was in charge of training on these seaplanes. It
would be difficult to find a more ideal officer for
this task. Nishihata was a native of Fukuoka and
graduated from the Etajima Naval Academy in
its 59th class in November 1931. He successively
held several command positions as Buntaichō.
From late 1934 he served with Sasebo Kōkūtai,
then commanded the seaplane carrier unit
Kamikawa Maru. In late 1937 he became an
instructor at Kasumigaura Kōkūtai and a year
later became leader of the seaplane unit on
the light cruiser Kinu. He apparently served on
this ship until October 1941. Therefore, it is not
surprising that his age and experience earned
him the nicknames “foster parent” and “real
parent” at Yokosuka Kōkūtai. His influence
on the development of the A6M2-N seaplane,
its acceptance into the Naval Air Force's
armament, and the success of its deployment,
Nishihata attained the rank of corvette captain
in November 1942 and by the end of the war
was one of the commanding officers of Kōkūtai
302, armed with, among other aircraft, Raiden
fighters. In September 1945 he was promoted to
the rank of Commander.
Anchorage at Tulagi
gunners reported that one of the floatplanes
broke away from the fight with a smoking
engine. The crew also managed to photograph
one Rufe. A week later, B-17s from the same unit
killed PO1c Hori who remained missing after
the fight. Aboard the Flying Fortress were US
Marine Corps officers who managed to take
valuable photographs of the northern coast of
Guadalcanal and the Tulagi area, despite being
forced to retreat by other Rufe seaplanes.
The same fate befell the Sea.1c Matsui in
combat with a B-17 of 11th Bombardment Group
(Heavy) on July 23. Seven bombers of this unit
encountered twelve Rufe seaplanes during
1 August, and the Japanese, with no losses of
their own, severely damaged three of them. The
11th BG board gunners, however, reported two
B-17s raided Tulagi also on August 4, 1942.
Seven Rufes attacked the heavies over their
target. The gunners of the 26th BS, 11th BG
claimed one seaplane as downed, but one Rufe
collided with a B-17E commanded by 1st Lt. Rush
E. McDonald. All of his crew and the Japanese pilot
Sea.1c Kobayashi perished.
During the Allied landing on Guadalcanal in
the morning hours of August 7, Wildcats and
Dauntless bombers from USS Wasp attacked the
anchorage at Tulagi and surrounding islands,
destroying all seven H6K Mavis flying boats and
six Rufes in water and two on the island. One
Rufe later apparently escaped and joined two
colleagues at Shortland Island off Bougainville.
Under Miyazaki's leadership, Yokohama Kōkūtai
personnel at Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo,
Photo: American Air Museum in Britain
The first Rufes to engage enemy in the South
Pacific belonged to the fighter Buntai, which
was formed in May 1942 as part of the Yokohama
Kōkūtai. The commander of the entire Kōkūtai
was Capt. Shigetoshi Miyazaki. He was born in
1897 in Kōchi and graduated with distinction
from the Naval Academy in 1918 in its 46th class.
After training aboard the destroyer Tachikaze,
he first served with the Yokosuka Kōkūtai and
other aviation units, but from late 1924 he was
assigned to the Japanese embassy in Paris.
From June 1926 he was naval attaché to the
League of Nations, and from April 1927 to May
1928 he was the Japanese plenipotentiary to
the Geneva Naval Conference. After a series of
command and training posts, he took command
of the Yokohama Kōkūtai on 20 April 1942.
Leader (Buntaichō) of his fighter unit was Lt.
Ri-ichirō Satō, who had previously served with
the Yokosuka Kōkūtai. Twelve fighter seaplanes
arrived to Rabaul in early June. The first patrol in
the vicinity of Rabaul was performed on 5 June
and five days later five Rufe pilots saw same
number of B-17s from the 19th BG. However,
there was no combat. During June, the seaplane
pilots encountered the enemy machines several
more times, but never got chance to shoot at
In early July, they moved to Tulagi Island off
Guadalcanal and encountered enemy aircraft
almost daily. The naval base for the Rufes
became the nearby islet of Tanambogo, while the
Mavis seaplanes moored at the islet of Gavutu.
The garrison commander on these islands was
Capt. Miyazaki. All marine and engineer units,
as Japanese and Korean civilian personnel were
under his command. But only a small portion of
the 1,500 or so men he commanded were trained
for ground combat.
The first victory was claimed on July 10 in
a battle with two Liberators of the 435th BS.
One of the Liberators was damaged, but the
The first aircraft shot down by Rufe pilots in the Aleutians was a B-17B (c/n 38-215) "Old Seventy". She is pictured in this photo from Alaska back when she was also
used as a cargo machine.