KITS 02/2023

Iwakuni Kōkūtai, Iwakuni airbase, Japan, 1944

This machine was manufactured with factory applied dark

green color on upper surfaces. The markings of this training unit are the Katakana characters "I" and "Ha". The

Iwakuni Kōkūtai was established in July 1940 and was

used to train pilots for naval units operating from land

bases until August 1944. It was then disbanded and re-

-established in March 1945. Fighter aces Akio Matsuba (18

victories), Momoto Matsumura (13 v.) or veteran of the aircraft carrier veteran Sōryū Ki-ichi Oda (9 v.) passed through its ranks as instructors. Hiroshi Shibagaki came through the unit as a student pilot, achieving thirteen victories

in Rabaul with Kōkūtai 201 and 204. Another successful

graduate became a Lt.(jg) Kagemitsu Matsu-o. In August

1943, he was assigned to Rabaul to Kōkūtai 253 and, with

more than ten kills to his credit, became the only Naval

Reserve officer to achieve ace status.

Kōkūtai 261 (Tora), Kagoshima airbase, Japan, 1944

The machine was manufactured with factory painted dark

green paint on the upper surfaces. Kōkūtai 261 was established in June 1943 at Kagoshima Air Base, Japan, and

was given the battle name Tora (Tiger) and was also referred to as Tora Butai. The identifying feature of its aircraft

was the numerical code 61, or Kanji character for tiger.

Its design varied from machine to machine. At the end

of February 1944 unit moved to Iwo Jima and later went


INFO Eduard

through heavy combat with US Navy airmen, primarily in

Central Pacific. Unit also operated briefly from Biak Island

north of New Guinea. By May 1944, its aircraft strength

was already reduced to half, and in July the unit had to

be disbanded due to high casualties. Some of the remaining members of the unit were killed in ground combat or

aboard a submarine during the evacuation. The position of

Hikōtaichō was held by Lieutenant Masanobu Ibusuki, who

participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle

of Midway on the aircraft carrier Akagi and served on the

aircraft carrier Shōkaku during the fighting in the South

Pacific. It is possible that Ibusuki achieved 25 to 30 aerial

victories during the war. After the war, he became the first

JSDAF unit commander with F-86 Sabre jets, reaching the

rank of Lieutenant Colonel, but was killed in January 1957

in a collision with another F-86.

February 2023