Were kamikazes effective?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Twitch, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    While over all their impact wasn't tremendous it was another danger to deal with aboard ships. Every guy aboard a vessel I've talked to all figured they'd hit some other guy's boat but once there was an attack they were pretty freightening.

    The Navy's heaviest casualties came from kamikaze attacks. So what do you think? They were very effective, had no influence on anything or were somewhat effective? That's kinda where I'm at- somewhat effective.:?:
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    They were effective to a point.

    On the occasion when they did hit a ship, the damage inflicted sometimes was severe.

    Look at how many carriers that were damaged bad enough to have to return to port for repairs (Bunker Hill, Intrepid, Enterpise, etc).

    But of course the Japanese lost hordes of aircraft and pilots for no gain, so its hard to say it was a success.
     
  3. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    I would agree with syscom :)!:) they were effective up until a point. They damaged lots of ships and instilled fear into those who crewed them but they sank very few ships and those that were damaged the Allies could repair and get the back in action in a few weeks/months. The most effective Kamikazi's were the aerial ones with the Kai-Ten's and other submersible kamikazi devices being less effective. All in all I would of said that the Kamikazi were a waste of lives (as were the Banzai charges) they achieved little in terms of ships sunk which is key but in the end the Japanese were desperate and so they would go to any means to slow the Allies (with the biggest Kamikazi being the Yamato).
     
  4. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    I would say they were successful given the alternative that they had. They could not effectively mount conventional attacks vs the USA navy b/c their planes and pilots were lacking. All they could was attack in waves (or the best they could mount) and attack and crash their planes into ships. Their planes were inferior and their pilots were inexperienced compared to the USA. Any conventional attack would of had much less success then their Divine Wind attacks. Their losses were staggering, true, but they would of been staggering also in conventional attack also. Conventional attack would of resulted in many fewer successes. Here is some numbers for you:

    By the end of World War II, the Japanese naval air service had sacrificed 2,525 kamikaze pilots and the army air force had given 1,387. According to an official Japanese announcement, the missions sank 81 ships and damaged 195, and according to a Japanese tally, suicide attacks accounted for up to 80 percent of US losses in the final phase of the war in the Pacific. However, according to a U.S. Air Force webpage:

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

    The Japanese had the men and planes (relatively speaking) to sacrifice but they needed results. Conventional attacks would not have gained them the results they sought. In the end of course nothing they did could stop the massive USA navy at that point. In the end it was a sacrifice in vain of allot of young men.
     
  5. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I would put it like this. As syscom said it was effective to a point. What got through caused tremendous damage, loss of life, and terror, however was it going to change the course of the war? Absolutely not.
     
  6. Bullockracing

    Bullockracing Member

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    In terms of bang for the buck, and considering the resources the Japanese had at the time, I would say effective. If they tried to conduct conventional warfare using their aircraft, they would have been torn to shreds with little or, more likely, no effect. Only a very small percentage of kamikaze attacks got past the picket boats and the fighter screen, so if you can imagine the ones that did only trying a conventional attack instead of a 5000 lb gas and explosive guided projectile, you would have a 500 lb dummy bomb. Then you would have to fly back through the picket boats and the fighter screen...
     
  7. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Exactly
     
  8. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    One huge problem the japanese had in the waning months of the war was their delusional believing of their own propaganda.

    They thought they were sinking ships on a grand scale without a thought of seeing if it was true.

    I bet more than a few Japanese commanders knew the truth and thought they should horde the pilots and aircraft and use them when the invasion of the homeland occured.

    My neighbor who was on an LST said a kamikazi hit on a transport or an amphib ship is a devastating experience and did cause problems.
     
  9. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Effective at creating fear, somewhat. But if only 14% of your attacking force makes it through to the intended targets, I wouldl not call that effective, just an aerial version of the Bansai attack. Yes, you can do some damage, but at tremendous cost.
     
  10. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    Like I said before I think that it was relatively effective when concerning they had no other means to damage the USA navy at the time. Had they attacked using conventional means they would achieved very little and been slaughtered.

    By using USA and Japanese numbers provided by themselves lets look at it:

    USA ships damaged or sunk 402

    USA sailors killed or wounded more than 9700

    Japanese pilots killed to achieve the above results 3912

    Suicide attacks accounted for up to 80% of USA navy losses in the final phases of the war.

    14% of all suicide pilots survived to hit their target and of those ships hit by them 8.5 % sank.

    Divine Wind tactics were not going to change the result of the war, but they did get results that no other tactic that the Japanese had available to them considering their difficult situation at that time in the war.

    They failed b/c they had no chance of winning in the first place. But they did achieve a lot considering the pilot and plane quality and quantities available to the Japanese at the time when compared to the USA.

