Attack Of The Kamikaze: Fall of ’44

Attack Of The Kamikaze: Fall of ’44

USS Intrepid (CV-11) crewmembers clearing away wreckage in the hangar deck after the ship was hit by kamikaze aircraft off the Philippines, 25 November 1944 (80-G-270840).

On 27 October 1944, fast carrier Task Group 38.2 was operating east of Luzon attacking Japanese airfields on that island and shipping in Manila Bay, damaging the heavy cruiser Nachi and slightly damaging heavy cruiser Ashigara. On 29 October, a kamikaze struck Intrepid (CV-11) on a port side gun position, killing 10 and wounding 6, but the carrier continued operations.

On 30 October 1944, carrier Franklin (CV-13) took a more serious hit from a kamikaze. Three kamikaze attacked. The first hit the water off Franklin’s starboard side. The second crashed through the flight deck into the gallery deck, killing 56 men and wounding 60. The third kamikaze aborted its dive at Franklin and aimed for the light carrier Belleau Wood (CVL-24) instead. Despite being “shot down,” the plane still crashed into the carrier’s flight deck, causing fires and setting off ammunition, killing 92 men and wounding 54 more. Both carriers had to return to the States for repairs.

USS Belleau Wood

On 1 November 1944, kamikaze inflicted significant damage on U.S. destroyers supporting operations inside Leyte Gulf. At 0950, the destroyer Claxton (DD-571) was badly damaged by a kamikaze that exploded in the water right alongside, causing serious flooding, killing 5, and wounding 23.

The destroyer Ammen (DD-527) was hit by an already-flaming twin-engine Frances bomber just aft of the bridge. The strike destroyed a searchlight and both funnels, with 5 dead and 21 wounded. Nevertheless, Ammen remained battle-worthy and continued to fight for several days.

The destroyer Killen (DD-593) was attacked by seven aircraft, downed four, but was hit by a bomb on her port side that killed 15 men. Killen had to return to the States for repair. The destroyer Bush (DD-529) was attacked by several Betty torpedo bombers, shot down several, dodged at least two torpedoes, but avoided being hit except by a shower of shrapnel that wounded two men including the executive officer.

At 1330 on 1 November 1944, destroyer Abner Read (DD-526) was attacked by a Val kamikaze. Although the plane came apart under fire, the bomb went down one of the stacks and detonated in an engine room, while the remains of the plane hit the ship and started a major fire aft. At 1352, a massive internal explosion caused the destroyer to list heavily and begin to sink by the stern.

Abner Read finally went down by 1415 with 22 of her crew.

Abner Read (DD-526)

The remainder were rescued by other destroyers, including 187 by the already-damaged ClaxtonClaxton was repaired by tender off Leyte and remained in the Philippine action for several months. (Of note, Abner Read’s stern was blown off by a mine off Kiska in the Aleutians on 18 August 1943, with the loss of 71 men. Her crew saved the ship against the odds, and she was repaired with a new stern and returned to service in December 1943. Abner Read’s original stern was located, by chance, during a NOOA research expedition in July 2017).

Demonstrating the risks of carrier task forces operating too long in the same waters, on 2 November 1944, just before midnight, the light cruiser Reno (CL-96), escorting Lexington (CV-16), was hit by two torpedoes on the port side fired by Japanese submarine I-41. One of the torpedoes failed to detonate and had to be defused while stuck in the side of the ship.

USS Reno (CL-96) two days after being torpedoed

The other exploded, causing serious damage, with 46 men killed (Morison says only two were killed; the actual number could not be confirmed).

Dead in the water with a destroyer left behind to defend her, an unknown Japanese submarine fired three torpedoes at Reno that missed. Reno was towed 700 miles to Ulithi, pumping out prodigious amounts of water to stay afloat, and would eventually return to the States, but would not be repaired in time for the end of the war.

Japanese cruiser NACHI

Japanese cruiser Nachi under air attack from Task Group 38.3, in Manila Bay, 5 November 1944. Photographed by a plane from USS Essex (CV-9). Nachi was sunk in this attack (80-G-287018). 

On 5 November 1944, Japanese heavy cruiser Nachi’s luck ran out at she was attacked in Manila Bay by multiple waves of U.S. carrier aircraft from TG 38.3, absorbing numerous bomb and torpedo hits throughout the day as she maneuvered desperately to survive before finally being hit by five torpedoes in that afternoon.

These blew her into three parts and she finally sank with 808 crewmen. During concurrent fighter sweeps, the Americans claimed to destroy 439 Japanese aircraft (real number unknown, but probably considerable) for a loss of 25 aircraft in combat and 18 operational losses, along with 18 pilots and crew.

