Onishi was a fanatical Japanese militarist and something of a cult figure among his staff. In 1941 as Chief of Staff of the Eleventh Air Fleet under YAMAMOTO, Onishi and his friend, Commander Minoru GENDA, carried out an important feasibility study on Pearl Harbor in preparation for the attack. In the first days of the war Onishi led an attack on Clark Field near Manila, and despite bad weather and against the advice of his subordinates, destroyed all US air power in the Far East.
In October 1944 Onishi was made Commander of the Fifth Base Air Force on Luzon which was to support Admiral KURITA’s attack on the US invasion force at Leyte. He had only 100 planes at his disposal and, wanting to maximize their effectiveness, he set up the Special Attack Group—the first formal Kami-kaze Corps. Their first operations proved remarkably effective and for a time the Japanese looked on them as the answer to all their problems, which put Onishi very much in the limelight. Onishi was a die-hard to the end and adamantly opposed surrender. After the Japanese surrender of 15 August he committed suicide.