    IMHO
     
  11. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Good posts all. Pretty much get to the point of the matter. The Kamikaze was the most effective method of damaging american ships to a military that was put of options (especially after the results in the Battle of the Phillipine Sea/Leyte Gulf which pretty much wiped out what remained of Japanese Airpower for IJN and most IJA units). However, slamming an airplane into a ship was not as effective as dropping a bomb as the bomb picks up inertia (and is streamlined to a greater extent) and penetrates deeper into the bowels of a ship to do damage. In short, the Kamikazes just weren't going fast enough to do lethal damage in a lot of cases. Against armor, they tended to bounce off (not so much the British carriers in this case as something like a Battleship).
     
  12. Hunter368

    Hunter368 Active Member

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    I do agree with you for the most part. The only part I will talk about is that the Japanese still did have a fair number of planes on mainland Japan for the final fight, if it ever came to it. I don't have that number right now but I have read about it several times and they still had thousands of planes (and pilots) ready for kamikaze attacks vs any invading force. If it ever came down to it, the final invasion would of been very bloody for both sides.
     
  13. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    While the Kamikazi's "bombs" couldnt penetrate into the bowels of a cruiser or battleship, against smaller targets like destroyers and transports, it didnt matter.

    Plus having a few hundred gallons of gasoline ignite and burn on the deck was just as devestating. On several carriers, the burning gasoline managed to ignite secondary fires and also cause destruction.
     
  14. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Good point about the flash fire effect and the secondary burns. Pretty much where most of the casualties were centered. And against lighter, less heavily armoured ships (or without armour at all), they could be frightfully efficient.

    But while they did cause casualties, knocked ships out of the battle and made for spectacular film, they had trouble actually killing the ships. Carriers were damaged, but rarely sunk (unless you include the CVEs) by Kamikaze attacks. Even the Franklin, probably the worst damaged of the fleet carriers, still survived. And under her own power, which was the key point.

    But getting back to your point, that was the intention. Both sides were fighting a war that required large amounts of equipment produced efficiently and effectively. Armouring a ship increases the time it takes to build. Given the war in the Pacific's pace, it was a luxury (and cost) dispensed with in most cases. That cost when the Kamikaze came.
     
  15. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Agree. I've heard the numbers 6-10,000 (pretty large spread)thrown around. Depends on whom your source is. Add to that the improved Baka Bombs, suicide swimmers, suicide boats and kaitens and you have one helluva mess for the Allies in November of '45.

    Which brings me to a point I've been kicking around for a while. I think the war (and probably this happens in most wars) in the Pacific got more lethal and more effective (not neccessarily the same thing) as the war progressed. What I mean is the weapons/equipment used became better at what they did while the methods (tactics for the most part) became better as well. Add to that increased numbers of individuals using them (on both sides) and you have the makings of a blood bath.

    I think the last year of any war is the most deadly for these reasons. Generally, the time of greatest lethality is when one side or the other gains ascendency and the other is effectively routed. Given that modern war stretches the kill zone back farther than previous wars, the death toll on the losing side increases due to numbers, effectiveness and lethality of the weapons.

    How this all would've played into the last year of the Pacific war would've been after the great Kamikaze attacks of the invasion of Kyushu, after the invasion was established. Bloody though the initial phase would've been, the landings would've succeeded. Once the line that the Japanese held behind the beaches was broken and the same retreat that happened in all Japanese/American battles in relatively open terrain happened, the lethality of the situation for the Japanese would've been immense. At that point, the ordinary Japanese people would've been seen as just another combatant and pretty much the whole island would've been a free fire zone.

    Similar event would've happened on Honshu near the Kanto Plain.

    I know it's a long point that I just wrote out but I would like to hear perspectives on it. The down side about thinking out an idea on your own is the critical audience has a vested in the success of the idea. Kinda mutes the negatives. 8)
     
  16. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    Interesting points of view form various perspectives. Great stuff guys!

    Tomshatz- they had over 12,000 combat aircraft that we didn't even know existed built in caves and underground facilities. We thought there were less than 2,000. Another thing that evaded intel were 9,200 shinyo kamikaze speed boats and a few hundred kaiten minisubs.

    As one fellow on a carrier mentioned to me "As big as a carrier is, when the Jap kamikazes were coming in it wasn't big enough to run to a safe spot."

    But I agree, a huge loss of life with negligable results.
     
  17. Bullockracing

    Bullockracing Member

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    In concept, one pilot and plane taking out 1000 men and a ship is a pretty good return on your investment. Fortunately (or unfortunately for the Japanese) in practice that wasn't the case, due to mitigating factors...
     
  18. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Hadn't heard the figure as high as 12K but that could include the Baka and improved Baka bombs that were ground launched (instead of air launched) from along the coast.

    I'm leery of calling all the aircraft that the Japanese would've used as "Combat Aircraft" in a strict sense. Granted, they were going to be used in a combat situation so they would be considered combat aircraft for that reason. But I believe many of them would've had primary duties that were not kamikaze or bombing attacks. Trainers, liason, transport, all would've been used in the attacks. This was the Final Decisive Battle that the Japanese had been waiting and planning for since the begining of the war and everyone was invited. The numbers you quote regarding suicide craft of all types sound about right. Given that, the 7-14% rate of contact gives us a number of between 1,500 and 3,000 successful kamikaze attacks. It's a bloodbath I just can't comprehend.

