title graphic

Chapter VIII
Anti-Suicide Training

Suicide attacks have stressed the need for intensification of AA. training in the Fleet. The suicider is a problem that only top-notch gunnery can defeat.

Advanced training is required in these main directions:

  1. Detection and acquisition of targets on dry runs.

  2. Effective use of weapons against fast maneuvering targets at short range.

  3. Continued emphasis on long range AA. gunnery.

Failure to detect suicide planes until they arrive in attack position has been one of the chief AA. difficulties. Training can best be accomplished by use of own attack groups. Such exercises too frequently take a form for exercise of the air group concerned in U. S. tactics of mass coordinated attack. For AA. training of a task group a small, well briefed, attack group should be designated which makes every effort at concealment of their approach and evasion of friendly CAP.

Extensive exercise in the short range problem is required. The small TDD drone which is available now to certain Fleet units provides excellent training in this phase. Self-imposed restrictions to add to the realism and give simulation of surprise attacks are essential.

Emphasis on effectiveness of long range AA. fire must not be reduced, as drooping the plane beyond reach of the force is unquestionably the most sure solution to the AA. problem. Again realism is required. The bulk of such training must be accomplished with sleeve targets. When large drones are available full advantage should be taken of their ability to take evasive action.

Lookouts and Recognition

Because of the surprise nature of suicide attacks, the importance of lookout training was increased greatly. Training should emphasize alertness and concentration of search in own sector during action in other sectors.

Since radar search is weakest at high angles and in the direction of land, these areas, as well as the sun, should receive special attention from lookouts. At dawn and dusk the dark horizon is the most likely direction from which attacks will appear.

Besides special sky lookouts, at least two members of each gun crew should be designated as lookouts. Rotation of lookouts to prevent fatigue and maintain search efficiency should be standard practice.


A March ALPAC pointed out that action reports dealing with suicide attacks indicated commanding officers were not stressing identification training and recognition sufficiently. ComSeventhFleet informed ships under his command that to reduce damage by suicide planes and to safeguard friendly aircraft, identification improvement was imperative.

Recognition officers are on board all combatant ship of DE-60 size or larger, and on many auxiliaries. They also are available on some staffs, at AATC's, in navy yards and elsewhere ashore. These should be utilized to the maximum extent to train personnel in recognition and identification, including identification tactics and procedure prescribed for our own aircraft.

If recognition officers are not available aboard ships every opportunity should be taken to send lookouts and gun crews to recognition training courses at shore establishments. Identification must be accurate and immediate if suicide planes are to be taken under fire at the earliest possible moment.

Personnel Performance

Suicide tactics not only nullify the psychologically-deterring effects of AA.; they also place a strong psychological weapon in the hands of the enemy.

Reports from the fleet indicate that although officers and men have the greatest respect for the suicide plane for the most part, they have not permitted the new enemy tactics to decrease their gunnery efficiency.

Several gunners have leaped overboard when a hit on their ships appeared imminent, however. Other have developed severe cases of hysteria and other emotional disturbances after their ships underwent particularly violent attacks.

Personnel aboard ships which nave been sunk by suicide planes are most affected. The immediate reaction is to seek duty on ships which are thought to be less vulnerable to this form of attack.

The potential adverse psychological effect of suicides upon gunnery should not be underestimated. It can be forestalled or overcome by wise leadership devoted to instilling confidence in personnel.

Following are suggestions for building and maintaining moral:

  1. Assign duties to occupy each individual before, during and after an action and convince him of their importance. Hysteria will not develop if a person is busy and faced with definite responsibilities before, during and after an action.

  2. So indoctrinate men in their assigned duties that they do them almost automatically in an emergency.

  3. Convince gunnery department personnel, through movies, lectures, etc., that a suicide plane will fall if accurate fire is continued until the target appears to be "coming down the barrel of the gun".


  1. Imbue in personnel a hatred of suicide pilots which will inspire aggressiveness and supreme courage on the part of the gunners.

  2. Assure personnel that their very lives depend upon their best performance, and that the suicide problem resolves itself into one of "kill or be killed"!


Jap suicide plane hit while diving on USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62)


Jap suicide plane trying to crash USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62) after being hit.


Jap suicide plane crashing in water just aft of USS Natoma Bay (CVE-62)


Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (7)

Transcribed and formatted by Larry Jewell & Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation