Kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted their nose-dives right into U.S. ships during World War II’s Pacific fight.
Reportedly, the first kamikaze operation of the war occurred during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
After a mission had been planned, the pilots of the “Special Attack Corps” received a slip of paper with three options: to volunteer out of a strong desire, to simply volunteer, or to decline.
On Apr. 6, 1944, Marines and sailors aboard Naval vessels located in the Pacific were going about their regular workday knowing the enemy was planning something soon — something big.
On the nearby island, the Japanese gathered every operational plane remaining in their arsenal. Many of the Kamikaze pilots were inexperienced but highly devoted to the Empire.
Once they were armed and loaded, the flying fleet took off in waves heading toward their American targets.
As the suicidal pilots reached their target, they began an attack that would supersede any air raid in history. Over the course of two days, over 350 enemy planes imposed absolute havoc on the allied vessels.
As American forces defended themselves with well-trained fighter pilots and ship gunners, the enemies’ ambitious nature proved costly.
The Japanese crashed over 1,900 planes in choreographed kamikaze dives around Okinawa — sinking a total 126 ships and damaging 64 others.
Although the destruction took a toll on allied forces, it also helped fortify their motivation to continue with the fight — eventually defeating their Japanese adversaries.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to see the historic and rare footage for yourself.