a name for himself in the South Pacific as a Pete
biplane pilot and later became a fighter ace.
The formation faced ten Lightnings and claimed
two victories, but the Americans recorded no
This seaplane fighter unit, which changed
designation three times during its operations,
had shot down fifteen aircraft certainly and
five probably since the summer of 1942. In less
than eight months of its combat deployment,
it operated against the enemy over sixty days,
in many cases conducting multiple actions in
a single day. It lost twelve fighter seaplanes
and ten pilots in aerial combat. Its remaining 23
machines were written off in the Aleutians due
to defects and weather conditions.
At the end of March 1943, the remaining airmen
of Kōkūtai 452 were evacuated by submarine
to Japan. In May the unit was reorganized and
received new Pete, Jake and Rufe seaplanes. Its
fighter unit was commanded by Lt.(jg) Shunshi
Araki. From July his unit was based on Lake
Bettobu on the Kuril island of Shumshu, 11 km
southwest of Kamchatka.
Their opponents were again the Liberator crews.
Rufes engaged them for first time on July 19.
In addition to the Rufe seaplanes, the sporadic
fighting involved IJN observation aircraft as
well as Army aviators with Ki-43 Oscars from
the 54th Hikō Sentai.
The Kōkūtai 452 fighters achieved their last
victories on September 12 in a battle with
a formation of eight B-24s and twelve B-25s.
They reported two B-24s shot down and one
probable. However, Japanese Army fighters
also joined the fight and the Americans suffered
heavy losses. In addition to the two Liberators,
they lost seven Mitchells and some crews made
emergency landings in Soviet territory.
In early October 1943, the fighter Buntai of
Kōkūtai 452 was disbanded and the unit
continued to serve with reconnaissance aircraft
in the Kuril Islands until the summer of 1944.
The original commander of this unit, Kushichirō
Yamada, later served as the Hikōtaichō of
Kōkūtai 302 at Atsugi Base and committed
suicide on August 15, 1945. Araki ended his
service in the same fighter unit as Yamada, and
he too did not live to see the end of the war.
To be continued…
Nakamachi, still over the water, dropped his
bombs and turned northwest back toward his
own base, but he had little chance against the
fast Curtiss planes that attacked from above. He
was hit by Larson and his wingman 1st Lt. Beary.
The burning Rufe crashed into the sea.
A determined Sasaki gave up the raid on the
airfield just off the coast and also tried to break
through to the northwest. American fighters
made repeated runs on Sasaki. The experienced
Japanese pilot combined tight 360-degree turns
and steep descents. He even fired twice at
Larson without result. His fight against the odds
was like this over 35 miles stretch. However,
Sasaki was eventually hit and crashed into the
sea about 5 miles west of the northwestern
tip of Amchitka. The victory was scored by Lt.
The last aerial engagement of Rufe seaplanes in
the Aleutians occurred on March 17, 1943.
In ten hours, the Americans made a total of five
raids on Kiska from the Adak and Amchitka
bases. They deployed 13 B-24s, 16 B-25s, 32
P-38s, and eight P-40s. The Japanese could
only send seven Rufe fighters against them.
Among them was Kiyomi Katsuki, who made
Pilots of the 11th Fighter Squadron at Umnak Air Force Base, Alaska, pose for a photographer while playing cards. They were among the opponents of the Rufe seaplanes.
The unit's commander was John S. Chennault, the eldest son of Claire Lee Chennault, who led the legendary volunteer Flying Tigers in China. The P-40E's nose shows that
the apple didn't fall far from the tree.