The most familiar of these suicide attacks are those of the infamous Kamikaze pilots. These pilots would fly planes into allied vessels during World War II.
The planes, loaded down with explosives, would explode severely crippling the target vessel and killing the pilot. However, the Kamikaze was not the only suicide attack the Japanese had in their arsenal.
In a report produced by the Office of Strategic Services titled, “Japan’s ‘Secret’ Weapon: Suicide”, researchers discuss several types of suicide attacks. Below is a summary of each one.
Japanese Suicide Attacks
Antitank/Close Combat Units. These anti-tank units would march into battle with what was essentially a bomb on a stick. Better known as Lunge mines, these explosives were mounted on the end of a five-foot pole.
When faced with an Allied tank, the Japanese soldier would thrust the bomb mounted stick at the tank causing it to explode. The explosion would destroy or, at the very least make the tank unusable.
The explosions would also kill the soldier.
Although this method was very low-tech, it was highly-effective. The lunge mine provided about six inches of penetration more than any other anti-tank bomb used in World War II.
Suicide Swimmers/Divers. Known as Fukuryu, these were frogmen version of the close combat troops.
These men would swim toward allied ships with more than 30 pounds of explosive material on the end of a 16 ft. pole. The idea was to have the soldiers in dive gear and weighted down so he would sink.
As the allied ships passed near the diver, he would thrust the stick into the hull of the ship, causing the bomb to detonate, destroying the vessel and the Fukuryu.
The diver was able to remain underwater for 6 hours, if necessary.
Suicide Boats and Flying Bombs
Suicide Boats. The boats, known as Shin’yo to the Japanese, functioned very similarly to the Kamikazes, except on the water.
These boats were capable of reaching speeds of 30 m.p.h and carried a load of explosives, usually in the bow of the boat. The lone captain of the suicide vessel would then slam his bomb-laden boat into the allied ship.
When it came to suicide attacks, the Shin’yo had a better chance of surviving. However, finding any survivors after an attack was rare.
It is estimated that the Japanese had 400 of the boats ready if an invasion occurred on the Japanese mainland.
Suicide Flying Bombs. These were similar to the kamikaze planes, except these were built for the sole purpose of suicide missions. The kamikazes were normally planes that were loaded down with explosives; whereas the flying bomb was nothing more than a missile that was piloted by a human.
One such craft was the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka. The aircraft was about 20 ft. long and could carry over 2,600 lbs. of explosive material, normally made up of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder.
Suicide Submarine. Though not mentioned in the Office of Strategic Services report, the Japanese also had a suicide submarine in their arsenal which they called Kaiten.
Similarly to the flying bombs, the Kaiten was nothing more than a man-driven torpedo. Yet, this packed a punch. These suicide submarines often carried a 1,100 lb. warhead.
It has been noted that the Kaiten was designed with an escape hatch that could have been used after the final acceleration. However, to date, no documentation has been uncovered to indicate that this hatch was ever used.
It seemed that the Kaiten pilots completed their mission to the very end.
Toward the end of World War II, the Japanese realized they were losing the war. In a desperate effort to regain some momentum, they implemented their Special Attack Units, known as shimbu-tai.
Their specialty was suicide attacks. It seems that right up to the end of the war, the Japanese had a suicide attack ready for land, seal, and air.