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…

Photo: Fold3

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.


INFO Eduard

April 2023