St Lo Shimpu

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.)

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Ely Eugene

Ely Eugene: First pilot to perform a ship board launch

As Eugene became airborne from the cruiser, the Birmingham sent a historic radio message “Ely’s just gone”

Ely  Eugene, a Iowa University graduate who had taught himself to fly in 1910, boarded his curtiss pusher biplane which was placed on a makeshift wooden surface on the American light cruiser USS Birmingham in November 14, 1910. In the mid-afternoon, the weather cleared slightly and the biplane rolled of the sloped platform into air. The biplane was equipped with floats under the wings in case Eugene had to make a landing on the water. Eugene, who was part of the Curtiss Exhibition team, instinctively caused the plane to dive as the plane left the platform in order to gain speed but he miscalculated slightly causing the plane to skip off the water, thereby splintering the propeller and splashing water over his goggles. Even flying blind, Eugene managed to land his crippled plane at a nearby beach which was under 3 miles away. Although, he only was airborne for under 5 minutes, his historic flight proved the importance of aviation in naval warfare.

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