Suicide Attack Summaries
Surface forces of the Seventh Fleet, engaged in the occupation of Leyte, Mindoro and Luzon, have borne the brunt of suicide attacks during the period from 1 October 1944 to 31 January 1945. However, even Task Force 38 did not escape unscathed, undergoing several attacks in October and November and again in January.
TASK FORCE 38
During carrier strikes against Formosa early in October in support of the Leyte operation, several enemy planes attempted to crash into ships after having been severely damaged. However, suicide attacks as they now are recognized were not experienced by the fast carrier task force until 29 and 30 October, when carriers were taken under attack by one and six suicide planes, respectively.
Again on 5 November carriers of Task Force 38 were the targets of suicide planes, six making attacks. Five planes evaded CAP and made dives on 25 November, and three others struck on 21 January.
The box score for Task Force 38 against suicide planes, as compared with surface forces of the Seventh Fleet, follows:
Planes Attacking Planes Hitting Planes Missing Percentage AA. Success Task Force 38 27 13 14 52 Seventh Fleet 285 108 177 62
If damaging near misses are included as enemy successes the picture changes somewhat, as is illustrated in the following table:
Planes Attacking Planes Hitting Planes Missing Percentage AA. Success Task Force 38 27 15 12 44 Seventh Fleet 285 159 126 44
The first large suicide attack against our surface forces occurred on 25 October off Leyte, when 14 planes made attacks, 12 of them at CVE's. Attacks continued almost daily through 4 November, when a seven-day respite was enjoyed. This was the longest period of enemy inactivity ships of the Seventh Fleet were to experience until 14 January, when air opposition in the Philippines virtually disappeared.
Two large attacks occurred in November. On the 12th auxiliaries, amphibious and merchant ships were attacked by 17 planes, and on the 27th, 15 planes tried to crash cruisers and battleships in Leyte Gulf.
The first attack in December occurred on the 5th, when 11 planes dived on destroyers and smaller ships. Two days later, during the Ormoc Bay landing, 18 planes attempted to crash DD's and small ships. The largest attack during the month was on the 15th, date of the Mindoro landing, when 21 planes tried suicide crashes on BB's, CVE's, DD's, and 12 smaller vessels.
Attacks continued at Mindoro until the beginning of the Lingayen operation in January. Seventeen planes attempted suicide hits on the 5th, and 22 others on the 6th. Cruisers, DD's, CVE's and BB's attracted most planes, and considerable success was enjoyed by the enemy.
It will be noticed that the largest attacks occurred during the early phases of each of the four amphibious operations -- Leyte Gulf, Ormoc Bay, Mindoro and Lingayen -- when air cover was weakest and conditions were favorable for surprise attacks from landward.
The tempo of enemy aerial effort in the form of suicide crashes has increased steadily. In October 43 planes tried suicide crashes on the 11 days on which attacks occurred. In November this number increased to 73 planes in 13 days, and in December to 97 planes in 16 days. In January attacks were made on 13 days, and 99 planes made suicide tries.
It is interesting to note that 214, or 68 percent, of the 312 planes which actually made suicide crashes through January, selected ships of destroyer size or smaller as their targets. Of the 98 remaining, 52 tried to crash CV's, CVL's and CVE's.
NARRATIVE ACCOUNTS OF ANTI-SUICIDE ACTIONS
Task Force 38 (25 November)
Task Group 38.2 underwent an attack by suicide planes at noon on 25 November while making air strikes against Luzon. The action occurred about 160 miles east of Manila.
This attack consisted of approximately a dozen planes which eluded CAP and approached at low altitude and high speed. Antiaircraft fire accounted for five of these planes. Three are believed to have escaped. Of the remaining four, two crashed on the flight deck of the Intrepid (CV-11), and one crashed on the catwalk and flight deck of the Cabot (CVL-28).
While Task Group 38.2 was under attack two planes threatened carriers of Task Group 38.2. One crashed on the flight deck of the Essex (CV-9), and the second was shot down while attacking the Ticonderoga (CV-14).
This was Task Force 38's fourth encounter with suicide planes. On 29 October one plane got through to Task Group 38.2, hitting Intrepid (CV-11) on a 20mm. gun tub. The attack experienced by Task Group 38.4 on 30 October was more vicious. Of six planes attacking, one crashed Franklin (CV-13), another
hitting Belleau Wood (CVL-24) and four being splashed by AA. On 5 Nov. three planes made dives on carriers of Task Group 38.3, one crashing into the island structure of the Lexington (CV-16), one crashing close aboard the Ticonderoga (CV-14), and a third also being shot down by ships' gunfire.