    However, there are points in the invasion plan that probably would've negated or lowered the % of success. For starters, the plan was to suppress the Japanese airfields starting months before the invasion. That lead to the Japanese dispersing their aircraft away for the fields (in some cases up to a mile away) to avoid their destruction. Getting all these birds together and ready to fly in the same spot would've been a logistical nightmare.

    Second, the plan for the Allied Air Forces (as I understand it) called for the Navy/Marines to handle the invasion coverage and most of the close air support while the AAF/RAF/RAAF/RNAF did the interdiction and airfield suppression from bases in Okinawa. That would've parked various types of fighters over Japanese air bases almost continuously. Also, allied medium, light and heavy bombers would be bombing the bases almost nonstop. Getting a Kamikaze attack up in the face of that juggernaut would've been daunting to say the least. I would say suicidal but that is pretty much what it was all about anyway so the point is mute.

    Lastly, after 90 days of continuous bombardment from Air and Naval assets, the Japanese communications would probably be a shambles. When the invasion did occur, plenty of units wouldn't get the word for hours, if not days. The kamikaze attacks would then come not as an overwhelming thrust but as a series of waves as organizational/operational restrictions allowed. Also, the problematic nature of the communications would've left them open to false invasion reports. Some units take off to attack days before the real invasion begins, attacking a bombardment unit. There are a mulititude of scenarios that would come into play.

    In terms of an air battle, the first several days of Operation Olympic would've been gargantuan. No other word for it. Thousands of aircraft battling from the center of Kyushu out to the Invasion fleet. And not in just one strike, but in an almost continuous stream. From a fighter pilot's perspective, it would've gone beyond a target rich environment. Aircraft would've been fighting for miles in all directions, Kamikaze strikes outbound to the Fleet, in some cases with an escort trying to keep the fighters off but in most cases unescorted. Allied bombers of all types going out to supress airfields and bomb targets close to the beach, also, most likely, unescorted.

    Again, it boggles the mind
     
  19. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    It is an excellent ROI. As you note (and fortunately for us), that wasn't the case. It is akin to the logic used by US Healthcare in the 80s for increasing business to hospitals. They said to Hospitals "Your fixed costs are already covered at such and such a level of business, take on extra business at a reduced price as only the variable costs need be covered". In practice, the fixed costs had to be covered by ALL the business. So they essentially took the business at a reduced rate. Once you sold that idea on one hospital, others had to follows. Good bye to a lot of hospitals.

    Along those lines, the entire attack has to be considered when looking at the success rate. If 100 aircraft are sent, 90 of them will be shot down so that 10 can actually hit something. The lucky ten (if they are all that lucky) succeed because the defenses were busy with the other 90. You couldn't send out 10 and get 10 hits. Or even ten and get 1 hit. The math didn't work that way.

    The USN (and to a lesser extent the RN) developed tactics that negated a good part of the Kamikaze attacks. The attacks became less and less effective as the campaign wore on. Unfortunately, I do not have the hard data to confirm that statement but will try to recall the reasoning as much as possible.

    1. The USN developed the "Big Blue Blanket" (fighter cover response) as well as increased the number of fighters per carrier. Also, up to the begining of the Kamikaze attacks, the doctine called for one defending fighter for every 2 attacking aircraft (based on the idea that supporting fighters were not bombers and that bombers really were the danger). After the start of the kamikaze, the ratio went to 1 to 1 for obvious reasons (everybody is a bomber).

    2. The airfields the kamikaze's flew from went higher on the list of targets. Suppression of the attacks before they got airborne became a higher priority. Made life more difficult for those getting the attacks together.

    3. Anti-aircraft effectiveness increased due to increased weapons per ship, increased training and new weapons (3" Fast Firing AA).

    4. Pilots flying the missions degraded in effectiveness as the higher hour pilots were killed and the replacements came in with fewer hours in the air, less ability in ship recognition and an overall degredation of quility. Hitting a moving ship with an airplane really is a tricky operation.

    5. Picket/Early Warning ships tended to asbsorb attacks.

    None of these ideas was the Golden Bullet. Taken together, they degraded the effectiveness of the kamikaze. While the US Fleet got better with practice, no such thing happens with a kamikaze. It's a one shot and done business. The individuals organizing the attack on the ground may get more polished and the leaders of the attack may be tasked with returning to report (if they can) but the overall result is a degrading in quality for the Japanese as the attacks continue while the US Fleet gets better at handling all aspects of the attack (from suppression of the airfield to intercept to AAA to Damage Controls).
     
  20. P38 Pilot

    P38 Pilot Active Member

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    In my opinion, at one point in time during the war, they were effective. But like General Patton said:
    His words were very true...
     
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