The Most Terrifying Cherry Blossom to Ever Take Flight

By 1945 Allied forces were knocking on Japan's front door. As the Empire's military grew increasingly desperate, it began to focus on eliminating the Allies' willingness to fight—by intentionally crashing manned aircraft in kamikaze attacks. And for pilots aboard one breed of these notorious flying coffin, the MXY-7 Navy Suicide Attacker Ohka, death wasn't the last resort, it was the only one.

Conceived by Ensign Mitsuo Ohta of the 405th Kokutai and developed at the University of Tokyo's Aeronautical Research Institute, the MXY-7 Navy Suicide Attacker Ohka ("Cherry Blossom") wasn't so much an airplane as 1,200 kg bomb with wings and a cockpit. These single-seat suicide machines measured 20 feet long with a nearly 17-foot wingspan and weighed just 4,700 pounds when loaded. They were constructed of wood over an aluminum frame. A trio of Type 4 Mark 1 Model 20 rocket motors, each blowing 587 pound-feet of thrust could speed a pilot to his demise at up to 576 mph but only for about 23 miles.

The Most Terrifying Cherry Blossom to Ever Take Flight

With such a short range, the Ohkas had to be ferried to their final destination underneath lumbering Mitsubishi G4M2e "Betty" Model 24J bombers. The pilot would ride along with the bomber crew to the drop sight, load into his Ohka, have the cockpit locked from the outside, and then release through the bomb bay. The missile would glide toward a US capital ship—carriers, destroyers—before igniting the solid-fuel rockets, dropping into a nearly 600 MPH dive, and aim for a hit. Faced with the prospect of an enemy willing to die so easily, the Allied forces would then lose their will to fight, and slow their ever-advancing march on the Japanese home islands. At least that's how it was supposed to work.

See, capital ships aren't just floating willy-nilly in the middle of the ocean, waiting to have someone sink it with an aeroplane. These are the Navy's most valuable and necessary warships and, as such, are surrounded by a perimeter of slightly-smaller, heavily-armed warships. Getting a slow-moving bomber within 23 miles of this Allied hornet's nest proved quite difficult.

The introduction of Cherry Blossoms in the Pacific theater in 1945 was met with minimal success. Their initial assault on Task Group 58.1 in March of that year saw Allied F6Fs engage the fleet of Betty bombers more than 70 miles from their target—though that didn't stop the bombers from launching their explosive human cargo regardless. During the few short months the Ohkas saw action before the war ended that September, these manned missiles sank or damaged a total of seven US warships and not a single capital ship. Today, the pilots that gave their lives for their country, members of the Jinrai Butai - Thunder Gods Corps, are honored in memorials across Japan. [Wiki - Military Factory - i09 - illustration: Fiddlers Green]