Kamikaze Tactics – Insane or Rational?

Kamikaze Tactics - Insane or Rational?

“Kamikaze” attacks are often portrayed as useless insane measures by the Japanese to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific in World War 2, yet the question is were the attack of the Special Attack Corps just insane simple ramming attacks or was it a rational choice based on experience in combination with tactics?

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book Friedman, Norman: Fighters over the Fleet from Naval Institute Press for Content Production. (see sources below for further information)

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Friedman, Norman: Fighters over the Fleet. Naval Air Defence from Biplanes to the Cold War.
Note I received a complimentary copy from Naval Institute Press: https://www.usni.org/store/books/holiday-catalog-2017/fighters-over-fleet

Rielly, Robin L.: Kamikazes, Corsairs, and Picket Ships. Okinawa, 1945

Drea, Edward J.: In Service of the Emperor

Giangreco, D. M.: Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan

Francillon, R. J.: Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War

Preliminary Design Section Bureau of Ships, Navy Department: Summary of War Damage to U.S. Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts, 8 December 1944 to 9 October 1945

Preliminary Design Section Bureau of Ships, Navy Department: Destroyer Report – Gunfire, Bomb and Kamikaze Damage including Losses in Action. 17th October, 1941 to 15th August, 1945

Navy Department Bureau of Ordnance, VT Fuzes For Projectiles and Spin-Stabilized Rockets (1946)

Nichols Chas. S. Jr.; Shaw, Henry I., Jr: Okinawa: Victory in the Pacific, U.S. Marine Corps (1955)

Buchanan, A.R.: The Navy’s Air War – A mission completed.

Friedman: Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns & Gunnery

Kuehn, John T.: The war in the Pacific, 1941-1945; in: Cambridge History of the Second World War, Volume 1, p. 420-454

Spector, Ronald H.: Eagle Against the Sun – The American War with Japan

Tillmann, Barrett: Whirlwind – The Air War Against Japan 1942-1945

Justin & Whatismoo


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  1. It’s a good thing the Japanese didn’t have drones or the German V2 rocket program back during WW 2…….drones as kamikazis would scare the shit out of everyone…my dad was a US Marine gunner attached to the USS Intrepid on 25 November 1944, and she was hit by two kamikazis….general quarters orders were to shoot at the sun……CV11 still got hit bad……

  2. It was actually quite effective, especially for morale ..on both sides. the problem was, they should have started it earlier in the war and used green recruits instead of combat veterans.

  3. The biggest problem with kamikaze tactics was they are hard-countered by a unique American invention, the proximity fuse, which allows effective remote detonation of AAA shells when they get close enough to an enemy fighter/bomber (meaning you don't have to directly hit the target, merely get close enough that blowing up a shell causes its flying shrapnel to do the damage), without needing to set a time-delay fuse for a large quantity of separate shells programmed to detonate at specific heights. The high speed and quick change of altitude that a kamikaze dive attack has only works against a ship that has to divide its AAA defenses into high, medium, and low altitude targeting groups. With proximity fuses, the entirety of the AAA battery can focus on a single diving fighter and take it out through sheer volume of fire ensuring that at least one lucky hit will force the plane off course, kill the pilot, or detonate the plane in midair.

  4. It wasn't rational. It was a desperate, foolish waste of men. Because of the fanaticism of it, the us decided that dropping the bomb was more humane and then invading Japan

  5. The CAP calculation is interesting. I’m not sure 56 planes would saturate the cap to the point as the 120 plane formation, I doubt that as many would get through to the AAA screen because the ratio of cap fighters to attackers would be more favourable to the cap. The argument you put forward is really compelling, I just think target saturation needs to be accounted for and factored in

  6. So about the name, in Japan (now) it's also often called "Kamikaze". However, it's more common to be called "Tokko" which is a shortened version of "Tokubetsu Koogeki" meaning special attack.

  7. This tactic was introduced following the immense increase in losses with the introduction of VT, or proximity fused AA fire which was suddenly much more effective. Using old, pre VT, statistics the Admiral who proposed this tactic calculated 350 planes and pilots would destroy 350 ships. With the VT fused fire, that became 3000. The number of ships lost, we now know, were far greater than the 47 reported. Hundreds of ships were withdrawn, for repairs, following attacks.