72 years ago today: Fanaticism in a photo

admiral-ugaki-posing-before-his-final-kamikaze-mission-wwii-15-august-1945Imperial Japanese Navy Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki on 15 August 1945, at age 55, on his last day in the Navy.

Ugaki graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in 1912, 9th in his class, and went on to serve the Emperor for the next 33 years including as a junior officer on the battlecruiser Kongō during WWI, service in Germany in the 1920s, passing through the Naval Staff College and serving as the Chief-of-Staff of the Combined Fleet under Yamamoto for the first half of WWII.

Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki (left), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

A smiling Chief of Staff Matome Ugaki (left), Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, liaison staff officer Shigero Fujii, and administrative officer Yasuji Watanabe aboard battleship Nagato, early 1940s

Following Yamamoto’s death, Ugaki was given the demotion of commanding the 1st Battleship Division (Nagato, Yamato, Musashi), which largely perished during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, then was transferred to command the kamikaze forces of the IJN Fifth Air Fleet. Spending the last year of the war cheering on barely trained young pilots as they took off in condemned planes with just enough fuel for a one-way flight.

Speaking of which, the day the Emperor announced  the official cease-fire order on 15 August, Ugaki climbed into the backseat of a Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” (first image above) and led a failed 11-aircraft attack on the U.S. fleet. His remains were found later by Sailors of a U.S. amphibious landing craft along the beach on Iheyajima Island and buried in the sand, the last kamikaze.

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