast of Korea. While on station, Bataan generally flew 40 sorties a day - eight defensive CAP flights with the remainder divided between close air support (CAS), armed reconnaissance (AR), and interdiction missions. For CAS of ground forces, tactical air controllers usually called in Bataan ' s Corsairs for bomb, rocket, and napalm attacks on known enemy positions. Daylight AR missions concentrated on halting enemy road traffic and bombing rail yards and bridges. The first patrol revealed the dangerous nature of this work when, between 16 and 26 January, VMF-212 lost three Corsairs, along with two pilots, to enemy small-arms fire.

Over the next two months, Bataan conducted three more Yellow Sea patrols. In February and March, the light carrier supported the UN counterattack toward Inchon and Seoul, concentrating her air attacks on the Chinnampo area. These flights also included air spotting missions when cruisers St. Paul and HMS Belfast fired on targets ahead of advancing UN troops. Of the three Corsairs shot down by communist antiaircraft fire during these missions, two pilots were safely rescued by search and rescue (SAR) helicopters.

On 8 April, after the fast carriers of TF 77 sailed south to Formosa to counter a perceived threat there, Bataan and HMS Theseus replaced them in the Sea of Japan. The two light carriers, screened by a pair of American destroyers and four British Commonwealth escorts, maintained the west coast blockade. Corsairs from Marine Attack Squadron VMF-312 along with British Fairey Firefly and Hawker Sea Fury fighters, bombed and strafed communist supply routes near Wonsan, Hamhung, and Songjin. Five aircraft and one pilot were lost to communist antiaircraft defenses. [1]

After a short visit to Sasebo between 16 and 20 April, Bataan resumed her alternating patrols with HMS Theseus off the west coast of Korea. On 21 April, in an unusual incident, two Corsairs of VMF-312 were attacked by four Russian-made Yakovlev Type 3U Yak fighters near Chinnampo. Marine Corps Capt. Philip C. DeLong shot down two of the Yaks, and heavily damaged a third, while 1st Lt. Harold D. Daigh, USMCR, shot down the fourth. According to Capt. DeLong, the North Korean pilots "were considerably inferior in flying ability to the Japanese of World War II." [5]

The following day, 22 April, communist troops began another heavy attack toward Seoul, and Bataan ' s planes flew 136 close air support sorties against them over the next four days. After a brief period of replenishment and upkeep at Sasebo between 27 and 30 April, Bataan returned to the Yellow Sea on 1 May. In company with the British carrier HMS Glory, she launched 244 offensive sorties against enemy troop concentrations, helping to stall and then reverse the communist offensive by 10 May. Later in the month, Bataan ' s Corsairs concentrated on the destruction of junks and sampans in the Taedong Gang estuary until bad weather canceled flight operations. During these strikes, one pilot and plane was lost after being hit by 40-millimeter ground fire east of Anak.

Relieved on 3 June by a British carrier, Bataan offloaded the planes and personnel of VMF-312 and proceeded for home via Japan, eventually mooring in San Diego harbor on 25 June. Following two weeks of rest and recreation for her crew, Bataan steamed to Bremerton, Washington, on 9 July for an extensive overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. When those repairs were complete, Bataan steamed to San Diego on 7 November for underway refresher training. Over the next 10 weeks, she conducted carrier landing qualifications and ASW exercises in preparation for a second deployment to the Far East. [1]

Second Deployment

Bataan got underway for Yokosuka on 27 January 1952, arriving in Tokyo Bay on 11 February after weathering a severe winter storm. There she embarked Scouting Squadron 25 (VS-25) and steamed south to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, for ASW exercises. Between 24 February and 12 April, Bataan conducted three "hunter-killer" antisubmarine warfare exercises in the waters around Okinawa. Intended to prepare Allied forces to fight the Soviet submarine fleet in the event of Soviet intervention in Korea, these exercises pitted Bataan ' s aircraft, including helicopters, against "enemy" submarines Blackfin, Caiman, and Greenfish.

