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,

was profound.

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.


INFO Eduard

April 2023