During World War II, then-Captain Truman Johnson Hedding (1902–95) was at the forefront of events during the final phase of fighting in the Pacific. A contributor to the 1947 U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, he chronicled the naval component of the Okinawa campaign (see “Operation Iceberg’s Mixed Legacy,” pp. 12–17) and the final actions leading up to the Japanese surrender as a coauthor of Air Campaigns of the Pacific War. Conducting interviews and interrogations while compiling his report, he got up close and personal with the phenomenon of the kamikazes, which he describes in his U.S. Naval Institute oral history.
We had the bloody battle for Iwo Jima; following that was the move into Okinawa. That was a very tough one, particularly tough on the Navy. We lost more ships to kamikazes there, except for the big ships. Those picket destroyers on picket stations—that was just something.
[Kamikaze strikes] first started in the Philippines; more or less one squadron volunteered. [The Japanese] found that the effects were so devastating that it was their principal weapon on Okinawa. They sank a lot of our ships.