Suicide Attack kaiten 回天
May 22, 2007 2:07 PM   Subscribe

The Kaiten Memorial Museum on Otsushima Island, on the site of the original kaiten base. WWII Japanese suicide tactics included planes, boats, and suicide submarines. The submarine discovered recently near Sydney harbor was not such a craft, yet the pilots took their own lives rather than lead their pursuers to the I-class mother submarines nearby.
posted by acro (10 comments total)
Suicide submarines link is in spanish... FYI
posted by acro at 2:09 PM on May 22, 2007

More pictures of the Kaiten submarine here. Mirror
posted by acro at 2:20 PM on May 22, 2007

Maybe it's because I've been LOLcat'd today, but am I the only one who read that as "site of the original kitten base" ??
posted by Zinger at 2:44 PM on May 22, 2007

At the time, US sailors thought the kaiten guys and their kamikaze aviator counterparts were mindless zombies or completely crazy. Damned few bluejackets saw them as performing their patriotic duty above and beyond the normal call. We didn't really know much about bushido until afterward, but Marines who'd willingly jump on a grenade to save their buddies weren't all that differently motivated from Japanese sailors and pilots who'd intentionally crash into an American destroyer to try to save their homeland and Emperor -- in either case, it was giving the last full measure for something you thought was more important than yourself.
posted by pax digita at 3:30 PM on May 22, 2007

I first heard about kaiten in a book by David Mitchell -- number 9 dream.
posted by acro at 3:42 PM on May 22, 2007

I think I first found out about them in a book that chiefly was about the exploits of X-craft and "Chariots" -- but there were generally more survivors of those missions around to talk about them.

(I've always found it somewhat ironic that the X-crafters and Charioteers were viewed as awesomely hairy-@$$ed while kaiten and kamikaze drivers -- and latter-day suicide bombers -- are viewed as unfathomably cowardly and crazy. Guess it's a cultural thing.)
posted by pax digita at 4:18 PM on May 22, 2007

Minus the explosives, by SeaDoo -- y/t
posted by acro at 4:38 PM on May 22, 2007

A kaiten wasn't really so much a submarine as it was a big torpedo with a man inside for guidance.

It's interesting to note that the Japanese naval officer who invented the concept was one of the first to pilot one against an enemy ship.

Another Japanese innovation was the Ohka, which the Americans called the "baka bomb". That was surprisingly ineffective. The problem was that its range was short and it had to be carried under a "Betty" bomber. They were usually spotted coming by American radar and the bombers were usually shot down by American fighter cover before they could get in range to launch the Ohka.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:41 PM on May 22, 2007

The US Navy had gotten so good at fleet defense by 1944 that (at least in daylight) approaching to within 20 miles -- the Okha's max range -- was basically suicidal in its own right, so it's not all that surprising -- they could ID incoming Japanese and vector fighters at several tiems that distance. It's good that the war ended when it did, though, because Japan was working on the problem of attacking US task groups.
posted by pax digita at 4:54 PM on May 22, 2007

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