The air attacks of 25 November were preceded by the radar detection of bogeys at ranges of 40 to 80 miles. Ships went to general quarters at 1220. There were numerous reports of enemy aircraft in the vicinity but none was sighted until 1233, when a single plane dived on Hancock (CV-19).
This plane, a Val or Judy, approached the carrier from the south out of the sun at an altitude of 10,000 feet, went into a shallow dive which was increased to about 45 degrees. At about 1,500 feet the plane dropped a bomb, and apparently was pulling out when hit by a 5-inch projectile and disintegrated in the air.
The bomb struck the water on the port beam of the Hancock. A blazing wing section fell on the carrier's flight deck and caused a small fire. There is some question whether this was a suicide plane, as some observers reported it had started to pull out of its dive when it was hit.
For the next 15 minutes no planes were observed, but at 1250 three Jills low on the water were observed astern of the formation to the westward. Fire was opened at about 6,500 yards. The leading plane was hit immediately and disintegrated. The second plane, heading toward the Intrepid, was shot down by 40mm. weapons. The third zoomed sharply upward to an altitude of several hundred feet, and despite machine gun hits fell off on one wing and crashed onto the Intrepid's flight deck.
Four minutes later a Judy was sighted astern at 6,000 feet, diving toward the center of the disposition. Hit by 40mm. and 20mm. fire, the plane rolled over at least twice, went into a tight spin and crashed in the water inside the disposition, about 100 yards from the Iowa (BB-61). At approximately the same time (1258), another enemy plane made a shallow dive from astern of the Intrepid and crashed on the flight deck amidships.
At about 1300 the Cabot was attacked by a single plane which came in from the south of the formation, turned to the left and crashed on her bow. Hits from automatic weapon fire were observed, but the plane, although apparently out of control, struck the port side of the CVL's flight deck well forward and fell into the water alongside.
A few minutes later a plane dived from directly astern of the Cabot. This plane was hit by machine gun fire and crashed into the water close aboard the CVL. It apparently was out of control, but did not burn until it crashed. Its bomb exploded, adding to the damage caused by the previous hit.
NOTE: This attack occurred when carriers were attempting to recover planes returning from strikes. Radar screens were confused by the presence of many planes, and as a result of the confused
CIC plot the 5-inch batteries were unable to pick up the dive attacks soon enough to provide an effective firing solution. This situation might have been improved had friendly planes been vectored to a small area away from the disposition as soon as enemy planes arrived within ships' gun range.
Task Group 77.2 (27 November)
Several heavy suicide attacks were pressed against Task Group 77.2 during its operations in the Philippines during October, November and December, but one of the most serious occurred on 27 November in Leyte Gulf.
This task group was composed of four BB's, five cruisers and seven destroyers, of which the larger ships were singled out for attack. Hits were scored on Colorado (BB-45), Maryland (BB-46), St. Louis (CL-49), Montpelier (CL-57), and Aulick (DD-569).
When the attack began at 1125 the ships were in fueling disposition, with West Virginia (BB-48), and Conway (DD-507) fueling from Caribou (IX-114) in the center and heavy ships circling the center at 15 knots on Circle 3. AA. disposition was assumed, with the fueling ships moving to the screen.
An estimated 13 Jills, Kates and Vals engaged in the attack. At the time the attack started radar screens of the task group had nothing but friendly indications. First warning came when a bomb dropped out of the clouds and landed near the formation. At the same time a plane dived toward the St. Louis, breaking up as a result of AA. fire.
Dives were made from an altitude of approximately 4,000 feet at angles of 30 to 45 degrees. Two suicides landed on the St. Louis, one aft and one amidships, burning the after part of the CL, destroying catapults and planes and damaging after turrets. Two dived on the Colorado, one striking amidships on the port side and the other going in the water close aboard.
Montpelier, attacked by four planes, was more fortunate. Three passed over the ship, crashing in the water. The fourth inflicted minor damage by ricocheting from the water into the side dishing of the support structure of one 5-inch mount.
Two or three other suicide planes were so badly damaged that they missed completely, and several others were exploded in mid-air by hits.
It is estimated that three planes got hits on ships, one scored a damaging near miss, and eight or nine were shot down, largely by automatic weapons.
