bat flights. Also the information that Okabe fell
in September 1943 over Bougainville is wrong.
Okabe survived the end of the war at Kōkūtai
The fighter training Sakai received with Saeki
Kōkūtai and on April 9, 1938 he was assigned to
Photo: Shizuo Fukui
The battleship Kirishima at Tsukumowan on May 10, 1937. Sakai was assigned to this ship after he completed basic training.
It was sunk at Guadalcanal in November 1942.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Sakai first served with
the Óita Kōkūtai. At this time, the Chinese conflict was ongoing and like every young fighter
pilot in Japan , he was eager for combat experience. On September 11, 1938, he was assigned
to 12th Kōkūtai, which was using A5M Type 96
"Claude" fighters in mainland China. Finally, Sakai´s task was to confront enemy in air combat.
Sakai achieved his first victory on October 5,
1938 (not May 21, 1939, as stated in his memories). That day, fifteen fighters, under the leadership of Lt Takahide Aioi, took off to perform
Photo: Shizuo Fukui
Saburō Sakai in his Type 96 fighter “3-107” over China.
a patrol over the Chinese city of Hankow. Sakai
flew as Aioi's second wingman. Japanese planes attacked Chinese Polikarpov I-16 fighters.
Sakai left the formation and attacked the ChiThe battleship Haruna photographed in 1934. She was sunk at her moorings on July 28, 1945 and later raised and scrapped
nese all by himself. During the duel that folloin 1946. In 1935, Sakai successfully passed the competitive examinations for the Naval Gunners' School. Sakai served on the
wed, he possibly broke all the rules of aviation
battleship Haruna as a turret gunner.
combat. Still, he managed to get the Polikarpov
down and happily returned without ammunition back to his formation. After landing Lt Aioi
not fulfill his individuality as a sailor and decided to become a fighter pilot. His uncle tried to Funny, isn't it? However, after a short time, yelled at Sakai. "Sakai! You're a damn fool, Satalk to him, but in vain. Sakai was twice rejected no fly at Tsuchiura Air Base could be sure if it kai! It's a miracle you're still alive! I did not see
in my life such a clumsy and ridiculous flying!”
at the entrance exam but was successful in the would see twilight in peace.
third (in June 1936) and was admitted to the 38th Sakai completed his pilot training in Novem- (Samurai!, Page 37). What did Aioi thought when
Pilot Training Class (March to October 1937). ber 30, 1937 as the best student of the year for he met Sakai at the end of the war with the elite
He was one of 70 to be accepted from 1,500 which he received a silver watch from the Em- Kōkūtai 343? By then, Aioi had 10 victories and
applicants. Twenty-five of these graduated as peror. The gift was given to him through Prince Sakai several times more!
pilots. On March 10, 1937 Sakai enlisted in Ka- Fushimi and the ceremony was published in the The Chinese 26th Pursuit Squadron flew to Hansumigaura Kōkūtai and on April 1 conducted his Osaka Mainichi on November 9, 1937. Sakai gra- kow during the day to provide defense against
bombers and intercepted
duated as a carrier pilot, altfirst flight.
Japanese aircraft. The new
In his book, Sakai describes the almost unbe- hough he was never assigned "Sakai! You're a damn fool, Sakai!
lievable brutality of flight school training. Some to aircraft-carrier duty.
It's a miracle you're still alive! I did squadron commander Huang
Han-Wen was seriously
of the methods were tragicomic from today's Among the Sakai classma- not see in my life such a clumsy
wounded and conducted
perspective. For example, recruits were tasked tes was also Kenji Okabe (15 and ridiculous flying!”
a forced landing at the outwith catching as many flies as possible in flight v.), who on May 8, 1942, got
and catching them by the wings without harming eight victories in one combat flight to achieve skirts of the city. He was sent to Hong Kong
them (Samurai!; page 29). The purpose was to performance that was surpassed only by Shō- for medical treatment, but died March 20, 1939,
accelerate conditioned reflexes. Imagine stu- -ichi Sugita. In his memoirs Sakai mistakenly during surgery. Soviet volunteer Lieutenant I. P.
dent pilots running around in a training area, stated that it was seven victories in three com- Podogov was listed as killed on October 5 but