The Battle for Okinawa: Kamikaze
On 26 March 1945, the US Fifth Fleet arrived off of the coast of Okinawa. Within hours, the first airborne “Special Attack Weapons”, better known as Kamikaze suicide planes, attacked. Kamikaze came in all types of aircraft: fighters, bombers, trainers, and even specially designed piloted bombs. Over the next 90 days, 1,465 Kamikaze attacked the fleet during the Battle for Okinawa, or more than 16 a day. These were in addition to the normal bombing raids by the Japanese Air Force. Ship crews were at battle stations from 16 to 18 hours a day, from the first bluish haze of BMNT til well after the last trace of evening twilight.
The Kamikaze initially concentrated on the destroyer pickets, then shifted to the escort carriers off of the island. American gunners quickly found out that the .50 calibre anti-aircraft guns could not bring down the Kamikaze before it struck its target. Only dedicated 40mm batteries, and more effectively, the five inch guns firing proximity rounds, could break up the planes before they struck the ship. Pilots on combat air patrol or intercept had to engage the Kamikaze as close to Japan as possible, in order to put enough rounds into the plane to prevent even a heavily damaged Kamikaze from reaching its target. Even so, 33 Allied ships were sunk and 258 more were damaged. The US Navy took more casualties off Okinawa than in any other naval battle in the war.
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