During the period of the attack--1125 to 1156--the ships were entirely without air cover. Several times prior to the attack OTC requested that CAP be provided, as weather conditions over the task group were fair and it was felt that air cover was necessary. When the attack developed the task group
fighter controller was asked if he had any fighter under his control and the reply was in the negative. Immediate steps were taken to obtain CAP. At about 1200 P-38's began to appear over the group and shot down one enemy plane.
No effort was made to attack destroyers. Attacks were determined, planes diving from 4,000 feet and weaving violently until just before the crash. One plane only circled the formation and disappeared without making an attack.
NOTE: This attack was typical in that it was a complete surprise, denying ships the use of 5-inch batteries at long range. As in the case of many large suicide actions the absence of air cover was an advantage to the enemy.
Task Group 78.3 (7 December)
The landing at Ormoc Bay in the Leyte operation met with vigorous aerial opposition, 45 to 50 planes attacking Task Group 78.3 in a nine-hour period on 7 December.
Comprising this task group were three transport units composed of APD's, LCI's, LSM's, and LST's; a minesweeping unit composed of AM's and APD's; a control and inshore support unit, composed of SC's, LCI(R)'s and ATR's and an escort unit composed of 13 DD's.
Enemy air attacks commenced at 0820, an hour after the first wave reached the beach. Considerable air support was present throughout the day, and P-38 pilots of the CAP did an excellent job, but on several occasions Japanese planes slipped through CAP and AA. fire. Six ships were struck by suicide planes.
The first successful attack occurred at 0945, when both the Ward (APD-16) and Mahan (DD-364) were so severely damaged that they had to be sunk later by ships' gunfire. At 1130 the Liddle (APD-60) was crashed, but was able to continue when emergency repairs had been effected. The third suicide crash occurred at 1445, when the Lamson (DD-367) was hit, set afire and had to be towed back to San Pedro Bay. LST 737, which suffered minor damage, was able to remain in formation. LSM 318 was bombed and crash dived, burning all night, and LSM 18 was hit and damaged by parts of a disintegrating Jap plane.
Commander Task Unit 78.3.5 reports observing 14 planes destroyed by AA., 4 by AA. and CAP, and 12 by CAP alone. Eight planes crashed six ships, three of them hitting the Mahan. Destroyers alone fired 2,081 rounds of 5-inch ammunition, 5,379 of 40mm. and 6,224 of 20mm. Huge quantities of automatic weapons ammunition, were expended by amphibious ships and auxiliaries. Because of the proximity of land, ships did not use VT fuzes in 5-inch projectiles.
Best AA. performance was put up by Edwards (DD-619), which claims the destruction of four planes with 5-inch fire and the damaging of one. She is credited by CTU 78.3.5 with three "sures". Mahan shot down four of the nine
planes attacking her. Three crashed the DD, one fell victim of CAP, and one escaped.
Enemy attacks were directed primarily at destroyers. Two general types of suicide attacks were made: Low altitude glide attacks, such as that involving the Mahan, and high-speed dives from 2,500 to 3,000 feet. The approach was made, using cloud cover, from a position astern of the ship to be attacked. Planes then executed a wingover and steep dive, changing to a glide just before hitting, with the base of the bridge structure being used as the point of aim.
The attack against the Mahan while she was patrolling alone was perhaps the most severe experienced to date by any ship, and is described in detail.
At 0943 the Mahan sighted a formation of planes 10 miles to the east. They were at a high altitude, on a southerly course. At 0947 planes were sighted approaching from the southeast at an altitude of 4,000 feet and range of 10,000 yards. Flank speed was assumed and the rudder put full left. At 0948, with the targets bearing 20 degrees on the port bow, range 4,000 yards, the planes were identified as nine twin-engined bombers, with a cover of four fighters.
The Mahan commenced firing as the Bettys passed ahead of the ship, horizontal range 3,000 yards, altitude about 3,000 feet. It was noticed that three P-38's were overhauling the enemy and fire was checked after three salvos. Within a few seconds one P-38 knocked down one enemy fighter, another splashed two fighters, and the third hit two of the bombers.
Almost immediately the nearest bomber, smoking, went into a steep banking dive to the right to attack the Mahan. Gun fire was resumed at 4,000 yards and the rudder shifted full right. The plane leveled off at 50 feet, 2,000 yards, and headed toward the bridge structure, bursting into flames and blowing up about 50 yards from the ship as a result of 40mm. and 20mm. fire. The second bomber, apparently blinded by the explosion, passed above the stacks, went out about 2,000 yards, returned low over the water and hit the ship abreast 5-inch gun No. 2 between the water line and the forecastle deck level. A P-38 came in, trying to shoot down the plane before it hit the ship, but was unable to do so.
