Shimpu Special Attack Corps: First aviation unit formed specifically for suicide operations

Lt. Yukio Seki

The Shimpu Special Attack Corps, a group of 24 volunteer pilots commanded by Lt. Yukio Seki was formed within the 201st (fighter) Air Group, Imperial Japanese Navy, during the third week of October 1944. The unit, equipped with Mitsubishi Zero-Sen single-seat fighters, was formed for the task of diving into the flight decks of American aircraft carriers in the Philippines area, with a 250kg bomb beneath the fuselage of each fighter. (Shimpu is an alternative pronunciation of the Japanese ideographs which also represent kamikaze, “Divine Wind”, the name applied more generally to Japanese suicide operations.)

The first successful suicide attack was made on 25th October 1944 when five Zeros, flown by members of the Special Attack Corps, sank the US escort carrier St Lo, and damaged the carriers Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, and White Plains. According to Japanese accounts the last sortie by suicide aircraft was flown on 15th August 1945, by seven aircraft of the Oita Detachment, 701st Air Group and led by Adm Matome Ugaki, commander of the 5th Air Fleet. United States records fail to confirm a Kamikaze operation on this date, but they do list a total of 34 American vessels sunk and 288 damaged from the beginning of the suicide aircraft operations as mentioned above; those sunk included 3 escort aircraft carriers, 13 destroyers and a destroyer escort. The total number of suicide aircraft expended to gain these results are believed to be as follows.

Sorties Aircraft returned Expended
Philippines area 421 43 378
Formosa (Taiwan) area 27 14 13
Okinawa area 1809 879 930
Total 2257 936 1321

It has not proved possible to distinguish between actual suicide aircraft and escort fighters in the Okinawa operations and this must necessarily invalidate the total figures to some extent. A rough estimate would show that the usual ratio of the escort to suicide aircraft on most sorties was about three to two, although later in the campaign many sorties were flown entirely without escort.

This is a video on the Pacific Air war linked to the segment on suicide operations.

References:

The Guinness Book of Aircraft: Records Facts and Feats

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukio_Seki

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