12 April 2016

CHECK SIX: Ships Sunk or Damaged by the Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka

Hasegawa model kit box art showing a G4M releasing an Ohka
(Hasegawa Models)
The Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka ("Cherry Blossom") kamikaze flying bomb was conceived by Ensign Mitsuo Ohta of the 405th Kokutai of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He was considering how to overcome the dense anti-aircraft defenses of Allied warships. His design solution, aided by students from the University of Tokyo, was for a rocket propelled kamikaze aircraft that would be flying too fast in its terminal approach to the target to be shot down. He submitted his ideas to the IJN for consideration and his proposals were refined further by engineers at the IJN's Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal which resulted in the MXY7 design which was essentially an anti shipping missile with a 2600 lb warhead with a kamikaze pilot as its guidance system. 

The Ohka had three rocket engines which could be ignited at once or in sequence. Dropped by the Mitsubishi G4M "Betty", the Ohka had a range of approximately 23 miles and had a terminal approach speed between 580-620 mph, significantly faster than piston engined kamikazes. 

The Yokosuka arsenal would build 155 Ohkas while the Kamisagura Air Arsenal would built over 600 Ohkas. It was planned to debut the Ohkas at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but the ships transporting the Ohkas to the Philippines were sunk enroute. The Ohka's operational debut would be in the Battle of Okinawa with mixed results:

12 April 1945: USS Mannert L. Abele, destroyer, sunk by one, possibly two Ohkas.
12 April 1945: USS Jeffers, a destroyer converted to a minesweeper, damaged.
12 April 1945: USS Stanly, a destroyer, damaged.
4 May 1945: USS Gayety, a minesweeper, damaged.
4 May 1945: USS Shea, a light destroyer coverted to a minelayer, damaged.
11 May 1945: USS Hugh W. Hadley, a destroyer, damaged.

Interestingly, the captain of a support vessel who witnessed the sinking of the USS Mannert L. Abele had this to say: "It is difficult to say what it was that hit the DD 733. This officer personally saw what appeared to be two (2) planes orbiting in a northerly direction from the DD 733, and then suddenly, what appeared to be, one plane, accelerated at a terrific rate, too fast for us to fire at. This plane dove at an angle of approximately 30 degrees, starting at about four miles [7.5 km] away. Since we had no air search radar, the above statements are merely my own conclusions."

That captain's report was the first to indicate that the Ohka was operational. 

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