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Any of the Japanese pilots in World War II who made deliberate suicidal crashes into enemy targets, usually ships. The word means divine wind, a reference to a typhoon that dispersed a Mongol invasion fleet threatening Japan from the west in 1281. The practice was most prevalent in the final year of the war. Most kamikaze planes were ordinary fighter aircraft or light bombers, usually loaded with bombs or extra gasoline tanks before their suicidal dive. Such attacks sank 34 ships and damaged hundreds of others; at Okinawa they inflicted the greatest losses ever suffered by the U.S. Navy in a single battle, killing almost 5,000 men. See alsoZero.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on kamikaze, visit Britannica.com.