Excerpt from Kamikaze: A Japanese Pilot’s Own Spectacular Story of the Famous Suicide Squadrons, by Yasuo Kuwahara and Gordon T. Allred
(From Chapter 24: The Divine Wind)
“Run for it!” His words crackled in my headphones. “Too manyhead for home!” Abruptly now, the enemy was materializing from almost all directions. Everywhere . . . blue wings, white stars and blunt, belligerent snoutsall avidly bent on revenge. My friends were nowhere in sight, and I slammed the throttle to the firewall, roaring north toward home and the secrecy of the clouds. Several Hellcats were still streaking after me, diving head on. Instinctively, I hit the stick pivoting left, and all of them overshot me but one flying higher in the rear.
Torquing radically the opposite direction, I descended in a gargantuan, groaning barrel roll, feeling my entire airframe shuddering as the G-force slammed, squeezing the blood from my head and eyes. My enemy followed with fiendish tenacity only a hundred yards or so behind, somehow actually closing the distance. Sledge hammer sounds, and I flinched, feeling my heart lurch. I’d been hit. . . but for the moment no discernible damage, and it was time for even more desperate measures.
Again I rolled, angling now into a steep vertical dive . . . down, down, down . . . the air shrieking past my cockpit, gradually spiraling, spiraling downward, seeming to rotate with the very earth . . . then rolling more widely. Ships growing amid the broadening sprawls of smoke, revolving as if the ocean itself had become a vast, cosmic whirlpool. Long hours of suicide practice had honed my skill in such maneuvers, but soon I was in reach of the surface fire again. A battleship along the convoy’s periphery was opening up with his heavy rifles, and the flack was collecting close about me.
I pulled from my dive in a monstrous, shuddering, gut-wrenching groan, barely above the water, feeling as if the flesh would rip from my bones, losing my vision and sense of direction, blacking out, as though my head had been dragged into my shoulders. The tenacious Grumman Hellcat, however, was less fortunateaccidentally blasted apart by his own ships at the very nadir of his descent. Glancing wildly at my wavering compass needle and trembling gryo horizon, I somehow reoriented myself and hurtled on north scrambling for altitude.
The American ships were still salvoing at long range while one remaining fighter plane continued to fire at me from several hundred yards away. For an instant I felt a smug sense of triumph. Simultaneously I heard a series of feral pinging noises followed by a clank. My heart squirmed, pounding, and my throat constricted as I waited for the flames, the smoke . . . the explosion. For several agonizing seconds the motor faltered then blessedly caught hold as the Hellcat swiftly drew closer.
Ahead, a short distance to the northwest, clouds were mounting to awesome heights in gray-black anvilscumulonimbus, and I headed for them full throttle, blending my will with that of my plane, uniting all our remaining strength in a final bid for emancipation. Faster Kuwahara, faster . . . holes appearing supernaturally in my right wing. . . more pinging. . . . Then I was engulfed in darkness.
I grinned triumphantly into the gloom, convinced now that I had made it. The enemy had battled ferociouslyeverything in his power, everything upon the face of the ocean, everything that he could hurl into the sky. The enemy had failed. Our own forces, on the other hand, had inflicted substantial damage.