Friday, August 19, 2016

Divine Wind

(Source)
The outer islands had fallen. The approach of the enemy seemed inexorable, their numbers were like grains of sand upon the beach, countless. The soldiers waited, watching the horizon, searching for a sign of the enemy fleet. They must come, they must be fought here, on this ground. There is little hope. In fact, there is no hope. Stand and fight. That is the order.

Even the atmosphere felt oppressed by the coming invasion, lowering skies, blustery winds, there was something, something in the air which foretold of a coming disaster. As night fell, the soldiers fell back to their camps, leaving only a few sentries, though it was unlikely that the enemy would come ashore at night, one never knew. This enemy was clever and ruthless. Best to be ready.

Those who stood watch noticed it first, a rumble of thunder, the wind rising, not shifting about but rising from the south, increasing. Off in the distance, the flashes of lightning revealed towering storm clouds, some wondered if perhaps a great storm from the vast Eastern Sea was in the offing.

As the wind increased the rain began, driving down in sheets, saturating the ground it ran in rivers down the hillsides. The wind began to howl, then shriek as the atmosphere became a solid thing, threatening to destroy all before it. The sentries retreated to what little shelter they could find, they could see the rising waters pounding the beach. Nothing could land tonight in such a maelstrom. Each man wondered, could he himself survive this massive storm, the wind was a live thing, threatening to pull one from the earth and fling one skywards.

Each man prayed that he might perhaps see the sun come to this land once more. Many would never see another sunset as the storm shrieked and pounded the sea and the land.

Eventually though the wind subsided, an eerie calm settled. Those who could rose to their feet, shaky and wary. Most had never seen such a storm, they wondered if it was truly over.

It was not.

The winds rose again, the lightning flashed, the thunder roared, the rains came again to drown the land, to wash away the unwary. Many of the men despaired, would the storm kill them before the vast enemy "out there" could land and kill them? All hope was gone. Most wanted it over, no matter what, live or die, just please be over.

The storm passed. Those who survived the wild night mustered and marched back to their positions overlooking the shore. Those who had been on sentry duty (those who still lived) reported to their leaders. Of course, nothing had landed in the night, nothing alive that is.

When they reached the shore, debris was scattered upon the bay for as far as the eye could see. The bodies of dead men and horses floated upon the waters and were washed up upon the shore in all directions. That was when the men realized, the enemy had come ashore, driven by the storm, the mighty winds had destroyed the enemy ships and had drowned the mighty army poised to invade their fair land. The dead had invaded, the threat had passed.

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Thus ended the first attempt at the invasion of Japan by the army and fleet of Kublai Khan in 1274. At sea after attacking and seizing the islands of Tsushima and Iki, poised to land at Hakata Bay on the island of Kyushu, the Khan's fleet was destroyed by a mighty typhoon roaring north, smashing all in its path. (This was assumed to have been a legend as the "experts" pointed out that typhoons in the Tsushima Straight "don't occur." Recent research indicates that they did occur in the late 1200s, twice. So much for "experts." 
Read this.)

In 1281, the Great Khan was poised to invade Japan again. After the events of 1274 the Japanese, realizing that perhaps divine intervention would not occur again, had built 6 foot walls along the shoreline wherever an invader might find purchase. So the Khan's fleet sailed north, looking for a place where they might put ashore. To no avail, the Japanese had covered all of the possible invasion sites along the Inland Sea. So the fleet stayed at sea. And again, the great winds came out of the Pacific to destroy the Great Khan's goal of expanding his empire into the Land of the Rising Sun.

Those two storms, which saved Japan, became legend, known as the 神風, the Divine Wind, the kamikaze.

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Fast forward to 1944. The Empire of Japan, waging a war to the death against the western allies, again faces destruction. This time, there is no great wind to destroy the invaders. There is only flesh and blood.


Lt Yoshinori Yamaguchi's Yokosuka D4Y3 (Type 33 Suisei) "Judy" in a suicide dive against USS Essex. The attack left 15 killed and 44 wounded.(25 November 1944). The dive brakes are extended and the non-self-sealing port wing tank trails fuel vapor and/or smoke. (Source)

An A6M Zero (A6M2 Model 21) towards the end of its run at the escort carrier USS White Plains on 25 October 1944. The aircraft exploded in mid-air, moments after the picture was taken, scattering debris across the deck. (Source)

USS Bunker Hill was hit by kamikazes piloted by Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa and Lieutenant Junior Grade Seizō Yasunori on 11 May 1945. 389 personnel were killed or missing and 264 wounded from a crew of 2,600. (Source)

Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa. (Source)

Starboard horizontal stabilizer from the tail of a "Judy" on the deck of USS Kitkun Bay. The "Judy" made a run on the ship approaching from dead astern; it was met by effective fire and the plane passed over the island and exploded. Parts of the plane and the pilot were scattered over the flight deck and the forecastle. (Source)

26 May 1945. Corporal Yukio Araki, holding a puppy, with four other pilots of the 72nd Shinbu Squadron at Bansei, Kagoshima. Araki died the following day, at the age of 17, in a suicide attack on ships near Okinawa. (Source)

Sometimes we forget that the enemy is a human being, much like us though often from a different culture. I recently had the chance to watch a program on Netflix about the Special Attack Units (kamikaze) employed by Japan near the end of World War Two. They weren't all volunteers, some were "voluntold" (as Juvat likes to put it). All were, to some extent, extremely brave men, willing to die for their country.

