Jun´yō Fighter Squadron, Buin airfield, Bougainville Island, April 1943
USS Missouri (BB-63) about to be hit by a Kamikaze pilot of a A6M Zero, while operating off Okinawa on April
(Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)
This aircraft, manufactured by Nakajima, was photographed in April 1943 during Operation “I-gō”.
The code “2-1” is the designation of the 2nd Carrier Division (Kōkū Sentai), which HIJM Jun'yō was
1st carrier. The horizontal bar below the code identifies the leader of a Shōtai, which was usually
a formation of three machines. In early 1943, an improvised green paint was applied to the Zeros.
The colors chosen and the execution of the paint varied from unit to unit. During this period, among
the notable fighter pilots of the unit were Buntaichō Lt. Yasuhiro Shigematsu (10 v.), W. O. Tomita
Atake (10 v.), and W. O. Shizuo Ishi-i (29 v.). The aircraft carrier Jun'yō was completed in May 1942,
whereupon she participated in the attack against the Aleutians, took part in the Battle of Santa
Cruz, and escorted army convoys bound for New Guinea. In April 1943 her Air Group operated independently from Rabaul and surrounding bases, including Buin, then withdrew to Truk. From July
the Air Group was again based in Buin until September 1, 1943, when its fighter pilots were taken
over by the decimated Kōkūtai 204. In November of that year the Jun´yō Air Group was reformed
and in January 1944 moved again to Rabaul, where it fought for a month. Jun´yō participated also in
the Battle of the Philippine Sea and then remained in Japan until the end of the war. Jun´yō Fighter
Squadron scored more than 90 confirmed victories.
PO2c Kōtarō Koyae, Zuihō Fighter Squadron, Rabaul, New Britain island, April 1943
During attack of Kamikaze unit led by Lt. Yukio Seki on October 25, 1944 the first major explosion following the
impact of the Zero aircraft on USS St. Lo (CVE-63) has created a fireball that has risen to about 300 feet above
the flight deck. The largest object above that fireball is the aft aircraft elevator, which was hurled to a height
of about 1,000 feet by this first explosion. In this photo it is about 800 feet high.
(Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)
Petty Officer 2nd Class Koyae was born in 1923 in Miyazaki Prefecture and completed his flight
training in November 1942. He was than assigned to the fighter unit of the aircraft carrier Zuihō
in March 1943. In April, the unit moved to Rabaul and Koyae flew the aircraft during Operation
I-gō. In this period, green paint was applied to Zeros in field conditions. It was usually painted by
hand, the edges of the green fields being softened with thinner sometimes. However, according
to the unit log, Koyae did not fly combat sorties in April 1943. In fact he did not encounter the
enemy until November 1943 over Rabaul. During the same month he was transferred to Kōkūtai 253
at Rabaul and by early 1944 he was undergoing intense fighting. Upon his return to Japan, he was
assigned to the Ōmura Kōkūtai. While on leave, on February 17, 1944, he spotted a Japanese bomber
circling in the rain at night over the village of Goda, Miyazaki Prefecture. Koyae, with the help
of the villagers, established a navigation signal and after some time he managed to guide the
crew to right heading. For this achievement he received a written commendation from commander
of Ōmura Kōkūtai. In July 1944, Koyae was assigned to Hikōtai 701 and fought in the defense of the
Philippines. After returning to Japan, he was assigned to Hikōtai 701 (II) and served with Ōmura
Kōkūtai at the end of the war. After the war he worked as a fireman and published his memories.
According to the local press, he achieved 20 victories, but these may be victories achieved by
fighter formations in which he took part.
Lt. Kunio Kanzaki, CO of Hikōtai 311 of Kōkūtai 381, Kendari airfield, Celebes island, May 1944
Aerial shot of Mitsubishi's manufacturing plant in Nagoya. The factory faced difficult logistics throughout
the war to ship aircraft to factory airfield. Neither river shipping nor transport by rail could be resolved.
Disassembled aircraft had to be transported through the narrow streets of the city by ox carts and later by
Kōkūtai 381 was established in October 1943 at Kendari Base on the island of Celebes. It was
a mixed Kōkūtai with 48 fighter-bombers (Hikōtai 602), 24 night fighters (Hikōtai 902) and
48 fighter aircraft in Hikōtai 311, the latter commanded by Lt. Kanzaki. During the 1944 he
operated from bases on islands in Indonesia and the Philippines. Their most frequent opponents were U.S. Army aircraft. Kanzaki's unit used special phosphorus anti-aircraft bombs
to attack enemy bombers. Kanzaki's aircraft, manufactured by the Nakajima company, has
been reconstructed in the past with various color markings. It is assumed that the vertical
tail surfaces and part of the upper wing surfaces were painted the same color like lower
surfaces. The front part of the engine may also have been painted grey or yellow. It is not
entirely clear from the photograph of the aircraft whether the white stripes on the lower
fuselage are joined. It may have been designed to improve the mutual identification of Army
and Navy aircraft when fighting Allied fighters. Another reason for this camouflage may
have been for easier identification during night fighter flights. For example, Lt. Kanzaki and
his wingman shot down a B-24 of the 380th BG over Balikpapan on the night of January
12-13, 1944. Some aircraft of Kōkūtai 331 were also painted in the same upper and tailplane
camouflage. Both units operated in one tactical group during part of 1944.