WWII Memoirs – May 1945 – A Desperate Enemy, The Raid at Yontan

Captain Okuyama and Giretsu Airborne unit depart on their mission to Okinawa (Wikipedia)

Captain Okuyama and Giretsu Airborne unit depart on their mission to Okinawa (Wikipedia)

Okinawa was the last bastion protecting the Japanese mainland, and now the U.S. forces had invaded it. The fighting, though bloody, was turning in favor of the invaders. The Japanese were becoming desperate, and increasingly were resorting to desperate measures.

In the past encounters they had used suicide as one of their most effective weapons, but now were beginning to rely on it solely. It was to play a major role in resisting the anticipated invasion of the homeland, and in the past year they had converted their manufacturing almost totally to suicide weapons.

Since U.S. forces arrived on Okinawa, they had dominated the air. It was seldom that we saw an enemy plane during daylight, and with rare exceptions air raid alarms were sounding only at night. Even then the the raids consisted of only one or two planes.

So on this quiet May night we were completely surprised and unprepared when “All hell broke loose!” A Japanese plane burst onto our airfield, made a wheels-up landing landing and discharged its deadly occupants to kill, and detonate explosives to destroy planes and fuel dumps.

The quote following quote from another source describes the action and effects of that raid:

In May 1945 five suicide aircraft had flown to the U.S airfield at Yontan on Okinawa. U.S. defenders shot down four. The fifth landed, and soldiers poured out, throwing hand grenades and incendiary weapons. Before they were mowed down, the Japanese destroyed seven aircraft, damaged 26, and set ablaze 70,000 gallons of fuel. The incident was a chilling reminder of what suicide troops could do on the ground in Japan fighting invaders.

— Allen, Thomas B. and Polmar, Norman, CODE-NAME DOWNFALL, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1995, P. 167-68.

We were bivouacked approximately 700 yards from the airfield, that being the base for our squadron’s aircraft. So we were spectators to that fiery scene. It was not ring-side, but we could see figures moving and flames from burning fuel leap hundreds of feet into the night sky. It was a fiery show, a very lethal one.

Fortunately none or our squadron’s planes were in the total of the night’s losses. Our P-38s were small planes compared to the bombers and transports that were the preferred targets.

The incident warned us that though we dominated the air, a desperate, suicidal enemy could slip through our defenses and inflict as much or more damage than a conventional air-raid.

Resources: Accounts of the Raid at Yontan

 
Next Entry: WWII Memoirs – 1945 – Invade or Drop the Bomb
The atomic bomb on Hiroshima was a surprise to all of us...