Photo: U.S. Air Force photo via Wikimedia Commons.


Pilots of No. 75 Squadron RAAF at Port Moresby walk from their aircraft in August 1942. Identified, left to right: Flight Lieutenant

Lex D'Arcy Winten, Squadron Leader Les D. Jackson, Flight Lieutenant J. W. W. Piper and Flying Officer Peter Addison Masters.

became subject of criticism from officers. But it

did not stop him to steal some pigs from locals

later on! He also got access to supply of kanaka

tobacco with some content of opium. That was

already too much for young officer Sasai and

they had an argument about it.

On the morning of December 8, Japanese naval

air units attacked US airfields in the Philippines.

Take-off was, however, delayed by bad weather. Therefore, the take-off took place as late

as 10.00 am. The mission was focused against

the Philippine bases Clark Field and Del Carmen

performed by 25 twin-engine Nells from 1st Kōkūtai and 27 Betty bombers of Takao Kōkūtai

with escort of 36 A6Ms from Tainan Kōkūtai.

Navy airmen had lost the opportunity to attack

the enemy in the Philippines first, because already at 7.00 am army bombers of 8th and 14th

Hikó Sentai bombed the Tuguegarao and Baguio

bases. During flight from Formosa one Nell

bomber and two Zeroes separated from Sakai´s

formation due to engine problems and returned

Photo: SDASM

were commanded by Lt Kiku-ichi Inano in frame

of 22nd Air Flotilla participating in the campaign

in Malaya.

Sakai was named as a Shótai leader (Shótaichó,

leader of flight with three aircraft), which was

remarkable due to fact he was only Petty Officer. But there were several other Petty Officer

pilots in Tainan Kōkūtai with similar privilege,

apparently due to lack of officers and large

number of unit´s flying personnel before the

outbreak of Pacific war. Sakai was also named

training leader of Lt JG. Jun-ichi Sasai, who graduated in November 1941. Although Sasai (future

ace with 27 victories) was an officer, he was one

of those who were willing to break barriers between officers and airmen with lower ranks. He

even became friend of Sakai.

There was a strict barrier in Japanese Navy between officers and lower ranks personnel. This

barrier was present in all aspects of military

life, including food. Not only in case of separated area for dining, but also food quality, supply

of alcohol and tobacco. And that was something

that was irritating to Sakai. In order to improve

food supply, he stole a chicken from local inhabitants. The case was quickly solved and Sakai

Photo: AWM

Heroic battle of Capt. Kelly´s B-17 crew againt overwhelming

number of Tainan Kōkūtai fighters is one of top stories from

start of Pacific war. This painting of Capt. Colin P. Kelly, Jr.,

displayed in the Air Power Gallery at the National Museum

of the U.S. Air Force, was painted by Deane Keller of Yale


Photo of Brewster Buffalo in Dutch national markings, probably photographed still in USA before delivery to Royal Netherlands

Air Force. Saburō Sakai fought several times against Dutch airmen in early 1942.

May 2022

back earlier. The Japanese formation arrived

under the command of Lt Shingo over Clark

Field at 13.30.

Bombers dropped their bomb load on the airport and Shingo's pilots accompanied them

for another ten minutes on a return flight.

Then they turned back and carried out a series

of strafing attacks on American machines at

the Clark Field. Sakai with his wingmen, Petty

Officer 3rd Class Toshiaki Honda and Petty Officer 2nd Class Kazu-o Yokokawa, destroyed two

parked Boeing B-17s and then attacked the five-member group of Curtiss P-40. Sakai managed

to shoot down one Curtiss and the victory was

confirmed by Honda.

His victim could be Lt Sam Grashio of 21st Pursuit Squadron, who led another five P-40s over

Clark Field. He was attacked by two Zeroes (Sakai and Honda?) and a cannon projectile went

through the left half of his wing, leaving a huge

hole. However, Grashio managed to escape in

the dive.

On December 8, 85 fighters of Tainan and 3rd

Kōkūtai claimed a total of 23 certain, 2 probable victories and 1 airplane forced to crash (C.

Shores does not even mention Sakai's victory).

On the ground, they destroyed about 80 aircraft

(C. Shores reports 47). A record long-distance

flight of 1200 miles made by pilots of both fighter

Kōkūtai during their flight from Formosa to the

Philippines and back, became a routine matter

during the following days.

Two days later, on December 10, 1941, Tainan Kōkūtai made cover for the landing in Vigan. The

vessels were attacked by a lone Boeing B-17

from 19th Bomb Group piloted by Capt. Colin P.

Kelly Jr. The bomber was intercepted by several

pilots of 1st and 2nd Chútai of Tainan Kōkūtai.

At last near Clark Field it began to burn, and

Kelly ordered his crew to bail out; the aircraft

INFO Eduard