Navy Task Force - Kamikaze!
December 1954, Vol. 1, No. 1, 32 pages
This six-page story appeared as one of four stories in the first issue of
Navy Task Force, a comic magazine with mostly American Navy tales from World
War II. The short-lived magazine ended its bi-monthly publications in April
1956. "Kamikaze!" tells the story of crewmen aboard an unnamed American
destroyer who face a mass kamikaze attack on the picket line where they are
serving during the Battle of Okinawa.
The story starts with two destroyer crewmen, including one named Bucko, who
are waiting for a Japanese air attack as they speculate about what motivates kamikazes to
carry out suicide attacks. The next scene depicts three Japanese kamikaze pilots
on the last night before their mission and then their three planes each carrying
a bomb as they take off and head toward the American fleet around Okinawa. The
story shifts back to the destroyer where crewmen are discussing kamikaze pilots and their
inscrutable motivations to end their lives.
Unidentified planes appear on the radar screen, and the destroyer crewmen are
ordered to their battle stations. Gunners on American warships shoot down
several incoming kamikaze aircraft, but some make it through the heavy gunfire.
One kamikaze plane hits Bucko's ship, which causes a huge conflagration that the
crew struggles to put out. Bucko wants to go over the side of the ship into the
sea as the fire spreads, but one of his mates encourages him to help fight the
fires. After the fires are brought under control, Bucko and his mate return to
their gun mount, where they shoot down several incoming kamikaze planes.
The story starts off with an inaccurate statement that the one job of the
picket line on which the American destroyers served was to keep the Japanese
from reinforcing their forces. However, the Japanese military never made any
attempt during the Battle of Okinawa to reinforce their forces. The only attempt
of the Japanese Navy to take any offensive naval action was the ill-fated
mission of battleship Yamato and nine escort ships on April 7, 1945. Only
four Japanese escort destroyers escaped from sinking. The actual primary roles of picket
stations around Okinawa were to protect more valuable warships such as aircraft
carriers and battleships and to screen against air attacks on troop transport ships
when landings were underway.
Picket station destroyers faced several mass kamikaze attacks during the
Battle of Okinawa as depicted in this comic. However, the ships appearing in the
story did not actually fight at Okinawa. The destroyer DD-311 (USS Nicholas)
is shown fighting in two different comic frames, but this ship actually was
decommissioned in 1923. Destroyers DD-201 and USS Bainbridge get
mentioned, but the former never got built with construction cancelled in 1919,
and the latter never existed.
Three kamikaze pilots drink up during evening before mission
One comic frame exaggerates Japanese kamikaze success as it depicts four
American destroyers ablaze after all being hit by suicide pilots. The rest of
the story more accurately shows the majority of kamikaze aircraft gunned down
before they could reach their targets, but the comic does not show any Combat
Air Patrol (CAP) fighters, which in actual history frequently did shoot down incoming kamikazes.
The kamikaze pilots who appear in the comic get described as the "chosen few"
and "selected ones," but the American destroyer crewmen remain perplexed about
their motivations for suicide attacks. The Americans only know that they had
learned the hard way that "to live to fight another day was the glory."
Four destroyers ablaze after kamikaze crashes