After refueling and replenishing at Yokosuka and Sasebo, the light carrier embarked VMA-312 at Kobe and departed Japan for operations off Korea on 29 April. She relieved HMS Glory as CTE-95.1.1 that same day and began combat sorties on the 30th. Ever since June 1951, the war in Korea had been bogged down in a military stalemate, with both sides heavily dug in along the 38th parallel. Tasked with interdicting communist supply routes between Hanchon and Yonan, Bataan ' s planes flew 30 offensive sorties a day, bombing supply dumps, railway tracks, bridges, and road traffic.

Her only aircraft loss of this line tour took place on 22 May when a Corsair was shot down by ground fire north of Pyongyang. While two other fighters provided cover, the pilot was rescued by an Air Force helicopter. That same day, another Corsair ejected a hung rocket while landing on Bataan. The rocket bounced forward on the flight deck and exploded, injuring three crewmen. She suffered no other losses that month and on 28 May she was relieved by HMS Ocean. After sailing to Yokosuka for repairs to her flight deck, Bataan conducted three more Yellow Sea line tours in June and July, continuing the task of attacking communist supply lines. On 4 August, the warship turned for home and arrived in San Diego, via Pearl Harbor, on 26 August.

Bataan entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 11 September for an overhaul, remaining there for three weeks. She then conducted two weeks of carrier qualification landings with VS-21, VS-23, and VS-871 until she began preparations for her third Far Eastern deployment. The warship steamed for Okinawa on 28 October, via Pearl Harbor, and anchored in Buckner Bay on 15 November. [1]

Third Deployment

Although fears of Soviet intervention in Korea had diminished, ASW exercises remained important to the units operating off Korea. Bataan conducted two such operations, one between 23 and 29 November 1952 and another between 17 to 23 December. The first operation included an "opposed" sortie against Sea Devil and Scabbardfish, "hunter-killer" submarine searches, and general ASW patrols. She also practiced jet aircraft tracking with North American F-86 Sabre fighters operating out of Kadena airfield in Japan. The second exercise included electronic counter-measure (ECM) intercept exercises against Segundo and long-range ASW training with Lockheed P2V Neptunes.

On 9 February 1953, after two more transit ASW exercises between Buckner Bay and Yokosuka, Bataan embarked VMA-312 for operations off Korea. She relieved HMS Glory as Commander, Task Unit (CTU) 95.1.1 on the 15th and began flying combat missions that same day. In addition to the usual armed reconnaissance patrols along the coast, her Marine Corps Corsairs attacked Chinese troop concentrations south of Chinnampo and on the Ongjin peninsula. These attacks were ordered because friendly partisan reports indicated Chinese troops were massing for attacks on UN-controlled islands close to the mainland.

Bataan conducted four more line tours between 7 March and 5 May. Despite the bad flying weather associated with the spring thaw, VMA-312 continued to attack the enemy troop concentrations and supply dumps reported by friendly partisans. The Corsairs also attacked roads, railways, and especially bridges, as flood waters hampered communist repair efforts.

After liberty at Yokosuka, Bataan sailed for home, via Pearl Harbor, on 10 May, arriving in San Diego on the 26th. She was undergoing repairs there on 27 July when her the armistice was signed at Panmunjom in Korea. She then loaded planes and equipment destined for Japan and sailed on 31 July for a round-trip voyage to Kobe and Yokosuka. [1]

Decommissioning and Scrapping

Returning to Pearl Harbor, she reported for a preinactivation overhaul on 26 August 1953. After moving to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard, Bataan was decommissioned on 9 April 1954 and assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Francisco. Although she was reclassified an auxiliary aircraft transport and redesignated AVT-4 on 15 May 1959, her name was struck from the Navy List on 1 September 1959. She was sold to Nicolai Joffe Corp., Beverly Hills, California, on 19 June 1961 for scrapping. [1]


Meet The USS Franklin: America's Most Damaged Aircraft Carrier That Survived World War II

Key point She saw more than her share of tragedy.

