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Kamikaze Attacks.........overrated?

Discussion in 'Axis Aviation Of WWII' started by JJWilson, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Hello everybody, I have a unique question to ask all of you, as I was reading from our Vocab list for WW2 in World History, I noticed Kamikaze was one of the words, I'm not all that surprised, but I think the true effectiveness of Kamikaze attacks against U.S shipping has been inflated over the years simply because of it's notoriety and cultural significance to us Americans. Am I wrong in assuming this?

    "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." (Wikipedia-Kamikaze)
     
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I haven't done the maths but I suspect the kill/hit ratio for kamikaze attacks was no worse than for the theoretically non suicidal other aircraft attacks. The serving as a Kamikaze was less fatal than the German U Boat service. It took a lot of aircraft to sink a single ship or kill an enemy on the ground. The 2,800 kamikases who attacked and died took on average two Americans with them, and a further two wounded. .

    Judged by its popularity in the modern era, suicide bombing is a cost effective precision guided munition.
     
  3. Pacifist

    Pacifist Active Member

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    Off the cuff I'd say that in late war kamikaze attacks were the only effective method left for the Japanese. Their dwindling surface navy became less and less of a threat. Their sub fleet was being hunted down. Their infantry were fighting to the death but they were dying.

    The Kamikaze was the only remaining weapon which the US navy feared because they couldn't counter them all.

    So in terms of what the Japanese COULD do it was the most effective thing they had. Thus it's what the US remembers.
     
  4. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    FYI, the term "kamikaze" is a nickname, cool but inaccurate. "Kikusui" (special attack) was the operational name. Kikusui squadrons conducted the attacks on the Allies.

    The impact of the suicidal attacks has to include the psychological factor. Before they started we could drive off a dive bomb or strafing plane with 20mm cannon fire. The kikusui attacks required the heavier 40mm cannons to actually destroy the plane at a last line of defense for a ship.

    Coupled with the suicidal defense we were facing ashore the conclusion was reached that we "would be facing a Saipan from one end of Japan to the other". Means were developed to help avoid having to invade Japan due to their own to-the-death style of fighting.
     
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  5. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The Japanese had 10,000+ airplanes, boats and midget submarines reserved to resist the invasion of the Home Islands, as well as 5,000,000 tons of carefully horded fuel.
     
  6. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    I probably should have broadened what I meant by "effectiveness", because Kamikaze (or Kikusui as Opana pointed out) attacks had a definite psychological impact, and thus should be considered for actual combat effectiveness, because it did change some of the strategy the Allies used going forward. But in terms of actual physical effectiveness, Kamikaze attacks made up only a small portion of Allied shipping losses in 1944 and 1945, Sinking and Damaging about 400 vessels in a 1 year span is impressive, but still isn't as significant as the losses suffered to Submarines, and Japanese aircraft attacking with bombs and torpedoes, not kamikaze's. I also argue that the Kamikaze attacks weren't as effective as other anti-shipping methods, because of the Japanese failure to sink a true Aircraft Carrier (not escort Carriers), which would have truly struck a blow to the Allies. Here is a quote by Lieutenant Commander Iwatani Taiyo regarding the overall uselessness of the tactic. "I cannot predict the outcome of the air battles, but you will be making a mistake if you should regard Special Attack operations as normal methods. The right way is to attack the enemy with skill and return to the base with good results. A plane should be utilized over and over again. That’s the way to fight a war. The current thinking is skewed. Otherwise, you cannot expect to improve air power. There will be no progress if flyers continue to die."
     
  7. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    This is the big effect. Read Wukovitz's book Hell From the Heavens about the USS Laffey and its encounter with suicide planes. Truly terrifying.
     
