Kamikaze pilots were first used during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944 when they successfully sank the USS St. Lo (CVE-63) causing her to go down with all 114 hands. However, it was during the Battle for Okinawa that they truly wreaked havoc and instilled fear in U.S. naval forces. The Japanese named the attack Operation Kikusui or 'Floating Chrysanthemums'. Kamikaze pilots were typically young, minimally trained Japanese men, who sought glory in sacrificing their lives for the honor of their families. At the start of WWII, Japanese naval pilots received 700 hours of training, but that number was reduced to just seven days of training by 1944. The pilots were only taught how to take off, fly in formation and where to slam into ships to inflict the most damage possible. Kamikazes were not trained how to navigate nor land because those skills were unnecessary for their mission. During Okinawa, hundreds of kamikazes dive bombed the U.S. Fifth Fleet in waves that seemed like they would never end. Totally unfazed by antiaircraft fire, the kamikaze pilots became human missiles slamming into U.S. ships. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, at Okinawa alone, at least thirty U.S. ships were sunk and many more damaged. By wars end, over 300 ships and 15,000 men were killed by kamikazes. Apart from the 9/11 hijackers, the U.S. would not see this type of warfare after the end of WWII.
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