Also on 5 November 1944, the Japanese got some measure of revenge on TG 38.3 when a kamikaze hit the carrier Lexington (CV-16) near the island, causing a major fire that burned out much of the island superstructure. Lexington suffered 50 killed and 132 wounded, but had the fires out in 20 minutes and was able to continue operations.


Meanwhile, Japanese destroyers and transports had been running reinforcement convoys to Ormoc Bay on the west coast of Leyte, eventually getting almost 45,000 troops and 10,000 tons of supplies ashore, adding to the 22,000 troops already there (against 101,000 U.S. troops on the Island by 1 November).

However, on 11 November 1944, 347 Task Force 38 carrier aircraft dealt a devastating blow to the operation, sinking four Japanese destroyers and several transports in a convoy en route Ormoc, with the loss of about 10,000 troops, and then sinking two more destroyers as they returned to Manila. However, due to the continuing need for the carriers to support Leyte operations, Admiral Halsey reluctantly recommended on 11 November that planned carrier air strikes on Japan be postponed.

Task Force 38 fast carriers conducted another series of airstrikes on Luzon, Manila Bay, and other Philippine Islands on 13 and 14 November, sinking the light cruiser Kiso, five more destroyers, about seven transports, and claiming destruction of 84 aircraft in the air and on the ground, for the loss of 25 U.S. aircraft, mostly due to ground anti-aircraft fire.

On 25 November, carrier aircraft from Ticonderoga (CV-14) caught up with the heavy cruiser Kumano in Dasol Bay, Luzon, and sank her. Kumano had been badly damaged during the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944 by a torpedo from destroyer Johnston (DD-557), hit again by two bombs from carrier aircraft on 26 October, and was hit by two torpedoes of 23 fired by four U.S. submarines on 6 November 1944. It took five torpedoes and four bombs from Ticonderoga’s aircraft to finally sink her with 398 of her crew including her captain.

Also on 25 November, the Japanese attacked TF-38 in significant force. The carrier Hancock (CV-19) was hit and lightly damaged by a kamikaze. At 1253, Intrepid (CV-11) was hit by a kamikaze that crashed into a 20-mm gun tub manned by six black stewards who stood their ground and kept firing to the bitter end. The kamikaze started a serious fire on Intrepid, soon followed by a second kamikaze hit. A total of 66 crewmen were killed on Intrepid and 35 wounded. Although the fire was put out in two hours and the carrier remained on station, she subsequently returned to the States for repair.

During this raid, another Kamikaze hit the light carrier Cabot (CVL-28) and another almost hit her. Cabot suffered 36 killed and 16 wounded, but was able to return to action following temporary repairs at Ulithi. At 1255, carrier Essex was hit by a kamikaze in a spectacular crash caught on film, which killed 15 crewmen and wounded 44, but only caused superficial damage to the ship. Nevertheless, the damage to the carriers was significant enough to cause the cancellation of strikes on the 26th and temporary withdrawal to a safer distance.

Although the carriers could maneuver to safer waters, the ships defending resupply operations in Leyte Gulf could not. On 18 November, the attack transport Alpine (APA-92) was hit and damaged by a kamikaze while unloading troops, without loss of troops, but five of her crew were killed. On 23 November, the attack transport James O’Hara (APA-90) was also hit, but not significantly damaged.

On 27 November, 25 to 30 Japanese planes attacked U.S. shipping in Leyte Gulf, which was temporarily without fighter cover.

Light cruiser St. Louis (CL-49) shot down several planes, dodged a torpedo, but was hit by two kamikaze and seriously damaged, with 16 crewmen lost and 43 wounded. St. Louis had to return to the States for repair. Battleship Colorado (BB-45) continued to pay for being absent during the Pearl Harbor attack and was hit by two kamikaze, which killed 19 and wounded 72, although the ship only needed forward-area repairs and she would continue to participate in Philippine operations.

Light cruiser Montpelier (CL-57) downed several kamikaze before being slightly damaged by one. Battleship Maryland (BB-46) dodged a torpedo from a conventional air raid.

However, as sunset approached, Maryland was surprised by a kamikaze that crashed between the forward main battery turrets, piercing several decks, starting fires, causing considerable damage and destroying the medical department, killing 31 and wounded 30. Nevertheless, Maryland continued operations for several more days until returning to Pearl Harbor for repair and extensive refit.


While the attack on Maryland was underway, other kamikaze attacked destroyer Saufley (DD-465), which sustained minor damage, and the destroyer Aulick (DD-569), which suffered severe damage. Aulick was attacked by six kamikaze, one dropped a bomb and crashed close aboard while another clipped the starboard side of the bridge with its wingtip before crashing and exploding near the bow, setting the No. 2 gun and handling room on fire. Several men were killed on the bridge and all told, Aulick suffered 32 dead and 64 wounded.

Attack Of The Kamikaze: Fall of ’44