Kamikaze attacks were a Japanese suicide bombing tactic designed to destroy enemy warships during World War II. Pilots would crash their specially made planes directly into Allied ships.
Photograph courtesy U.S. Navy

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  • On October 25, 1944, the Empire of Japan employed kamikaze suicide bombers for the first time. The tactic was part of the ferocious Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history, which took place in the Pacific Ocean near the Philippines. Kamikaze strikes against Allied warships continued throughout World War II.
    Kamikaze pilots deliberately crashed specially made planes directly into enemy warships. It was a desperate policy. Motoharu Okamura, who commanded a kamikaze squadron, remarked that by 1944, “I firmly believe that the only way to swing the war in our favor is to resort to crash-dive attacks with our planes. There is no other way. Provide me with 300 planes and I will turn the tide of war.”
    More than 3,000 Japanese pilots were killed, and the attacks resulted in more than 7,000 U.S., Australian, and British casualties. However, the tide of war was not turned. Japan lost the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and was forced to accept an unconditional surrender less than a year later. 
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Allies Noun

    alliance of countries that opposed the Axis during World War II. The Allies were led by the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.

    deliberately Adverb

    on purpose.

    desperate Adjective


    empire Noun

    group of nations, territories or other groups of people controlled by a single, more powerful authority.

    employ Verb

    to hire or use.

    ferocious Adjective

    fierce or savage.

    kamikaze Noun

    suicide bombing tactic used by the Empire of Japan during World War II, in which a pilot would deliberately crash an explosives-laden plane into an enemy warship.

    naval Adjective

    having to do with a government's navy, or military ships and crew.

    pilot Noun

    person who steers a ship or aircraft.

    policy Noun

    set of actions or rules.

    squadron Noun

    tactical military unit.

    suicide Noun

    intentional taking of one's own life.

    suicide bombing Noun

    violent attack intended to kill the attacker as well as victims and/or property.

    tactic Noun

    procedure or method for accomplishing a goal.

    unconditional surrender Noun

    total surrender (giving up), in which no terms or guarantees are offered to the surrendering party.

    warship Noun

    seagoing vessel built for armed conflict.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)