Lt. Masaji Suganami, Sōryū Fighter Squadron, Pearl Harbor first attack wave
A Zero Fighter Type 21 is about to take off from Rabaul East airfield, New Britain Island. Date and unit are
unknown. Note the patriotic Hōkoku donation text on the fuselage.
(Photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum)
In the first wave, eight Zeros from Sōryū, led by Suganami, attacked Wheeler and Ewa
airfields. They destroyed 27 aircraft on the ground and shot down five planes in combat.
Suganami then lost orientation, so he decided to return over the target and sacrifice himself.
However, he encountered other planes and returned to the carrier. After graduating Naval
Academy in 1933, he served in 13th and Tsukuba Kōkūtais. He led fighters on the carrier Ryūjō
till November 1941, after that Sōryū fighters until June 1942. At the Battle of Midway, in the
first attack wave, his formation shot down six American fighters. From July 1942 he served
as Hikōtaichō of fighters at Genzan Kōkūtai (later Kōkūtai 252). Suganami went missing on
November 14, 1942 while escorting Rear Admiral Tanaka's destroyers off Guadalcanal. Six
Zeros under his command provided the 4th CAP. They first attempted to attack a „beautiful
formation” of B-17s. After that attack on ten F4Fs from VF-10 brought them four victories.
On return Suganami, over the protests of his subordinates, separated from the formation
and headed southwesterly. He apparently joined the attack on SBDs from VB-10 and later,
before running out of fuel, shot down Lt. Col. „Joe” Bauer, commander of VMF-212 and Medal
of Honor recipient.
PO1c Kazuo Muranaka, Hiryū Fighter Squadron, Pearl Harbor first attack wave
A6M2 fighters from the 3rd Kōkūtai in the spring of 1942, Celebes Island.
(Photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Hiryū sent in the first wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor six Zeros under command of Lt.
Okajima. They set 27 aircraft on fire at Ewa Field. Okajima's first wingman was PO1c Muranaka. He completed his training in August 1938 and after serving with Saeki, Óita and Ómura
Kōkútai, he was transferred to the 14th Kōkútai in August 1939 in China. During December 27,
he participated in the unit's first two victories. In August 1941, he was transferred to Suzuka
Kōkūtai and in November of that year was assigned aboard Hiryū. During the Battle of Midway, he was sole pilot to escort Hiryū bombers throughout the action. After return he took
off on a combat air patrol and shot down three planes. His Zero was hit and he was rescued
by destroyer Nowaki. After recovering, Muranaka served on the aircraft carriers Shōkaku
and Jun'yō. He fought over Guadalcanal and took part in the Battle of Santa Cruz. In 1944 he
served as an instructor in Japan with the Tokushima Kōkūtai and in Singapore with the 11th
Kōkūtai. In 1945 he served as Ensign on N1K2-J fighters at Hikōtai 701 as part of the elite
Kōkūtai 343. He achieved six certain and three probable victories. After the war he joined
the JSDF and attained the rank of Major.
Lt. Tadashi Kaneko, Shōkaku Fighter Squadron, Pearl Harbor first attack wave
The wreckage of the A6M2 “V-110” from Tainan Kōkūtai after its recovery by Australian soldiers. PO3c Yoshimitsu Maeda crashed with this plane on April 28, 1942 on the southeast coast of New Guinea and was captured.
The Shōkaku sent in first wave five Zeros under command of Lt. Kaneko. They destroyed 35
aircraft at Kaneohe airfield and hit three others at Bellows. During the 2nd attack wave, fighters from Shōkaku patrolled over the carriers. Kaneko had commanded the fighter Shótai
aboard the aircraft carrier Ryūjo since 1937. He became well known in the Japanese press
after his successful attack on the Chinese fighters near Shanghai on August 22, 1937. In the
following years he served with the 15th and 12th Kōkūtai, and later with the Ómura and Mihoro Kōkūtai. In September 1941 he became Buntaichō of the fighters on the Shōkaku. He shot
down three Hurricanes during the attack on Trincomalee on April 9, 1942. In May 1942 he was
appointed Hikōtaichō of the 6th Kōkūtai, which was to be based at Midway Atoll. During the
Battle of Midway, Kaneko and his men were aboard Akagi and engaged in a battle on his own
initiative, shootting down two torpedo planes. From October 1942 he fought over Guadalcanal
as Hikōtaichō of the aircraft carrier Hiyō's fighters. In early November he was promoted to
the rank of Lieutenant Commander. During a patrol on November 11, he shot down three F4Fs
from VMF-121. In total he claimed at least eight victories. Kaneko was killed on November 14
in combat with SBDs from VB-10, his Zero was set on fire by gunner ACRM Gordon C. Gardner.