This pilot crashed his plane into a torpedo to save the carrier
Warrant Officer Sakio Komatsu had just taken off from the aircraft carrier Taiho during the Battle of the Philippine Sea when he spotted six American torpedoes bearing down on his ship.
Almost immediately, he banked his “Judy” dive bomber into the path of one, causing it to detonate against the plane and preventing a hit against the carrier at the cost of his own life.
Near the end of World War II, the Japanese launched one of their best-ever carrier designs. While the carrier Taiho lacked the catapults of many of its American rivals, it was heavily armored, carried 73 aircraft and massive amounts of aviation fuel and ammunition, and boasted radar.
The Taiho launched on April 7, 1943, and was commissioned on March 7, 1944. With the Japanese Navy in retreat across most of the Pacific, the admirals held the Taiho in reserve until it could be sent where it would make a significant difference.
It was an armored support carrier, meant to serve on the frontline and protect older carriers launching their planes from the rear. With massive supplies of ammunition and fuel, it would be able to refuel and rearm planes from other carriers.
The ship was committed to combat in June as part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest carrier battles in history. The goal of the Japanese forces was to force a confrontation with the U.S. and wipe out the greater American numbers.
On the morning of June 19, the Japanese force, with the Taiho as its flagship, launched planes in what would be one of the most lopsided defeats in naval history. The inexperienced Japanese pilots were massacred in what was later known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.
But the Taiho only participated in part of the defeat. In the opening hours of the battle, the USS Albacore spotted the carrier and launched a spread of six torpedoes right as the second wave of planes was taking off.
Komatsu saw the torpedoes immediately after he took off and banked around, crashing his plane into the path and destroying the torpedo at the cost of his own life. Usually, that sort of heroism would mean that the story ends with, “He was awarded a medal and saved the lives of thousands.”
But while Komatsu was heralded for his decision, it wasn’t enough to save the Taiho. Four of the torpedoes missed, one was intercepted by Komatsu, but the sixth impacted the Taiho. It blew through the outer armor and created openings between an aviation tank, a fuel oil tank, and the surrounding ocean.
The Taiho crew gamely patched what holes it needed to and resumed launching aircraft. But there was a danger in its bowels. The leaking fuels were turning into vapors and filling the ship. For just over six hours, the ship continued fighting while the ship turned into a bomb.
Then it blew.
The blast rocked through the ship, blowing out the sides and opening holes that stretched down below the waterline. So Komatsu’s actions were one of the more heroic moments in warfare history, but it wasn’t enough to save his friends or his ship.
Approximately 1,200 men died with the ship.
How the 65-year old B-52 Stratofortress just keeps getting better with age
When you add modern computers and tinker with the bomb bay, it turns out the the B-52 can kill more targets.
This Swedish fighter was decades ahead of its time
Its best-known combat was in the service of a fictional drug cartel in the movie "Fire Birds." But in the Cold War, the Draken was truly ahead of its time.
This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns 'Vietnam War' documentary series
Ken Burns' "Vietnam War" was released to relatively little noise in Vietnam. Here's a look at what audiences there had to say.
7 epic songs that prove 'Call of Duty' knows how to lay down tracks
Video game music has improved a lot since 8-bit days. A lot.
The Army is looking for ways to keep generals from misbehaving
Struggling with behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling, and career management programs.
These are the heroics that earned this EOD Petty Officer a Silver Star
Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, recognized EOD 1st Class Thomas for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy.
This why the national anthem is played before sporting events
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the "The Star-Spangled Banner" be played at all military ceremonies and other various occasions.
The Navy wants this drone to extend its fighter range beyond 1k miles
The Navy is exploring how to use unmanned aircraft to extend the range of fighter jets by 1,000 miles. The concept, at this time, is called the MQ-25 Stingray.
How the Pentagon plans to spend $700M to drop drones
ISIS has been using drones to drop bombs on Iraq Security Forces, and the Department of Defense is looking for a better defense against them.
THE MIGHTY SURVEY GIVE-AWAY
We want to hear your thoughts. Complete our survey for a chance to win 1 of 5 gaming consoles