There have been comparisons made between the suicide bombers of modern times to the kamikaze of Japan. In my view, there is no comparison. Today's suicide bombers predominantly seek defenseless, civilian targets. The kamikaze exclusively sought military, often heavily defended, targets. Most were shot down and killed before they reached their destinations. They were warriors. Their culture made them what they were. Honor was all, Japan was all, the Emperor was all.

As I learn more about the Pacific War, I realize just how little I knew before. Well, I'm rectifying that. Bit by bit. If you have Netflix, watch Day of the Kamikaze, you might learn something. I did. (The following is an excerpt.)


The cost, to both sides, was high.

(Source)

The remains of US sailors killed during a kamikaze attack on aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV-3) are awaiting their burial at sea. (Source)








14 comments:

  1. The most famous Kamikaze photo of them all, the one of the A6M about to slam into MISSOURI, isn't a Kamikaze at all, it was a Zero that was shot down by The Big Badger Boat, which just happened to crash into Mighty Mo.

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    1. And the aftermath on the IOWAs was to hold sweepers.

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    2. One of the more common erroneous assumption about the war was that any Japanese pilot that crashed his plane into a ship was a Kamikaze.

      The plane that crashed into the Hangar at Hickam during Pearl Harbor has been called a Kamikaze. Others during the Battles at Coral Sea and Guadalcanal have been called kamikazes.

      The First ACTUAL Kamikaze attacks was on the afternoon of Oct 25th, 1944 and was against the Ships of Task Force Taffy 3.
      The same Taffy 3 ships that heroically survived the Battle Off Samar just hours earlier that very morning.
      USS St.Lo was hit and her Magazine exploded, becoming the first ship sunk by Kamikaze attack.

      Other previous attacks that were claimed to be kamikazes were not.
      They were the actions of individual pilots who either mortally wounded, or with a damaged plane not able to make it back, chose to ram their planes instead. These attacks were not the coordinated and deliberate suicide attacks of the Special Air Units.


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  2. Here's a pretty darned good resource for for a glimpse of the Japanese perspective.

    https://www.amazon.com/Last-Zero-Fighter-Dan-King-ebook/dp/B008LO3VIU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471611615&sr=1-1&keywords=the+last+zero+fighter

    Good post.

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    1. Looks interesting. Strange perspective to me so I'm intrigued.

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    2. Here's Dan King talking about the book. Intro by Lips Hertsberg, one of the pilots of CAF Pratt-powered A6M.

      https://youtu.be/merqYdJ_v0w

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  3. TRUST ME on this Sarge, EVERY SINGLE "swingin' d" who ever sat nuclear (Victor) alert in NATO--be they in F-100s, F-104s (Germans) F4s, F-111s, etc., (or even SAC B-52s) in anticipation of "the day" the go-code would come down given the strength and depth of Warsaw Pact/Soviet defences, knew he was on a one-way mission, formal plans to recover or no. In that sense we ALL were Kamikazes--and KNEW it..

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    1. PS: And that didn't even count the risk of getting vaporized by one's own nukes. The minimal dist was supposed to be 5nm, but many of our INSs' were off by as much as 15nm. In SEA each and every TFW had a Litton tech rep to keep the INS on each ac tweeked. We had ONE (1) Litton tech rep for ALL of NATO and when he left it took the good ole USAF SIX MONTHS to replace him. GOOD LUCK with all that..

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    2. PPS: Don't know how many here know, but there is a 1914 Japanese memorial at the Alamo celebrating all who died in place--a precursor to their tactics in WW II. SEE

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  4. Funny story about the Alamo: When a bunch of us were up from UPT in Del Rio we made the obligatory visit to the Alamo. As we were standing on the opposite side of the street waiting for the light to turn, one wag in the group looked around doing a left to right number on the passers-by and opined: "Don't know why they bothered to die to the last man, the Mexicans own it all now anyway." And this was in 1966! LOL!

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    1. And the always popular "Why did they build it so close to town?" regards, Alemaster

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  5. "Sometimes we forget that the enemy is a human being..." True, but I'm still astounded by how Japan put the importance of their honor and their nationalism over the value of the lives of their countrymen. The war was lost years before, and sending their youngest men, teenaged boys actually, to their deaths under the metaphor of a Divine Wind is unconscionable. When they failed to attack our industrial might on Dec 7th, their loss was inevitable, with only some major battles to be fought as chapters in a book whose end was already written. What a horribly skewed imperialistic society they had until forced at gunpoint to change.

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  6. Fought a much slower war without the bofors. Sailors still died but it was very quiet.

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  7. Great comments folks, as I was in hospital I didn't respond to any of them, which I like to do.

    Makes me feel like a slacker.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)