WW2 non-airplane suicide attacks

Discussion in 'General' started by Austin Sullivan, Jan 1, 2020.

  1. Austin Sullivan

    Austin Sullivan New Member

    Hello all, I am new to these forums and am putting this under General because I don't know where else it would fit.

    My grandfather told me that when they liberated a place that local children would come up to them, he said they knew the Americans got chocolate in their rations and they were hoping to get some of that, or just to get help in general, I guess. But he said that because (he and his cohort believed) that the children were potential suicide bombers they would give them little pieces of phosphorus, which the kids thought were candy, but it would burst into a small flame when put into the mouth. I was around 12 when I heard this story and I remember asking if the kids were hurt, and him telling me that they might have been hurt a little, but not seriously, and that they all stayed away after that first contact with the GIs.

    I know it's well documented that German children were serving on the front lines, especially at the end of the war, and I can find plenty of info on phosphorus in general (munitions, fire bombing), and on suicide bombers (in airplanes), but nothing along these lines.

    Was that a tactic used at the end of the war, or would these have been people who supported the Nazis, or was my Grandad operating under false assumptions? I have no reason to disbelieve his story, it doesn't make him out to be a hero, just a guy scared for his life. My grandfather didn't talk a whole lot in the time I knew him, but I never knew him to lie about anything. He was considered an honest and forthright, if somewhat taciturn, man by his contemporaries as far as I can tell.

    I appreciate any light that anyone can shed on this story, especially if you can point me to a source that talks about children suicide bombers in WW2.
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    It's a rather nasty little story and full of inaccuracies. Phosphorus would not burst into flame if put into the mouth indeed it would burn if left in the air but surrounding it with moisture would prevent it from doing so, sodium would however do so on meeting saliva or anything containing water. The war time equivalent of an urban myth I think. There are stories of Japanese women and children being trained to sit in covered road side pits with an artillery shell and a hammer but I've never seen any verifiable evidence.
    ceolredmonger likes this.
  3. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Welcome to the forum.

    I think that story might have grown hazy with the passage of years. Even a small amount of white phosphorous in the mouth would seriously injure or kill the kid. My dad was a mortar man and shot a lot of WP and told me about the first aid training they got to treat wounds from it.
    ceolredmonger and CL1 like this.
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Where did he get the Phosphorous from

    How would they pass the Phosphorous to the children and if they were suicide children would not have done what they would do before they were given the Phosphorous sweets.
    If taken and placed in the mouth it would have burnt them up

    I think it is a tale

    "When exposed to air, it spontaneously ignites and is oxidized rapidly to phosphorus pentoxide. Such heat is produced by this reaction that the element bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke"

    might be an idea to post on our sister forum WWII Forums
  5. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Indeed the phosphorus would start to burn before being eaten and one would have to be a particularly stupid kid to eat burning "chocolate"
  6. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    CL1 likes this.
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  9. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Nope wouldn't include that. Last gasp attacks against hopeless odds had been going on as long as war itself, There was always a slim chance of honorable survival - often incredibly slim. I would include Japanese attacks on tanks by soldiers wearing explosives which did happen
  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Dozens of recovered diary entries specifically say the writer will die the following day in a suicide charge.
  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    I think I would include banzai as a form of suicide based on WW2

    WWII-era Japanese, however, were raised in a culture in which ritual suicide was a perfectly acceptable, rational means to avoid dishonor, reverse disgrace, and to restore disrupted social order. The concept manifested itself in wartime Japan through kamikaze and banzai attacks against their enemies, as well as seppuku suicides by officers who lost battles, which was called kakugo no jisatsu (“suicide of resolve”)

    Battle Of Saipan Suicides: The Largest Banzai Charge of the Entire War, 4000 Japanese Troops
  12. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Not aircraft but definitely suicide.
    The Japanese solved the problem of malfunctioning torpedo guidance systems by producing the Kaiten in which these were replaced with a human pilot. The Japanese 24inch surface-launched Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedo was modified by having a new mid and front section fitted around it. The pilot sat in the middle and used a periscope to see where the target lay. Up to six Kaitens could be carried ‘piggy back’ on a large Japanese attack submarine (although three were normal). Over 400 of the type 1 (the only version to be used operationally) were built.
    Once the Kaiten was launched its pilot was doomed whether or not he managed to hit the target, at the end of the run unexploded Kaitens sank taking their pilots with them to a cold dark death. Kaitens were in service from the autumn of 1944 but only sank a handful of ships including one tanker and a small destroyer. This was at the cost of eight mother submarines and nearly 900 lives. Like the German miniature submarines the whole Kaiten programme was a gross waste of lives and resources for no real return.
  13. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    The Japanese also had the Shinyo fast, suicide motor boat. Like the Kaiten it had limited success. They had also trained suicide divers called Fukuryu, although these were never deployed.

    Dave55 likes this.
  14. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    For some reason this made me think of a passage written by a Musashi survivor. He said that when it was obvious the ship was going to be sunk that he and another crewman decided to go down to one of the main magazines and 'sit on the shells.' He apparently never got to implement his plan but in this case it sounds like he was looking for a painless end.
  15. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    This photo from the same site

    A U.S. Marine sits on an unexploded shell of a 16″/50 caliber Mark 2 gun to inspect a hole in the sole of his boot during the Battle of Saipan.


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