This day in history, the Japanese conducted their first kamikaze attack of World War II.
During the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, the Japanese deploy kamikaze (“divine wind”) suicide bombers against American warships.
The reason for kamikaze attacks was because of their failure to stop the American offensive with conventional naval and aerial engagements.
“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 will be more than enough volunteers for this chance to save our country,” said Captain Motoharu Okamura.
24 volunteer pilots from Japan’s 201st Navy Air Group targeted U.S. escort carriers. One hundred Americans were killed when the St. Lo was struck by a A6M Zero fighter and sunk in less than an hour.
More than 5,000 kamikaze pilots died in the gulf battle and 34 ships were taken down as a result.
Kamikaze aircraft were essentially pilot-guided explosive missiles, purpose-built (Okha)or converted from conventional aircraft. Pilots would attempt to crash their aircraft into enemy ships in what was called a “body attack” with planes full of a combination of explosives, torpedoes, bombs and fuel tanks.
During the war, more than 1,321 Japanese aircraft crash-dived their planes into Allied warships during the war, killing roughly 3,000 Americans and Brits.