Kamikaze Attacks by the Numbers: A Statistical Analysis of Japan’s Wartime Strategy



Note: This is a guest post by Dave Hackerson.

One of the defining symbols of the vicious struggle between the US and Japan in the Pacific War, this word always conjures up a conflicting mix of emotions inside me. The very word “kamikaze” has become a synonym for “suicide attack” in the English language. The way WW2 was taught in school (in America) pretty much left us with the impression that kamikaze attacks were part of the standard strategy of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy throughout the entire war. However, it was only recently that I was surprised to learn that the first time the Japanese introduced this strategy was on October 25, 1944 during the second Battle of Leyte Gulf. The Mainichi Shinbun here in Japan put together a wonderful collection to commemorate the 70th anniversary of this strategy. It features data that has not only been debated and analyzed from a number of angles, but it also provides statistical evidence that underscores the utter failure of this strategy. The title of the article is “Did the divine wind really blow? ‘Special strikes’ claim lives of 4000,” and it is the second part of a three part series called “Numbers tell a tale—Looking at the Pacific War through data”. The first part was posted in mid-August, and the third and final part is due to be put online in December. The original Japanese version for this special can be accessed here. The slides I refer to numbers “1” to “5” listed at the very bottom of each page. The current slide is the one highlighted in blue.

In this post, I will provide an overview of the information on this site while occasionally inserting my own analysis and translations of select quotes. I hope it helps to paint a clearer picture of a truly flawed strategy that is still not properly understood by both sides. (more…)

Only Threes and Layups


I love this. I’ve thought for awhile that most teams should shoot way more 3s and never attempt a 2 point shot past 6-8 feet. The math is really straightforward: a 23′ shot is worth 50% more than a 22′ shot while the odds of success are basically equivalent. The only shot with a greater than 50% average is a layup/dunk so why attempt low-percentage 2 pointers?

I despise Coach K, but he has had arguably the most successful college coaching career by doing two things: putting a decent-to-good 3 point shooter at all four corners on offense and getting his guys to take charges on defense (flopping if necessary). It’s a simple formula. You don’t gotta have Lebron to make that a winning strategy… just Ryan Kelly. Of course if you do have Lebron, or even Austin Cook, spacing the floor gives him opportunities to drive and get layups. Meanwhile, having players crash the boards from the perimeter opens up offensive rebounding lanes for easy putbacks, so some of those missed 3 attempts will lead to layups or dunks.

You don’t need to run some crazy offensive or defensive scheme. Just get guys who can hit 1/3 of their shots from distance and/or drive. If more teams actually started doing this the rules of the game might need to be changed again.

NBA teams are finally starting to get smart. It’s taken awhile, but it’s happening.