The USS Franklin was not a lucky ship.

In March 1945, off the Japanese mainland, the Essex-class aircraft carrier was hit by two 550-pound bombs that struck her flight deck and penetrated into the hangar deck. Less than six months earlier, a kamikaze had hit her off Leyte in the Philippines, killing or wounding 120 members of her crew.

The second attack ignited the fuel tanks of 31 armed and fueled aircraft awaiting launch, as well as “Tiny Tim” air-to-surface rockets and other ordnance aboard the ship. Fires raged. Rockets whistled across the deck, and machine-gun ammunition clattered. In minutes, the Franklin was dead in the water with massive casualties, a 13-degree starboard list, and without any radio communications. Many of her damage control team members were dead and some of her water lines, needed to fight the fires, were severed. Flaming and wreathed in choking smoke, she was 52 miles from the Japanese mainland and drifting closer.

The Franklin Would Endure

“I saw guys flying through the air [and] saw men running around on fire, just flaming torches,” a seaman on a nearby destroyer reported. Like most of the men who could see the Franklin, he though she was doomed.

But the Franklin would survive.

Not only would she survive, but dubbed “the ship that wouldn’t die,” she would steam 12,000 miles under her own power first to the Caroline Islands, then across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor, and then through the Panama Canal to the Atlantic Ocean and then to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Her story is considered one of the greatest survival sagas of the war.

Four days before the 1945 attack, the Franklin had sailed from Ulithi in the Caroline Islands, part of the 120-ship Task Force 58 deployed to launch attacks against the Japanese homeland in support of the Okinawa landings set for April 1. It was the Franklin’s return to combat after undergoing repairs from the kamikaze attack suffered in the Philippines. Her captain was Leslie E. Gehres, who had taken command of the ship the previous November. A veteran of World War I and a naval aviator since 1927, he was the Navy’s first aviation commodore. Captain Gehres was known as a disciplinarian and was said to be disliked by most of his men, who had nicknamed him Custer (after General George Armstrong Custer) because of his perceived aggressiveness.

The keel of the Franklin, the fifth U.S. Navy ship so named, had been laid on December 7, 1942, the first anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. She was launched in Virginia 10 months later on October 14, 1943, and by June 1944, she had been deployed to the South Pacific where she was involved in operations in the Marianas, the attacks on Iwo Jima, Chichi Jima, Haha Jima, and Peleliu. By September she had been named the flagship of Task Group 38.4 and had taken part in attacks in preparation for the assault on the island of Leyte in the Philippines.

Big Ben’s Brush With the Japanese

While there, the Franklin, by now known affectionately to her men as “Big Ben,” just barely escaped being struck by two torpedoes, and on September 13 a Japanese plane—apparently not a kamikaze—crashed onto her deck and then slid across and into the water. On October 27, three Japanese kamikaze planes attacked her, one hitting the flight deck and crashing through to the galley deck, killing 56 men and wounding another 60. She limped back to Ulithi Atoll for temporary repairs and then went on to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Washington, where more permanent repairs were made. She left Puget Sound on February 2, 1945, and joined a naval force gathering for strikes on the Japanese homeland. Now, a month later, she was off the Japanese coast.

Early on March 19, the battle group had begun attacks on the Japanese home islands aimed at knocking out enemy air power. The Franklin launched fighters to attack Kobe Harbor. By dawn on March 19, she was closer to the Japanese mainland than any other U.S. carrier had gotten during the war. The Japanese met the battle group’s attack with their own air power, and the Franklin’s crew had been called to battle stations 12 times in the six hours between midnight and dawn. By 7 am, however, things had quieted, and except for the gun crews the men were allowed to step down. On the galley deck, 200 men were standing in line for breakfast, their first hot meal in two days.

