In August 1941, Ugaki became chief of staff of the Combined Fleet under Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku. He was involved in planning the Pearl Harbor attack and all other Combined Fleet operations until he and Yamamoto were shot down over Bougainville on 18 April 1943. Ugaki survived, though he was seriously wounded, and returned to Tokyo to recuperate.
On 25 February 1944, Ugaki took command of the 1st Battleship Division of the superbattleships Yamato and Musashi. He fought at the Battle of the Philippine Sea and throughout the Marianas and Leyte Campaigns. He returned to the Naval General Staff in November, and then, on 10 February 1945, he took command of the Fifth Air Fleet, controlling the remaining Japanese naval air forces on Kyushu, the frontline defense of the home islands. Emulating the example from the Philippines of Rear Admiral Onishi Takijiro, he formed the Special Attack Corps (Tokkotai) to conduct kamikaze attacks against the U.S. fleet. The Tokkotai was heavily engaged at Okinawa, using both standard-production naval aircraft and specialized, rocket-propelled suicide attackers (Ohka) launched from medium bombers.
After the U.S. victory on Okinawa, Ugaki was engaged in refitting Fifth Air Fleet preparatory to repelling an invasion of Kyushu itself. On 15 August 1945, Emperor Hirohito broadcast his decision to surrender. Ugaki determined to die in the Tokkotai spirit and led an abortive suicide attack on the U.S. fleet off Okinawa, which he did not survive. Paul E. Fontenoy
Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941–1945). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.; Evans, David C., and Mark R. Peattie. Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997.; Feifer, George. Tennozan: The Battle of Okinawa and the Atom Bomb. New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1992.; Goldstein, Donald M., and Katherine V. Dillon, eds. Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991.; Millot, Bernard. Divine Thunder: The Life and Death of the Kamikazes. New York: McCall, 1971.
Paul E. Fontenoy