On October 25, 1944, WWII kamikaze pilots shocked the United States when they purposely crashed five Japanese zero fighters into American warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, successfully sinking the USS St. Lo and killing 100 Americans.
The kamikazes’ disregard for self-preservation and their fearlessness toward death was difficult for the Americans to understand. But to the Japanese, the kamikazes were revered as godlike in their courage and patriotism. They were modern-day samurai warriors.
During WWII all Japanese soldiers followed the Field Service Code, which was based on the bushido code — rules of conduct followed for centuries by the noble samurai warriors.
These rules for the kamikaze pilots and all Japanese soldiers emphasized the following: never surrender, death before dishonor, and loyalty through blind obedience.
The punishment for disobeying these rules was severe, oftentimes leading to death. And the “never surrender” code had devastating consequences in the Battle for Attu during the Aleutian War in Alaska.
Kamikaze pilots were young, usually between 16 to 20 years old, and many had less than 100 hours of flying time. Before each doomed flight, the kamikaze pilot was reportedly locked into the cockpit without a life-saving parachute. Loaded with explosives, the kamikaze’s plane was stripped of any landing gear, making it necessary to launch it from an aircraft. As soon as the kamikaze’s plane made contact, it exploded.
Below is wartime footage of the kamikazes.