A Final Kamikaze Mission
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
When we think on the last few days of World War II most people will think of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And looking back with the benefit of hindsight it seems quite natural that Japan would fall in 1945; the country was out-manned, out-gunned, and out-produced. Yet before the Enola Gay dropped its payload, few people were so optimistic. Many feared the war would drag on for months, even years. Thus, when Emperor Hirohito announced his surrender on August 14th, America breathed a collective sigh of relief. World War Two had ended. But for Japan, the end of the war came as a terrible shock – their once invincible nation had been dishonored and their emperor humiliated.
Not all were prepared to surrender. There was considerable resistance within the government, and some further down the ranks likewise chose to continue the fight rather than capitulate. On this date in 1945, a day after the official end of hostilities, one of the last Kamikaze pilots sealed himself within his Zero, and set off for one final mission of vengeance.
Many miles off the Japanese coast sailed the USS Wasp, slowly wrapping up operations after spending the last few days of the war pummeling Japanese airbases near Tokyo. Among its crewmembers was Francis Hoynes, a native from Towner, North Dakota who experienced one of the last desperate attacks by Imperial forces.
After the long war, Hoynes and the men of the Wasp were just beginning to breathe easy when from out of the sapphire sky appeared a Japanese Zero intent on slamming into the carrier to avenge Japan’s ignominy. As the plane began its final dive, Hoynes noticed one of the American fighters still flying cover over the Wasp swoop in, firing on the Zero, clipping its wing and forcing it off course. Yet, with trepidation, Hoynes watched as the Japanese pilot quickly regained control and maneuvered for another try. But just then the mighty anti-aircraft guns of the Wasp sprang to life, releasing once more their lethal ordinance and forcing the Zero to the sea. The skirmish witnessed by Hoynes was among the last Kamakasi attacks of World War Two. While the Japanese people were still resentful at their disgrace, no more would they carry on their tragic and lost cause.
Dakota Datebook written by Lane Sunwall
Hoynes, Francis. Interview with author (20 June 2010).
“Wasp,” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center), http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/w3/wasp-ix.htm [accessed 9 July 2010].