About 7:05 am, however, the aircraft carrier USS Hancock spotted an enemy aircraft approaching the group and broadcast the sighting to the task force. About four minutes later, the plane was seen lining up on the Franklin and another warning was broadcast. However, by that time the plane, possibly a Yokosuka D4Y Judy dive bomber or an Aichi D3A Val dive bomber, had broken the cloud cover and made a low-level run on the Franklin.

Some reports later claimed the plane had no markings and was not being fired on by the task force. Many had assumed it was friendly.

The Japanese plane dropped two 550-pound bombs toward the Franklin before a patrolling U.S. Vought F4U Corsair fighter shot it down.

Ripped and Torn With Flames

Back on the Franklin, however, one of the two bombs struck in the middle of the flight deck slightly forward of the island, blowing a 15-square foot hole in the deck and passing through to the hangar deck, where there were 22 planes, 16 of which were fueled and five armed. The force of the explosion sent the No. 1 elevator up and out its shaft like a rocket. The second 550-pounder had hit the rear of the ship among the 31 planes warming up for takeoff there and igniting their fuel tanks. A burst of flame erupted from the flight deck, and men on other ships in the task force later said they could feel their vessels rock from the force of the explosion. The Franklin’s ready room was immediately destroyed, killing 24 of the 28 men in it.

“The center deck slammed into the overhead and the ready room was ripped and torn with flames and smoke and bodies were all over,” said Marine Corps pilot John Vandergrif, one of the four survivors.

Casualties were also high on the flight and hangar decks, where many of the crew who were preparing to launch aircraft had never heard any of the warnings, which had been drowned out by the noise of the airplane engines. The explosions jumbled aircraft together on the two decks and set off the Tiny Tim rockets with 500-pound warheads that whistled across the decks. Ammunition began cooking off.

“Fifty-caliber ammunition in the planes on the deck set up a staccato chattering,” Commander Stephen Jurika, a navigator and flight deck officer on the Franklin, recalled.

“On the hangar deck,” a Time magazine reporter would later write, “now a roaring furnace, pilots blundered into still-whirling plane propellers, climbed frantically up the folded wings. Later some were found hanging like black, charred monkeys, caught in the overhead structure.”

Only two crewmen were able to escape the hangar deck carnage.

Medals of Honor Awarded

On the galley deck, many of the 200 men who had been waiting for breakfast were burned or crushed in place with still empty stomachs. Many of the ship’s men were blown over the side aft of the island or were faced with the choice of going overboard or being burned to death. Other crewmen tried to soak ammunition and missile supplies but found there was no water pressure, and still other men tried to toss live rounds over the side only to be blown over themselves.

The explosions severed many of the water lines that were needed for firefighting and killed or wounded a large number of the members of the damage control team. The heat melted electric wires, knocked out the ship’s communication network, and ruptured fuel lines that then sprayed gasoline on the fires. But in the chaos, many of the Franklin’s men rose to the challenge.

Lieutenant (j.g.) Donald A. Gray, one of two men to receive the Medal of Honor for their actions that day, discovered 300 men apparently trapped below deck. An engineer who knew the ship’s layout in detail, he groped his way through dark, debris-filled corridors until he discovered an escape route and made three trips back to the trapped men “despite menacing flames, flooding water and the ominous threat of sudden additional explosions, on each occasion calmly leading his men through the blanketing pall of smoke until the last one had been saved,” his Medal of Honor citation reads. He then organized and led work parties to battle fires on the hangar deck and eventually raise steam in one boiler.

The other Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Cmdr. Joseph T. O’Callahan, the Franklin’s Catholic chaplain. Throughout the chaos that followed the attack and explosions and despite a leg wound, he raced around the damaged carrier administering the last rites, comforting wounded crewmen, organizing firefighting and rescue parties, helping to carry hot bombs and shells to the edge of the deck for jettisoning, and leading a party below deck to wet down magazines that were threatening to explode.


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