Photo: Australia At War
Photo: Hajime Yoshida via Wikimedia Commons.
the Allied fighters in Port Moresby colleagues two more. The Americans lost two
area were reinforced by Americans machines and pilots, but one was apparently
killed by board gunners and the other remained
Some sources state that on April missing after a fierce aerial battle.
11 Sakai claimed two Airacobras in The Australians were about to leave Port Modogfight over Port Moresby. There resby. Over a period of a little longer than
were two Allied planes shot down a month, they had achieved 18 certain victories,
on that day, one Kittyhawk with for which they had lost a total of 20 machines
pilot captured and one Douglas (including three on the ground). US 8th FG left
A-24 went down with both crew- Port Moresby Seven Mile Drome at the begimen killed. But, according to Tainan nning of June after being replaced in the second
Kōkūtai unit diary, Sakai did not fly half of May by 39th Fighter Squadron (35th FG).
any mission on that day, moreover As we can see, the Allies continually replaced
Sakai did not fly a single mission the losses suffered in heavy combat by exPetty Officer pilots of the Tainan Kōkūtai pose at Lae in June 1942. Several
of these aviators would be among the top Japanese aces, including Toshio Ōta
during whole April 1942! It is not change of combat units. The Japanese could not
(middle row, far left, 34 v.), Saburō Sakai (seated next to Ōta, second from
clear what was the reason for Sa- afford such luxury, so Tainan Kōkūtai was forthe left) and Hiroyoshi Nishizawa (standing to the far left, 86 v.).
kai´s absence from combat activity. ced to fight alone and almost without reinforceBut May 1942 was a very different ment over the jungles of New Guinea.
flew 22 combat sorties, his Sakai´s struggle to get better conditions for
part was sent to Rabaul on board of cargo ship
Komaki Maru. From the new air base Tainan Kō- highest monthly total during World War II. Sa- him and his men continued also on New Guinea.
kūtai including Sakai performed first patrols on kai scored his first victories over Port Moresby In these primitive conditions better treatment
March 22, and before end of March Sakai parti- on May 2. Eight Zeros clashed there with seven of officers was even more obvious. Therefore,
Airacobras of the 8th FG and three Kittyhawks Sakai decided to steal food and cigarettes from
cipated in two more missions.
Next stop was Lae airfield in New Guinea, whe- of the No. 75 Sq. RAAF. Sakai scored two P-40s officer´s supplies. He even involved in that his
wingman Toshiaki Honda,
re 4th Kōkūtai was active since March. Fighter shot and one in cooperation.
who was caught and as trapilots of 4th Kōkūtai, including future figh- The Americans with Airacob- “As long as I fly with Sakai,
ditional punishment severely
ter legend Hiroyshi Nishizawa, were officially ras reported four kills. The Ja- I will not be shot down.”
beaten. But commander finally
included in Tainan Kōkūtai on April 1, 1942. The panese, however, lost a single
unit was also transferred under the command Zero and its pilot, PO1c Haruo Kawanishi. When arranged improvement of conditions for enlisthe Japanese fighters returned to base, their ted pilots.
of newly founded 25th Air Flotilla.
Before Tainan Kōkūtai pilots managed to score mechanics found that Sakai had fired 610 rounds Even long after the war Saburō Sakai pointed
against enemy over New Guinea, they became from the guns during the fight, about 200 rounds out that one of his main priorities was to ensure
target. On April 5, PO2c Takuró Yoshi´e was shot per kill. The Japanese reported a total of eight safety of his wingmen. One of them was Honda
down near Port Moresby by Australian pilot victories and one in cooperation. The Allies lost who said, “As long as I fly with Sakai, I will not be
“Les” Jackson, brother of legendary squadron only Australian Sgt. D. W. Munro in the fight. One shot down.” He was probably right. On the day,
commander John Jackson. Both belonged to No. of the Zeros' weaknesses – low speed in dive when this rule was broken, he lost his life. The
75 Squadron RAAF equipped with Kittyhawks. – became obvious during the engagement. The incident occurred on May 13, 1942. Ensign WaThis unit based at Port Moresby was in March Allied pilots easily escaped by diving and the tari Handa (13 victories) asked Sakai to borrow
his wingman Honda for a reconnaissance flight
the single fighter unit in the area. “Old John” Japanese were unable to pursue them.
Jackson managed to motivate and transform his During the very next day, while escorting bom- over Port Moresby. Sakai regarded Watari Hanpilots from a group of newbies to serious adver- bers over Port Moresby, Sakai claimed two da as a very experienced pilot, and therefore did
saries for the Japanese Navy veterans. In April, downed Airacobras from the 8th FG and his not see any reason, why to refuse it. As Handa´s
wingmen flew Petty Officer 3rd Class Honda and
Petty Officer 1st Class Masu-aki Endó (14 victories), the other flight was led by Hiroyoshi Nishizawa (87 v.). Honda protested, but Sakai calmed
him down “Do not worry, he's a better pilot than
I am. Go!” It should be added that, according to
the original version of this interview, Sakai has
silenced Honda in a much stronger way (note
4). Handa´s formation took-off from Lae at 10.15
and around 12.00 the six Zeroes arrived to Seven Mile Drome area at Port Moresby. Japanese
formation claimed one B-26 (that was actually
damaged) and one Airacobra whose pilot bailed
out and later returned to unit. The remaining
seven P-39 pilots from 8th FG were more than
ready for that fight which lasted an impressive
forty minutes. Capt. Paul G. Brown attacked at
One of most epic fights Sakai experienced over New Guinea was engagement on July 22, 1942 against Lockheed Hudson masan altitude of 8,000 feet the Japanese formaterfully flown by P/O Warren Frank Cowan of 32. Sq RAAF. Cowan and his crew perished at the end of spectacular battle. During
tion with an altitude advantage about 500 feet.
1998, Saburō Sakai wrote a letter to the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs, recommending Cowan for a medal, stating:
“I recommend that Pilot Officer Warren F. Cowan be posthumously awarded your country's highest commendation. I have encoun- At the same time the Japanese were attacked
tered many brave pilots in my life but Warren F. Cowan stands alone.” The request was rejected on procedural grounds.
by 1Lt. Elmer F. Ghram. Honda's machine got in
Photo from 1943 shows three Hudsons from No. 6th Sq. RAAF over Milne Bay, New Guinea.