Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

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Kamikaze Pilots

In view of the tide of the war turning beyond Japanese control, air commanders proposed the desperate act of suicide-crashing enemy ships with their planes.   The name, Kamikaze, means Heavenly, or Divine, Wind.  The name was resurrected from Japanese history stemming from the 16th Century tale of a Mongol emperor whose fleet was sunk or turned by "the gods" who sent a heavenly wind.  

In addition to the suicide tactic, the planes were sometimes loaded with bombs and extra gasoline tanks before flown into their targets.  The pilots were also young men who offered themselves as volunteers for their mission.  The pilots performed a special ceremony of drinking sake and eating rice before flying.   They were also given medals and a Katana sword during these cerremonies.   The pilots also carried beloved possessions to be treasured upon death.  

Collage of images:  NH 73094-95:  Japanese Kamikaze Pilots.  NHHC Photograph Collection.