  8. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Psychology plays a major role in combat, and can determine battles and strategies in the future. Kamikaze attacks absolutely instilled fear, and angst among the Sailors and Aviators of the Allies. Besides the Psychological impact though, the attacks as I mentioned destroyed and damaged a small percentage of the Allies shipping. Other examples of the psychological impact outweighing the overall effectiveness of a weapon include.......
    • Me-262 and Me-163 Jets attacking Allied Bomber formations in the later stages of the war, relatively few aircraft were lost to these models, and it did nothing to alter the amount of bombers sent (Which was the purpose), but their very presence instilled fear into American Aviators.
    • Sinking of the HMS Hood, the German flagship Bismarck sank one of the U.K's mainstay battleships, which struck a major blow to the morale of the Royal Navy and the U.K's people, but within a handful of days the Bismarck would be sunk, and the Kriegsmarine surface ship operations essentially ceased to exist...
    • The Doolittle raid in April of 1942 did very little damage to the intended targets in Tokyo, but the raid destroyed Japan's feelings of invincibility, and was a massive morale booster for the struggling U.S.
    • Pre-invasion Naval Bombardment is one of the most impressive spectacles of WW2, seeing massive guns fire away at an island or beachhead, the ear shattering sound, and visual masterpiece both from the sea, and the area being bombarded is petrifying. When it seems as though no living thing could have survived the bombardment, most did minimal damage to defensive positions, and in some cases provided more shelter and defensive positions for the defending army
    • V-1 and V-2 bombs were by far some of the most talked about and feared weapons in Europe in 1944, the bombs often harmlessly landed in fields or the English Channel, but the few bombs that did hit caused a tremendous amount of damage and death, and caused people on the British Isles to look up in terror at the sky once again
    • One of the lesser known threats of WW2, were the Japanese Balloon Bombs that were sent across the Pacific to the Continental U.S, few made it to the mainland, but those that did usually didn't explode near people, and only 9 were killed, however the incident where 9 were killed (Mostly kids), caused widespread fear in the West Coast of the U.S and Canada
    These examples prove the effect Psychology has going forward in a conflict, but the actual effectiveness of the weapons, raids, and battles mentioned did nothing to devastate the intended targets or change the outcome of the war.
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I believe the ratio against ships is lower but against bombers ratio could be as high as 1:1 almost. Hitting the tail would be totally fatal. The Japanese knew they were losing and tried of everything. Germans tried for exemple bombing the b17 formations and had some success.kph
     
  10. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Are you talking about the German Luftwaffe's Sonderkommando Elba? Where they rammed fighters into Allied bombers.........I'm afraid that the differences between Kamikaze and Elba operations are too vast to compare them fairly.
     
  11. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    For Germans the pilots were making different plans Other pilots were trying more spesific plans but like Hajo Herrman he believed in crash and kill.
     
  12. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Oh.....I understand Kai, both Nations implemented suicidal strategies, but most Germans chose to jump out before ramming, where as the Japanese followed through, sacrificing their lives.
     
  13. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I met a guy who was on the Laffey, plaque on the wall of his office. He was ready to retire after 36 years active duty. True survivor.
     
  14. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    One reason jumping was a viable option was that the Germans were over their own territory, so the pilots could return to duty. The Japanese didn't have that option.
     
  15. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    It was also a viable option for the Japanese, as they were also over their home territory against the B-29 raids. However, the Japanese pilots stayed with their aircraft in the hopes of ensuring a hit. Some times the Japanese pilots were thrown clear of their craft by the crash, some times they bailed afterwards, and some times they were killed.
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The Japanese used white phosphorus bombs against American bomber formations, but I can't say that I know of any losses caused by such.
     
  17. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Yeah, but I'm a squid.
     
  18. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    In rating the effectiveness of a system you also need to consider the cost and resources expended in producing and using it. A sub that sinks three or four ships isn't really more effective than a kamikaze that sinks 1.

    Let's also look at some losses of USN vessels in 44 and 45. These from:
    List of US Navy ships sunk or damaged in action during World War II - Wikipedia
    CVE's - During the period the US lost 5 and one of those to a German sub. Of the others one was sunk by gunfire, one by conventional air attack and 2 by suicide attacks.
    CA's - 1 to a sub.
    DD's - (I may have miscounted here) during the period in question the Japanese sunk about 18 DDs the kamikaze attacks accounted for at least 12. Furthermore there were another half dozen seriously damaged but not repaired.

    I think those numbers indicate that they were fairly effective.
     
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  19. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I think to rate the effectiveness you must step back and count the number of trained pilots vs the number of operational aircraft. Many of these kamikaze pilots were half-trained 'volunteers' that would have been useless in a combat role. I suspect too, that many of the aircraft relegated to this were burned out relics that would have been useless against American fighters that already outclassed even the newest Japanese fighters.
    Doubtless there were exceptions (good pilots in good aircraft) sacrificed to this tactic, but I suspect, in general, the Japanese were giving up relatively little to employ this tactic.


    .
     
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  20. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    OP, if you need citations to go with your paper I can provide some, I have a modest collection of books on WWII.
     

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