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
were commanded by Lt Kiku-ichi Inano in frame
of 22nd Air Flotilla participating in the campaign
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
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.
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
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