In the meantime the third bomber to start in was shot down by the ship's 5-inch fire about 2,500 yards on the starboard beam. The fourth was shot down on the starboard side. The fifth Betty hit the ship just abaft the bridge at the forecastle deck level, knocking down the forward stack and foremast, and the sixth hit the starboard side at the waterline.
The seventh bomber came in strafing the after part of the ship, passed astern, returned to strafe the bridge and forward part of the ship, burst into flames and hit the water about 200 yards ahead of the ship. The eighth, set aflame by P-38's, came in from the port quarter, attempted to crash the ship, missed and hit the water 100 yards off the starboard quarter. The last of the
nine planes, which approached at intervals of 1,500 yards, strafed the after part of the bridge, zoomed overhead and was not seen again.
NOTE: The attack against the Mahan was the first multiple attack against a ship by twin-engined planes using torpedo tactics. This DD gave an excellent account of herself before succumbing. Several ships have recommended, since suicide planes prefer to attack single ships, that ships be assigned to patrol and picket duty in pairs. Proximity of land interfered with early radar detection of enemy planes and the use of VT fuzes.
Task Group 78.3 (15 December)
LST's were the principal target for suicide planes during an action in Mangarin Bay, Mindoro, the morning of 15 December. Two ships received lethal hits and approximately six planes were shot down.
Task Unit 78.3.4 steamed into the bay at six knots. Visibility was good, and ships were at general quarters. At 0850 about 12 enemy planes were sighted approaching from the southeast at 10,000 yards range, elevation 100 feet. The planes disappeared behind Ambulong Island, and reappeared on course 350° T at 200 knots.
Planes commenced individual attacks on ships of the formation, appearing to concentrate on LST's 472, 738 and 619. One plane approached the 472 from the starboard side, heading for the bow. Automatic weapon fire splashed the plane 50 yards on the port side of the ship. Two other planes came in from starboard, one hitting the after gun tub with a wing and careening into the water. The third, gliding from 3,000 yards, came through heavy gunfire and crashed into the side of the ship at deck level just forward of the main deck superstructure. A fourth plane, strafing, tried a wingover but overshot his mark and crashed in the water just off the port beam. Two additional planes attacked, one strafing but causing no damage, and another, diving at the bow, crashing in the water on the port side. The ship continued to fire after being hit. She sank as a result of internal explosions after being abandoned.
LST 738 was attacked by two planes, one striking amidships just above the water line. Explosion and fire resulted. The second, which headed for the bridge and missed, was shot down on the ship's port side. Declared unsalvageable, she was sunk by gunfire the following day.
Four planes attacked LST 619 and all were shot down. The first, diving for the bridge, was hit in the engine and wing. It climbed to 100 feet, stalled, described a loop and fell into the water 100 feet on the starboard beam. The second also headed for the conning tower and began to strafe. Hit by gunfire, he veered and crashed 200 yards off the stern. The third plane, on a parallel course with the ship at 200 yards range, had his tail surfaces damaged and hit LST 738. After 472 and 738 had been hit a Japanese fighter heading for the bow was taken under fire. His port wing was cut off by 40mm. fire and he fell into the water off the bow of 472.
Two fighters dived at LST 605, and both were shot down. One passed over the boat deck and crashed 20 feet off the port quarter. The other crashed 100 yards astern after being hit by stern guns. A third plane, attacking LST 909, also was hit and splashed.
Several other LST's claimed kills, but is estimated that when the action concluded six planes had been shot down in addition to those hitting ships.
NOTE: Because automatic weapons comprised almost the entire armament of these amphibious ships, most AA. successes are the result of combined fire of several ships. Ultimate armament for LST's is two 40mm. twins, four 40mm. singles and 12 20mm. mounts. Lacking speed and maneuverability, amphibious ships must depend for their defense upon continuous air cover, supporting fire by escorts and their own concentrated automatic weapon fire. Smoke as a passive means of defense is desirable under some circumstances.
Task Group 77.4 (January)
During the Lingayen Gulf operation in early January CVE's were attacked heavily by suicide planes. Six were hit by planes and one, the Ommaney Bay (CVE-79), was sunk. Antiaircraft actions against several attacking planes are described:
At 1855, eight minutes after sunset on 8 January, ships of Task Unit 77.4.3 opened fire on two enemy planes circling on the port bow at about 6,000 feet altitude. The AA. fire from all shins was intense. Kitkun Bay (CVE-71) opened fire at 1857 on one of these planes, which had entered a dive at the ship from a relative bearing of 330 degrees. It leveled off close to the water at 3,000 yards and crashed into the port side amidships at the water line, making a hole approximately 20 by 9 feet.
