Monday, August 22, 2011

Kamikaze - Japanese Special Attack Weapons 1944-45

By the autumn of 1944, Japan was facing the defeat of its armed forces, and a likely American invasion of the Home Islands in 1945. In desperation, they turned to suicide weapons, the legendary kamikaze. Although kamikaze aircraft are the best known of these weapons, there was a variety of special attack naval options, including human torpedoes, crash boats, and frogmen. The army also had its own last-ditch weapons, such as antitank lunge mines. A postwar American study of Japanese air power concluded that "the single most effective air weapon developed by the Japanese was the suicide plane." In contrast, the naval kamikaze weapons were more a dangerous nuisance than a serious threat to the US fleet. The special focus of this book is on the weapons designed in 1944-45 specifically for the special attack missions. By the spring of 1944, the Imperial Japanese armed forces were on a precipitous slide to defeat. Any technological and tactical superiority enjoyed by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and Army (IJA) in 1941 had been eroded away by more than two years of war. This weakening was especially evident in the balance of air and naval power. In the hope of regaining a measure of tactical parity, a number of junior IJN and IJA officers in 1943 proposed a variety of suicide weapons, including crash boats, human torpedoes, and human-guided rocket bombs.