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World War II Wiki
World War II Wiki

"Whenever we cornered the enemy and there was no way out, we faced the dreaded banzai attack." - An anonymous US Marine who was on Saipan.[1]

A Banzai Charge was a suicidal last-ditch attack that was mounted by Japanese infantry during WWII. Banzai Charge was actually not the real name of the attack, but rather a name given by Allied forces because during the charge, Japanese forces yelled "Tenno Heika Banzai!" (long live the emperor, ten thousand ages!).

The charge was a last-ditch attack because it almost always was performed once the Japanese forces had lost or were losing a battle. The Banzai Charge was based on the principles of honor and loyalty such as dying honorably rather than surrendering. Despite some banzai charges being successful, most were repelled by relatively small groups of allied soldiers compared to the usual number of Japanese soldiers.

The greatest effect of the Banzai charge was not casualties, but the decrease in morale in most allied troops. Many soldiers feared "the dreaded banzai attack" and this itself sometimes affected performance in the field. Japanese soldiers however did sometimes surrender, but rarely in large numbers. They were also trained to commit suicide if the attack did not breach enemy lines and this included using grenades to kill oneself and any allied soldiers who were not careful. The weapons used by Japanese soldiers during an attack varied from machine guns, rifles, bayonets, swords, spears, knives, grenades, etc.


The first Banzai Charge ever performed was on the island of Attu during the Aleutian Islands Campaign and it was one of the largest ever performed.[2] The attack penetrated extremely deep into the US lines and over 2,300 Japanese infantrymen had been killed by the time the attack was over. Banzai charges have also taken place at the end of several other battles such as on Bougainville, Peleliu, and Saipan. On Saipan, over 1,000 US marines had been killed in one attack.


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