The US Navy Faces Off Kamikazes at Okinawa


As the war turned against them in World War II, Japan tried a new tactic: the kamikaze. Pilots used their aircraft as one-way bombs against Allied warships and transports. The campaign started during the invasion of the Philippines in October 1944 and continued until the last day of the war.

“Rain of Steel: Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ukagi’s Thunder Gods and the Kamikaze War off Okinawa,” by Stephen L. Moore, examines the most intense phase of the kamikaze campaign, that fought during the Allied invasion of Okinawa.

Moore touches on the whole of the kamikaze effort. He looks at its origins, how the Japanese developed it, and their kamikaze attacks prior to and after the conquest of Okinawa. He also examines the US reaction to the campaign, including the tactics developed to counter the kamikazes. The meat of the book is the fighting off Okinawa, however.

Moore casts the fight as a duel between two leaders. Vice Admiral Ugaki Matome coordinated the Japanese effort at Okinawa, launching ten Kikusui aerial kamikaze offensives. Vice Admiral Marc “Pete” Mitscher commanded Task Force 58, the US Navy’s fast carrier force, during the Okinawa campaign. He simultaneously led the US aerial offensive against Okinawa and the counteroffensive against the kamikazes.

The book tells this story through the eyes of its participants, particularly Marine and Navy pilots manning the aircraft flying off Task Force 58 carriers. The book includes material culled through interviews of surviving pilots who participated in the campaign, as well as post-war memoirs and diaries of those no longer alive.

Moore also includes other participants – sailors aboard ships suffering under kamikaze attack, the Marines and US Army soldiers fighting ashore at Okinawa, and those at bases supporting the effort. He also examines the kamikazes, using their diaries and final letters to give readers a sense of their feelings.

All of this is combined into an account putting the kamikaze campaign into context. Moore examines its strengths and weaknesses. He shows the individuals who fought, showing their fears and hopes, while placing the events of the battle in a coherent framework.

“Rain of Steel” is a rare book. It offers a fresh look at a campaign now 75 years in the past. Combining contemporary records, declassified material, newly unearthed source material, and recent interviews, Moore brings the past into the present. He lets readers see the battle through the eyes of the participants.

“Rain of Steel: Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Ukagi’s Thunder Gods and the Kamikaze War off Okinawa,” by Stephen L. Moore, Naval Institute Press, 2020, 456 pages, $39.95 (Hardcover)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is

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  1. Arahant Member

    Sounds interesting. Thank you.

    • #1
  2. David Foster Member
    David Foster

    There’s a pretty good book: “I was a Kamikaze”, by Ryuji Nagatsuka.

    (obviously, an *unsuccessful* Kamikaze)

    • #2
  3. Seawriter Contributor

    David Foster (View Comment):

    There’s a pretty good book: “I was a Kamikaze”, by Ryuji Nagatsuka.

    (obviously, an *unsuccessful* Kamikaze)

    There were a few unsuccessful kamikazes. I wonder what the reunions were like?

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member

    David Foster (View Comment):
    (obviously, an *unsuccessful* Kamikaze)

    I was going to say. 😁

    • #4
  5. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt

    A film produced by the US Navy about Okinawa and Task Force 58:

    • #5
  6. JennaStocker Member

    My grandfather was a Seabee aboard the ships waiting to land at Okinawa to build airstrips. He never talked about what he saw, but the citations we found after his death reveal a bit of why he didn’t want to talk about the experience. I’ll have to pick up this book for a more in depth account. Thanks for the review.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher

    I don’t have my copy of Edward Jablonski’s Airwar around here, but I think the kamikazis got their own chapter, or at least a significant part of one. Thanks, Seawriter.


    • #7
  8. Ekosj Member

    USS Twiggs. (DD-591)

    4/7/1943 – 6/16/1945

    Twiggs was a Fletcher-class destroyer named after Marine Major Levi Twiggs – a hero of the Mexican War. She was built in the Charleston Navy Yards and was launched on April 7, 1943. She served in the Pacific theater of operations. In addition to convoy and anti-submarine duties, she participated in the invasions of Leyte, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. She survived several close calls with Japanese kamikazes.

    On June 16, 1945 she was a battle scarred ship with a battle hardened crew. She was on radar picket duty … Radar Picket station #11, west of Okinawa. The mission was to provide early warning of any air attack on Okinawa. As the sun was setting, reports were received of an enemy plane inside the outer picket ring. The Twiggs crew went to General Quarters. A single B6N “Jill” torpedo bomber approached the Twiggs from the West under the cover of a low cloud deck. At a range of just over 1000 yards the Jill dropped out of the clouds and began its torpedo run. The Twiggs’ gunners opened fire but could not prevent the Jill from releasing its torpedo and ducking back into the clouds. At such short range, the Twiggs could not evade. She was struck on the port side, beneath the forward 5-inch gun mounts and the torpedo exploded the #2 magazine. The bow jack-knifed but stayed attached. The plane then circled around and completed its suicide attack by diving into the crippled ship. The fuel laden aircraft exploded amid the rear gun mounts. Twiggs was wrapped in flames and racked by exploding ammunition. The USS Putnam was nearby and sprinted to the Twiggs location to give assistance. She pulled 188 survivors from the smoke and flames. But the Twiggs was mortally wounded. She sank in less than an hour. 152 sailors perished with her including her captain. June 16, 1945. One of the sailors lost that day was my great uncle.

    I’ll definitely pick up the book. Thanks for the review.

    • #8
  9. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'

    Thanks Mark! It’s on my amazon list now.

    • #9