World War II is the story of the 20th Century. The war officially lasted from 1939 until 1945, but the causes of the conflict and its horrible aftermath reverberated for decades in either direction. While feats of bravery and technological breakthroughs still inspire awe today, the majority of the war was dominated by unimaginable misery and destruction. In the late 1930s, the world's population was approximately 2 billion. In less than a decade, the war between the nations of the Axis Powers and the Allies resulted in some 80 million deaths -- killing off about 4 percent of the whole world.
This series of entries will last from June 19 until October 30, 2011, running every Sunday morning for 20 weeks. In these photo essays, I hope to explore the events of the war, the people involved at the front and back home, and the effects the war had on everyday lives. The entries will follow a roughly chronological sequence, with some broader themes (such as "The Home Front") interspersed throughout. These images will give us glimpses into the real-life experiences of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, moments that shaped the world as it is today. I hope to be able to do justice to this important story in this large-photo narrative format and invite you to join me for the next 20 Sundays.
On April 11, 1945, ten days into the Battle for Okinawa, sixteen Tokkō Tai (Kamikaze) pilots take off from their base at Kanoya, Japan.
At noon, Battleship USS Missouri is northeast of Okinawa.
"Air Defense" is sounded at approx. 1430 as an incoming "bogey" is picked up on radar and spotted by binoculars 7500 yards out.
Anti-aircraft fire commences immediately and hits are observed, the "Zeke" (Mitsubishi A6M Zero) is smoking and losing altitude.
At 4000 yards the incoming aircraft is hit again, losing altitude rapidly and appears about to splash.
The pilot fights to regain altitude and keeps coming through the hail of anti-aircraft fire.
Missouri's gun crews stand their ground, continuing to fire as the low-flying 'Zeke' bears down upon the ship, the Japanese pilot fighting to maintain control and lift his damaged aircraft.
At 1443 the left wing of the 'Zeke' strikes Missouri barely inches below the main deck, deflecting the nose hard into the steel hull of the ship at frame 160, the propeller cutting the main deck heading as wreckage is strewn on deck.
Upon impact, the right wing is torn loose and catapults forward, landing on the 01 level above the starboard boat davit where fire erupts.
The Damage Control crew rushes to extinguish the flames as billowing black smoke is drawn into engineering spaces below.
The fire is quickly put out and no serious injuries are reported.
After the attack, as the crew hoses down the deck and sweeps debris from the ship, the pilot's remains are discovered among the wreckage.
Missouri's commanding officer, Captain William M. Callaghan, is notified and issues orders for the ship's medical personnel to receive and prepare the body for burial at sea.
Missouri remains on alert, steaming as before.
A Burial At Sea
At 0900 on April 12, 1945 in waters northeast of Okinawa, as the last major battle of World War II rages at sea and ashore, the body of a Japanese pilot, who attacked the battleship USS Missouri the day prior, is readied for burial at sea.
The pilot's body is placed in a canvas shroud and draped with a Japanese flag sewn by Missouri crew.
Members of the ship's company stand by as the flag-draped body is brought on deck from sickbay and carried by a 6-man burial detail toward the rail near to the point of impact.
Those present come to attention and offer a hand-salute as the Marine rifle detail aims their weapons skyward to render a three-volley salute over the remains.
As the battleship USS Missouri continues on through gentle swells, a bandsman steps forward, his bugle raised and the lingering notes of "Taps" drift out across the sea.
Senior Chaplain, Commander Roland Faulk, steps to the head of the burial detail and concludes, saying simply: "We commit his body to the deep."
The burial detail tilts the flag-draped body, the weighted white canvas shroud slipping over the side, disappearing into ocean depths below.
As Missouri continues on course, the burial detail gathers and folds the Japanese flag.
It was concluded that 19-year old, former railroad worker, Petty Officer 2nd class, Setsuo Ishino from the squadron that attacked the American task force on April 11, was very likely, the pilot of the Zeke who crashed Missouri.
(Photo taken by the Ship's baker "Buster" Campbell)