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"Kamikaze" is the popular term used to refer to Japanese suicide airplane attackers who were used against the Americans late in World War II. The word "kamikaze" is made up of the words "kami," which means "spirit" or "god" and "kaze" which means "wind." This is commonly translated as "divine wind." It refers to typhoons that swept away Mongol invasion forces that were on the verge of attacking Japan in 1274 and 1281. The hope was that the kamikaze of WWII would similarly save Japan from what seemed like certain defeat.
The word "kamikaze" is typically used to refer only to the suicide airplane attacks. However, there were many other kinds of suicide attacks that were planned and/or carried out. These included things like suicide divers who were to attack US ships. These sorts of tactics are not generally called kamikaze but they are part of the same idea.
It should be pointed out that those who participated in Kamikaze missions considered themselves on a divine mission, similar to that of the wind which blew the Mongol fleet off course. They held their own funeral before departing, and wrote a poem to their parents. Those wishing to participate were required to be single, and were closely examined by military authorities. In one rather telling instance, a pilot was rejected from Kamikaze status because he was married with children. When he told his wife about this, she drowned the children and herself so that he could fulfil his dream.
Planes carrying kamikaze pilots were loaded with more explosives than fuel, in fact they carried only enough fuel to reach their intended target. Once they were in the air, there was no turning back.
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. As the American advance gained momentum, the Japanese were driven to such reckless actions, which they believed could turn the tide of the war in their favour.
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