Seaplane A6M2-N from Tōkō Kōkūtai moored off the shore in the Aleutians. Note the lighter colouring of the
control surfaces. It is possible that some sort of waterproofing is stuck to the top of the wing to cover the edges
of the cannon hatches.
Commanding officer of Yokohama Kōkūtai Capt.
Miyazaki was formally in command of the unit
until October 1, 1942, when he was posthumously
promoted to Rear Admiral. According to the
testimony of one of Japanese prisoners,
Miyazaki committed suicide by explosive in
a dugout on August 8. One of his former
colleagues in the Geneva Naval Conference
negotiations, Rear Admiral William Ward Smith,
commanded Cruiser Division 9 at the time with
the cruisers USS Indianapolis and USS Louisville
during the Battle of the Aleutians.
Aleutians and Kurils
The first unit to engage the enemy with Rufes
was Tōkō Kōkūtai. Formed in late 1940, it was
deployed at the start of the war in the Pacific
during the conquest of the Philippines and the
Dutch East Indies. In June 1942, with six H6K
Mavis flying boats, this unit was deployed in
the capture of Attu and Kiska Islands in the
Aleutians. Protection for the invasion force
was provided by floatplanes from the seaplane
tenders Kamikawa Maru and Kimikawa Maru.
The command soon recognized that to fight
the Americans in the Aleutian area, fighter
along with other units, engaged in ground
combat. Miyazaki's last radio message was,
“Enemy troop strength is overwhelming.
We will defend to the last man. Pray for our
success.” Improvising under harsh conditions,
the defenders under Miyazaki's command
performed superbly. In the first landing on
August 7, they inflicted 10% casualties on the
American troops, and the defenses on some
islands persisted until noon on August 9.
Five Rufe pilots were killed on Tanambogo Island
on August 8 in action against U.S. Marines. They
succeeded in setting fire to a Stuart tank of 1st
Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines. Of the
three tankers, two were killed and one was
wounded. Forty-two defenders were killed,
including the executive officer of the Yokohama
Kōkūtai, Lt. Cdr. Saburō Katsuta, who was last
seen on the tank’s turret.
Lt. Satō escaped to Halavo Island with about
forty men and was killed with thirteen of them
in a battle with members of the 2nd Marines
on September 19. Only one of his pilots was
captured, it was Warrant Officer Yomichio
Patrol flights continued from Shortland for
several days in late August under the command
of Ensign Kofuji, but on September 2, 1942, the
Yokohama Kōkūtai fighter unit was disbanded
and the personnel and remaining Rufe seaplanes
were taken over by the Kamikawa Maru.
In this photo taken in August 1942, some of the fighter pilots of the 5th Kōkūtai are posing at the Kiska base. Rear row from the left: Sea2c Hachirō Narita, next to him stands
the most successful fighter pilot in the Aleutian area, PO2c Gi-ichi Sasaki, PO2c Saishi Okawa and the last airman is probably leader of fighter unit Kushichirō Yamada.
Front row from the left: Sea2c Minoru Minazawa and Sea2c Yoshio Suzuki. Sasaki and Okawa were killed during raids against Amchitka. The Rufe R-106 has a partially
visible convex cowling located on top of the main float. An E16A Jake seaplane can be seen in the background.