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Kamakura Ōka Monument

A man-made cave carved into a cliff contains a monument dedicated to the men who died in suicide attacks made by ōka, which was a piloted glider bomb carried underneath a mother plane and then launched when near an enemy ship. The monument lies in a secluded burial ground behind the main buildings of Kenchōji Temple in Kamakura.

A stainless steel plaque at the back of the cave has engraved the names of the ōka pilots and the crewmen of ōka mother planes (Betty bombers) who died in suicide attack missions. A plaque on the left side of the cave gives the story of the ōka:

On December 8, 1941, our country plunged into the Pacific War by declaring war against the United States and Great Britain. In the early stages of the war, we achieved great military gains over a vast area from the mid-Pacific to the Indian Ocean. In 1943, a counteroffensive by the Allied Forces little by little put pressure on Japan's defensive perimeter, and eventually in 1944 they occupied the strategic point of the Marianas. The situation became grave as the decisive battle on mainland Japan was expected to take place before long.

As for our country, in those days not only did natural resources required to conduct the war dry up but also the skill level of military units gradually decreased due to loss of trained and experienced soldiers. In contrast, the American military commanded large task forces with aircraft carriers, and the number of their landing craft increased more and more.

In order to reverse such inferiority in strength, Japan's Navy planned for the build up of normal weapons and, in the bitter end, also formed various units to utilize underwater, water surface, and aerial special (suicide) attack weapons in order for one man to destroy one ship.

The Ōka Type 11 was used as an aerial weapon, and in August 1944 ōka pilots were recruited in strict secrecy from the entire Naval Air Fleet. In October 1944, the 721st Naval Air Corps, also known as the Jinrai Butai (Thunder Gods Corps), was formed as the ōka operational unit. The ōka unit and the Type 1 Attack Bombers that served as mother planes with ōka weapons suspended underneath joined together with squadrons of Zero carrier fighter planes to protect the mother planes carrying ōka. Suisei carrier bomber units and ground units were also formed. The outcome of this plan of operations was expected to determine our country's fate.

The Jinrai Butai, under direct command of the Combined Fleet, originally was to be used for operations in the Philippines, but that opportunity was lost. Afterward, under command of the 5th Air Fleet formed for defense of western Japan, the first Jinrai ōka attack was carried out against the enemy task force that had attacked Kyūshū. After that, from the Battle of Okinawa until the war's end, Jinrai ōka attacks together with special attacks by Zero fighters carrying bombs were made repeatedly. That heroic battle tactic made American officers and men tremble with fear.

This monument to the Jinrai warriors honors those pure and excellent young men who, without regard for their own sacrifice, courageously went to their place of death for their homeland and fellow countrymen.

Erected on March 21, 1965
        20th Annual Commemoration of First Ōka Attack

Repaired on October 1, 1993
        49th Annual Commemoration of Formation of Jinrai Butai

Navy Jinrai Butai Comrade-in-Arms Association

A second plaque on the left side of the cave has a long poem entitled "Ah, Gods of the Flaming Arrow." This poem of admiration for the Jinrai Special Attack Corps originally appeared in the Asahi Shimbun on June 5, 1945.

Kenchōji is one of the five great Zen temples in the ancient Japanese capital of Kamakura. The temple was completed in 1253, and it is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan. The Kenchōji complex, with ten subtemples, has several National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, including the temple bell cast in 1255 and a portrait of the temple's founder done in India ink on silk in 1271.