Sqn. Ldr. John Jackson returned to Port Moresby in the US
Douglas A-24 Dauntless aircraft after a walk through the
jungle from Lae area, after his aircraft was shot down by Tainan Kōkūtai. A distinguished fighter pilot, Sqn. Ldr. Jackson
served with No. 23 Squadron in Australia (1939), No. 3
Squadron in the Middle East (1940-1941) and No. 75 Squadron
in Papua New Guinea (1942). He was killed in action on April
28, 1942, during a dogfight with PO2c Hideo Izumi
(9 v.) of Tainan Kōkūtai. He is buried in Bomana War Cemetery.
Jackson International Airport, Port Moresby, commemorates
then blew up, killing him. Kelly was honored
with DSO in memoriam, as his last action was
attributed to the sinking of the battleship Haruna (note 1). According to Sakai no vessel was
hit by bomber. Besides that, he claims that the
victory over the bomber could not be attributed to anybody and Japanese authorities did not
recognize it because the crash of the airplane
was not observed by anybody.
However, the victory is noted in his logbook and
the confusion is even greater due to information that Sakai's victory was not recognized (C.
Shores) and was credited to five of his colleagues as a shared one. Author of this article had
opportunity to study Tainan Kōkūtai unit diary
and the mission record shows that the B-17 was
intercepted by 16 Zero pilots, five of them were
shooting at the bomber (Sakai was not among
them) while one shooting pilot’s Zero was hit
twice by defense fire. Victory was recognized
as shared to all 16 pilots including Sakai.
During another patrol over the Philippines,
on December 12, Tainan Kōkūtai repeatedly
attacked Catalinas on the surface of the Gulf of
Subic. Another target, Clark Field found protection under the low cloud layer and so 1. Chútai
turned to the Iba base. Here, during strafing,
they destroyed six Curtiss P-40s, including two
by Sakai. Then an anti-aircraft fire hit his plane and forced him to land prematurely at Vigan
further northwards. The ground crews repaired
the machine and Sakai could return to Formosa
on the next day with a leg injury.
On the same day that Sakai's fighter was damaged, the Japanese landed near Legazpi in
southeastern Luzon. As early as December 14,
Legazpi was in Japanese hands, and the 2nd
Chútai of Tainan Kōkūtai, led by Lt. Setó landed
It is interesting to note that according to unit
diary Sakai performed very few combat flights
during December 1941. January was not diffe-
Coming the end of 1941, the fate of the defenders
of Philippines was also over. Next target was
Borneo with its American and Dutch defenders.
Tainan Kōkūtai transferred between December
26 and January 7, 1942, to Jolo Island (Horo-tó). Thanks to the rapid advance of Japanese
combat units, on January 11, another base was
in their hands, this time on Tarakan, lying west
of Borneo. The airport was operational from January 16, and Tainan Kōkūtai continued patrol
flights over Borneo.
On Saturday, January 24, 1941, Japanese forces landed on Balikpapan, and their ships were
attacked several times by Dutch and American
bombers. Six Zeroes of Tainan Kōkūtai intercepted eight attacking B-17s. This group of Japanese fighters was then relieved by another
flight from the same unit, led by Petty Officer
1st Class Kunioshi Tanaka (17 victories), who
made several attacks even though he was injured by defense fire. Allegedly, he shot down
a four-engine bomber that collided with another one. Both were credited to him as confirmed victories. The third B-17 was shot down by
Tanaka’s wingman Petty Officer 3rd Class Takeo
Matsuda in cooperation with Sakai (Hata-Izawa
page 266). Sakai in his memoirs depicts Tanaka
as unharmed, but enraged, for, as he claimed,
no bomber was shot down and the Americans
hit a tanker that had begun to burn. In addition,
Sakai according to his own words did not take
part in this combat, but B-17 was mentioned in
his logbook as well as in unit diary (note 2). On
American side three B-17s suffered light damage during the combat.
The very next day, January 25, the Tainan Kōkūtai members intercepted Glenn Martin bombers. Their crews attempted to attack Japanese
vessels off Balikpapan. It was probably during
this fight Sakai has won two victories over the
medium bombers that he has chased up to Banjarmasin where he shot them down.
In the afternoon, the patrolling Zeroes attacked
seven Boeing B-17 bombers from the 7th and
19th Bomb Group. The Japanese performed well
but lost two pilots themselves. Sakai with his
wingman Sadao Uehara also attacked the American formation, although it is not clear whether
the two airmen performed the attack before or
after the attack by their patrolling colleagues. After a great deal of effort, they managed
to seriously damage a four-engine bomber, but
the victory could only be verified the next day
when the crashed machine was photographed
by Japanese reconnaissance pilots. A total of
five bombers were forced to land after the battle. As far as it is known, the only victory was
credited to Uehara. Uehara achieved thirteen
victories, according to his own records, by the
end of the war.
On January 30, Tainan Kōkūtai, together with the
23rd Air Flotilla, moved to the conquered Balikpapan. From this airbase, starting from February 3, 1942, series of raids on eastern Java were
performed together with 3rd Kōkūtai. The Japanese themselves praised the qualities of Flying
Fortresses and openly discussed difficulties
rent. Tainan Kōkūtai performed combat flights
every day with usual minimum number of six
planes, often 10 or more. There were days when
several operations were performed. However,
during January 1942 Sakai flew just 9 combat
flights, followed by 11 missions in February. Sakai was always flying as leader of Shótai with
three aircraft, but on several occasions he even
led formation of several Shótais.
Pvt. Irving Weibel and Pfc. Lester W. Hengen apply a coat of liquid wax to the surface of an overhauled Bell P-39 at the 4th Air
Depot Engine Overhaul And Repair Shop at Garbutt Field, Townsville. This P-39D of the 39th FS, 35th FG was flown by Capt.
Curran L. “Jack” Jones for at least the first of his five confirmed aerial victories. Jones shot down W.O. Satoshi Yoshino from
Tainan Kōkūtai on June 9, 1942, over Cape Ward Hunt. Yoshino probably flew the well-known Zero “V-117” carrying Buntaichó
markings. The production batch for this particular Airacobra replaced the 37mm cannon with a Hispano-Suiza 20mm (externally
identifiable by its longer barrel, compared to the 37mm), an option normally found only in the P-400 export version.