Appendices - Hirohito's War
E. Typhoons and Divine Winds: Kamikaze
Fight to the Death and Operation KETSU (Decisive); By June 1945 the sense of helplessness felt by Vice-Admiral Ugaki, who as head of the Kyushu based Fifth Air Fleet had primary responsibility for the defense of Okinawa, had become unbearable. From his base at Kanoya, Ugaki even watched as a US flying boat landed in Kagoshima Bay to pick up an American bomber crew that had been shot down. In his diary, he noted that “I can’t stand even to see an enemy submarine picking up survivors off shore, much less this arrogant behavior right in the middle of Kagoshima Bay.”38
A despairing Ugaki started to prepare for his own death. Completed parts of his war diaries were sent to his home in Okayama, halfway between Osaka and Hiroshima on Japan’s main island of Honshu, where he had been born. In pantheistic reflection, his diaries turned increasingly to nature with comments about crops, the weather, fireflies and cuckoos.
By the end of June the lack of fuel, ammunition and skilled pilots meant that Ugaki’s Kyushu airfields were practically defenceless. Ugaki noted in his diary that while on a walk near his base, he saw ten American fighters attacking without any anti-aircraft fire or a single Japanese fighter to intercept. On 2 August 1945 Ugaki moved his headquarters from Kanoya to an underground bunker in Oita. Ugaki tried to work out what countermeasures could be taken and for the next few days worked on plans to deal with the expected Allied landings on Kyushu. Five days later the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. To add to Japanese misery, the Soviets declared war on 9 August while he was seeing a dentist at Beppu Naval Hospital. “Now this country is going to fight against the world”39 was his immediate reaction. Ugaki still believed that Operation KETSU (Operation Decisive) needed to make the American invasion so expensive in blood that they would be forced to come to terms; he asserted that “we can make the enemy finally give up the war after making it taste the bitterness of a prolonged struggle”.40 He intended to fight to the end. As an Imperial General Army Staff officer had boasted in July 1945:
We will prepare 10,000 planes to meet the landing of the enemy. We will mobilize every aircraft possible, both training and ‘special attack’ planes. We will smash one third of the enemy's war potential with this air force at sea. Another third will also be smashed at sea by our warships, human torpedoes and other special weapons. Furthermore, when the enemy actually lands, if we are ready to sacrifice a million men we will be able to inflict an equal number of casualties upon them. If the enemy loses a million men, then the public opinion in America will become inclined towards peace, and Japan will be able to gain peace with comparatively advantageous conditions.41
In fact by August 1945 the Army still had 5,651 airplanes while the Navy had 7,074. Most of these had been turned into kamikaze aircraft. Although there were 8,000 Japanese pilots, they were barely trained and could not have fought as conventional pilots and aircrew. By mid-1945 the air-schools were turning out pilots who were only trained for one-way flights. Sufficient fuel had been set aside so that all the planes produced could make a single flight.