This photograph is one of the images that fell into the hands of the Allied forces after the landing on the Aleutians. It probably dates from late 1942 and early 1943
and shows the airmen of Kōkūtai 452.
down. Later, Yamada got into a fight with the
observation planes again, and with a PO2c
Gi-ichi Sasaki, they scored two victories.
The Americans lost one Seagull and three were
damaged. The crew of the downed Seagull
apparently survived, but interestingly, the
machine (Bu. No. 9945) belonged to the air unit
of the battleship USS Indiana, which was not
part of the fleet.
The crews of H6K Mavis attempted to blindly
bomb the American vessels through low cloud
cover, and one of the Rufe pilots attacked the
destroyer USS Case in very adverse weather
conditions. He was driven off by defensive fire
from 5-inch and 20mm guns. Japanese gunners
from shore batteries also attempted to engage
the US ships, as the Rufes' pilots dropped
phosphorus bombs over them , presumably to
identify enemy´s position.
American troops landed on Adak Island on
August 30 and built with incredible speed an
airfield in the following weeks. For the Japanese
on Attu and Kiska, this worsened the prospects
of completing their own airfield.
An unequal battle occurred on September 15,
1942, when the submarine base at Kiska was
attacked by fourteen heavy bombers from the
28th CBG, accompanied by fourteen Lightnings
and the same number of Airacobras from XI.
Fighter Command. This formation was engaged
by four Rufe pilots, two of whom were killed.
PO2c Gi-ichi Sasaki scored four victories over
fighter aircraft in this engagement and claimed
one as probably destroyed, but his machine
turned over on landing. At the end of the day
only one Rufe remained operational. In late
September, the Kimikawa Maru arrived at the
island, bringing six Rufes and two observation
aircraft. In the following week the unit faced
significant odds on several occasions including
P-40s of No. 111 Sqn RCAF, and on October 4 was
completely without fighter seaplanes. American
and Canadian fighters often strafed the antiaircraft gunner positions to reduce the risk to
low-flying bombers that arrived over the target
only minutes later.
At the beginning of November, the 5th Kōkūtai
was redesignated Kōkūtai 452. In same period
additional aircraft were supplied, but these
were destroyed in the following days during a
storm and in a strafing attack by Lightnings and
Marauders. In late December, Kimikawa Maru
again brought in new Rufe seaplanes. On the
last day of 1942, Japanese fighters managed to
shoot down a B-25 of 28th CBG, a P-38 of 343rd
FG and destroyed a Catalina that was forced to
The Kōkūtai 452 was still operating in extremely
difficult conditions. Planes were anchored
in Arctic temperatures at the seashore or
in shallow water, their only protection being
a tarpaulin stretched across the forward half
of the fuselage. Yet unit´s technicians managed
to keep most of the seaplanes operational.
Primarily they operated from Kiska Island, and
spare planes were offloaded on Attu, where
there was less danger from Allied aircraft.
On January 24, 1943, a patrol of two Rufes
discovered five cargo ships with escort cruisers,
which were securing the landing on the island
of Amchitka. Rufes attacked with 60kg bombs
and continued their strafings in late January
and during February. Their main target was the
airfield, which the Americans were building on
the island with their usual incredible speed.
American air defenses managed to shoot down
several of the Rufes. Sasaki, who became the
only Rufe fighter ace in the area, did not return
from one of these dangerous missions.
It occurred on the evening of February 18, 1942,
the day after the first Curtiss P-40s from the
18th Fighter Squadron arrived at the newly
completed airfield, which was named Fox Field
because of its short runway. The Rufe pair was
led by Warrant Officer Kunitsugu Nakamachi
and PO1c Sasaki flew as his wingman. In the
air, however, two quadruplets of Curtiss planes
were waiting for them. The Japanese pair
was attacked by the first flight, led by Major
Clayton J. Larson. Hundreds of soldiers from
the surrounding hills watched in amazement as
the battle took place off the west coast of the