At 1714 on 3 January the Lunga Point (CVE-94) was taken under attack. Three Zekes got through the air cover and approached Task Unit 77.4.11, crossing ahead from port to starboard at about 9,000 feet. One Zeke peeled off and began a down-sun dive at the escort carrier. The Californnia (BB-44) and Portland (CA-33) opened fire with 5-inch batteries, but bursts were too long in range. At 4,500 yards the Lunga Point's port 40mm's. opened fire, the starboard 40's at 4,000 yards and the port 20's at 2,500. On a heading of 345°, the ship entered a 90° turn to port. All guns appeared to score hits. The Zeke passed over the ship from bow to stern in a dive, cleared the after end of the flight deck by 50 feet, exploded and hit the water 50 yards astern. Fire was observed coming from the engine as it passed over, holes were observed in the wings and fuselage, and pieces of fabric and light metal floated down to the flight deck.
On 5 January heavy attacks were made on ships of Task Unit 77.4.2 by six to eight suicide Zekes. One was shot down by the screen, one hit HMAS
Australia amidships; one hit the radar antennae of the Savo Island (CVE-78) and plunged into the sea alongside; one was shot down just before reaching the Natoma Bay (CVE 62) crashing alongside that ship; and two attacked the Manila Bay (CVE-61), the first scoring a direct hit on the flight deck, and the second striking the starboard yardarm and plunging into the sea about 30 feet off the starboard quarter.
The attack began at 1746, with planes coming in low out of the sun. The plane which hit the Manila Bay'S flight deck came in low from 280° T out of the sun, climbed steeply, then dived into the deck. Most of the ship's AA, was concentrated on this plane, as its intentions were obvious. The second plane was not fired on from about 2,000 yards. This plane came in about 15 seconds after the first, using the same tactics. The pilot may have been wounded, or bothered by the forward 24-inch searchlight. As he went past the bridge his wing hit the yard arm, deflecting him slightly. This plane exploded as it struck the water, causing superficial damage.
The Ommaney Bay (CVE-79) was fatally hit at 1712 on 4 January by a twin-engined plane which managed to effect complete surprise despite the fact it had been detected by radar 15 minutes earlier.
This escort carrier was a part of Task Unit 77.4.2, steaming at 15 knots on course 290° T in cruising disposition 4 Roger Oboe. Ships went to general quarters at 1702 upon receipt of the report of a bogey, bearing 270° T, distance 45 miles, closing the disposition. The bogey had been tracked in from 75 miles, where it was lost in geographic returns from mountainous islands in the area. Army CAP was vectored to intercept, and later reported shooting down one twin-engined plane.
At 1705 the radar screen was reported clear of bogeys. At 1715 visual reports were received of enemy planes overhead in the sun. The Natoma Bay (CVE 62) sighted a plane at 1716 as it came out of the sun at about 8,000 feet, parallel to the course of the formation. Less than five seconds later the plane peeled off into a 45-degree dive on opposite course.
The Ommaney Bay was not aware that an enemy plane was in the area until ricocheting bullets were heard and a strafing twin-engined bomber was seen in a high-speed, 45-degree dive at an altitude of about 1,800 feet, heading for the bridge from 285° T. The plane hit the ship seconds after the strafing was heard.
The plane passed over the forward part of the open bridge by a few feet, taking the superstructure off as it passed through the after part of the open bridge and penetrated the side of the flight deck at frame 74. Two bomb explosions occurred and the forward half of the hangar deck was afire almost immediately. The ship was abandoned at 1812.
Since only three seconds elapsed between the time the plane was sighted and the time it hit the ship, the Ommaney Bay did not have time to open fire.
The New Mexico (BB-40), which fired one 40mm. burst just before the plane hit, is the only ship known to have opened fire.
The escort carrier's lookouts had reported planes at extreme binocular range during the day, and the ship could offer no reason for failure to spot the plane either by radar or visually. Instead of the normal six air lookouts, the Ommaney Bay had assigned 10, and in addition one sun lookout. Some ships in the formation did not see the attack, and were of the opinion at first that the explosion was the result of an accident on the ship.
NOTE: Thirty suicide planes have attacked CVE's, which despite a relatively light AA. armament, and slow speed have done a very good job of self-defense. Every possible means of increasing their fire power consistent with their primary mission is being employed.
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