Power Ranking The Various Forms Of Kamikazes

By Jack Coleman

In this week’s Twisted History, we took a look at kamikazes for the second time (the first being the initial episode of the show, which you should definitely check out if you haven't already). 

To recap: From the air, 2,800 Kamikaze attackers sank 34 Navy ships, damaged 368 others, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded over 4,800.

This time around, however, we wanted to look at some of the other forms found in Japanese war culture, and I am here to give my official ranking of those mentioned, starting with…

5. Nikaku Soldiers

These soldiers were land-based and “had explosives strapped to their body or used lunge mines (more on these shortly). They would then crawl under a tank or other vehicle and blow it up.”

It is hard not to appreciate the full out submission to their role, but I feel like this method isn’t necessarily efficient and was probably best utilized under the cover of night. I imagine a Nikaku sneak attack being devastating if carried out properly.


4. Shinyo Boats

Interim Archives. Getty Images.

Known as “kamikazes of the sea,” the Shinyo boats translate to “sea quake.” These Japanese suicide motor boats were developed during World War II.

These fast motor boats were driven by one man, to speeds of around 30 knots. They were typically equipped with a bow-mounted charge of up to 700 pounds of explosives that could be detonated by either impact or from a manual switch in the driver's area. These attack boats also carried two anti-ship rockets mounted on launchers located on either side of the boat behind the driver. -via

I like the idea of the bow-mounted charge on these boats, and would have loved to see one of these things charge a ship and explode on impact. This is clearly a tactic that Bond-like villains would totally use at sea. 

3. Banzai Charges

Giphy Images.

The popular expression (which you may have experienced while toasting at a Japanese establishment) is an abbreviated version of the Japanese battle cry "Tennōheika Banzai.”

When the Japanese commanders of infantry battalions foresaw that a battle was about to be lost, as a last ditch effort they would send a wave of overmatched infantry men towards the enemy and hope for the best. -via Wikipedia

This is Japan’s version of every nothing to lose battle in Game of Thrones/Braveheart/etc. and thus why it rightfully takes the third spot.

2. Kaiten

The Kaiten could be argued for the top spot, for these “suicide torpedoes” were the second most effective form of Japanese suicide bombers during the war behind Kamikazes.


Plain old Kaiten means something else, however, and is translated to “the heaven shaker” or “the turn toward heaven” in English, which Coffee Or Die dives deeper into here:

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Type-1 Kaiten was an oxygen-fueled torpedo with a bigger warhead. They were designed to be launched from the deck of a submarine or surface ship, or from coastal installations as a coastal defense weapon.

The pilots were locked inside and unable to exit even if they desired… Their compartment included a small periscope, steering controls, and also were given a self-destruct button, allowing them to kill themselves and the torpedo should their attack fail. 

First of all, having a self-destruct button actually installed is awesome, I totally thought that was just something in movies, but secondly these things clearly packed a punch:

The Type-1 Kaiten packed a 3,420-pound warhead, a top speed of 30 knots, a maximum range of 42 nautical miles, and a maximum operating depth of 250 feet. 

The Imperial Japanese Navy conducted 10 major Kaiten operations throughout the war:

one of these operations successfully sunk the USS Underhill in July 1945, killing 113 members of her crew… In that mission, six Kaiten attacked the underside of the Underhill.

American losses credited to Kaiten attacks came to a total of 187 officers and men… Mostly from the Underhill and the sinking of the  USS Mississinewa. 

1. Fukuryu

Taking the top spot is the fukuryu divers. Fukuryu means “crouching dragon,” but they have also been called “kamikaze frogmen” or “suicide divers.” 

Six thousand Japanese men were to be trained and equipped with diving gear and then weighed down with 20 lbs of lead and two 3.5-liter bottles of oxygen. 

They were able to walk at a depth of between 16–23 ft, for a period of up to ten hours.

Each diver was also armed with a Type-5 attack mine containing 33 lb of explosives, fitted on top of a 16 ft bamboo pole. 

While concealed underwater, men, expecting to be killed by the resulting explosion, would use the pole to push the contact-fuzed explosive against the hull of an enemy craft passing overhead. -via Wikipedia

Everything about Fukuryu divers is cool. Their name, the diving suits that looked rather similar to what Donnie and Billy wore during their Mammoth Bone rush, and the fact they’d wait below the surface to then stick a passing boat all makes them a stealthy threat. 

Honorable Mention: Kamikazes (shots)

Giphy Images.

The classic shot staple of frat bros everywhere originated in Japan after World War II on a U.S. naval base. It is traditionally made using vodka, triple sec, and lime juice. Banzai!

For more about Kamikazes, check out “The Twisted History Mailbag/Kamikazes Part II.”