USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) After Kamikaze Attacks

USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) afire after being hit by two kamikaze suicide planes. Photographed from USS Bataan (CVL-29). On the morning of May 11, 1945, while supporting the Okinawa invasion, Bunker Hill was hit and severely damaged by two suicide planes. Gasoline fires flamed up around fueled and armed planes and several explosions took place. One of the two suicide pilots was Imperial Japanese Navy Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa (1922-1945) of the Dai-nana Showa-tai Squadron flying a Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen (Allied code name "Zeke") fighter with a 550-pound (249-kilogram) bomb. the Japanese Navy carried out a massive kamikaze mission called Kikusui Rokugi Sakusen (Operation Kikusui "Floating Chrysanthemums" No. 6). He and his unknown wingman surprised both the Combat Air Patrol and the ship's gunners. His wingman's bomb punctured the flight deck and went on through, and exploded over the water before his plane crashed into the 34 aircraft waiting to take off. Ogawa struck next, dropping his bomb and impacting the flight deck near the island. Task Force 58 Commander Admiral Marc Mitscher narrowly escaped death on the bridge and had to transfer his flag to USS Enterprise (CV-6). Almost all the pilots of Composite Air Group 84 were killed, in the Ready Room or on the flight deck. 346 Americans were killed, 43 were missing, and 264 were wounded. The kamikaze plane was untouched by the fire; US Navy diver Robert Schock recovered photos and letters from the dead pilot's aircraft. These artifacts were returned to Ogawa's family in 2001 by Schock's grandson and Mickie Grace, a Japanese-American translator. In his last letter, Ogawa wrote to his parents: "I will make a sortie, flying over those calm clouds in a peaceful emotion. I can think about neither life nor death. A man should die once, and no day is more honorable than today to dedicate myself for the eternal cause. I will go to the front smiling. On the day of the sortie too, and forever."
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
National Archives
Date Photographed: 
Friday, May 11, 1945
USS Bunker Hill (CV-17)