What are Kamikazes? How were they used in World War II?

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The word Kamikaze means "Divine Wind" in Japanese, and refers to several times in Japanese history where a wind protected them from invading fleets of ships.  In World War II, there were more volunteers for these suicide missions than there were planes.  Japanese soldiers operated according to the Code of Bushido, where it was the highest honor to die for the Emperor, protecting the home islands.  To surrender was not only dishonor, but dishonor for all of your ancestors.

The Kamikazes first made an appearance in large numbers during the Battle of Leyte Gulf where they were sent to stop the US invasion fleet at the Philippines in 1944.  Hundreds were shot down or crashed into the sea, but they did succeed in sinking 36 American ships, including an aircraft carrier.

It was an act of desperation, and failed to do anything to change the outcome of the war.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Kamikaze was the name given to Japanese pilots who volunteered to fly their airplanes and intentionally crash them into US ships.  In essence, they were making their planes into guided missiles on the idea that one life in exchange for serious damage to a ship was a great idea.

Kamikazes were first deployed against Allied forces at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in late 1944.  They continued to be used in later battles such as the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

The word "kamikaze" means "divine wind" in Japanese and refers to historical storms that destroyed Mongol fleets that were trying to invade Japan.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The word kamikaze in Japanese means divine wind which originally referred to a typhoon that destroyed a fleet sent by Mongol conqueror Kublai Khan to attack Japan in 1281. In modern times, Kamikaze was name given to  Japanese pilots who undertook specialized suicide bombing attacks during World War II. These suicide bombings involved the pilots with their planes loaded with explosives diving and crashing into the targets to be bombed. The targets of such attacks were usually American warships.

Use of Kamikaze tactics was a desperate attempt by Japanese to control and weaken the U.S. naval power. The first Kamikaze attack took place in October 1944, to counter Allied invasion of Japanese held Philippines.

Kamikaze sank about 30 vessels and damaged about 350. However they failed to sink any major ships like an aircraft carrier. The Kamikaze attacks did not prove to be very successful as a war tactics, but the kamikaze pilots do represent a spirit of resistance that is praiseworthy.

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moustacio | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In the summer of 1944, the Japanese initiated the orchestrated strategy of launching suicide attacks against Allied forces, mostly through the use of fighter aircraft on American warships that were engaged in the island-hopping strategy. Known as the kamikaze (the word "kamikaze" meant divine wind in Japanese), Japanese aircraft were flown on one-way missions and ordered to crash on American battle-ships, while carrying as much munitions and petrol as possible. Such a policy greatly increased the strategic success of the Japanese military since the pilots involved in these missions could often fly more recklessly and the kamikaze policy inflicted a significant toll on American warships.

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