JAPAN (END OF 1944 - 1945)
On December 25, 1944, elite Kōkūtai 343 was re-established at Matsuyama. Sakai was invited to
join this famous unit, but due to his eye defect he
was appointed to Hikótai 701 as training officer.
He performed only two operational flights and
did not participate in any combat encounter.
On March 19, 1945, he witnessed the famous victory of Kōkūtai 343 against US Navy pilots over
Japan, but he was also present on the tragic
death of his friend Shō-ichi Sugita on April 15.
In March 1945, Sakai received “Commander's
commendation” from Admiral Soemu Toyoda,
the commander of the Combined Fleet (Rengō
Kantai), and was transferred to the old Yokosuka
Kōkūtai again on June 26 in exchange for Ens.
In Sakai´s book 'Samurai!' you will find a passage describing how on the night of August 14
to 15 he participated, together with Lt. Kawachi
and other pilots, in shooting down a Boeing B-29
with their Zeroes. This episode is a fiction from
beginning to end and was created by co-authors
of Sakai without giving him chance to review the
text of the book.
Sakai says: ,,What was written in 'Samurai!'
is absolutely a nonsense. I've never flown at
night and no Jiro Kawachi ever existed!" So what
was it like? Two days after the end of the hostilities, on August 17, 1945, four B- 32 Dominators
from 386th BS/312nd BG performed a photo-reconnaissance mission to the area northeast of
Tokyo. Around noon three of the bombers were
attacked by anti aircraft fire and fighters. One
Part of Tainan Kōkūtai diary from August 7. The upper left part contains details of Tulagi as a target and Cdr. Nakajima as leader of the 18 Zero
formation. The upper right part provides milestones of the mission between 7.50 and 15.30 of Japanese time including number of opponents
in the engagement.
Part of Tainan Kōkūtai diary from August 7. The bottom line shows details of Saburō Sakai including remark about three hits in his airplane
and victories over one Grumman and two SBC bombers (sic.).
from the original 80. Commanding officer of Sakai´s unit Capt. Miura decided to order his pilots
to find an American vessel and destroy it by
a self destruction attack.
On July 5 at 16.00, nine Zeroes and eight torpedo bombers were launched against Task Group
58.1 and 58.2. The Kamikaze mission, which was
a personal initiative of commanding officer of
Yokosuka Kōkūtai (i.e. not by higher command),
was complicated by Miura´s orders to fighter pilots – they were not supposed to get involved
in dogfights with the Americans! After passing
through a storm the Japanese formation was
attacked by 17 Hellcats and all the bombers
were shot down.
Sakai ignored orders and quickly sent down one
American in flames. He did not find the target
for self destruction attack, so he turned back
with his wingmen. But he lost direction in the
bad weather. It was again his mother's vision,
which showed him the correct direction of his
The remaining members of the Yokosuka Kōkūtai were transported from Iwo Jima back to
Japan on 6. July on board of a transport plane.
A month later Sakai was promoted to the Ensign
rank .(Wasn't he already promoted to Ensign on
November 1, 1942, while staying at the hospital?)
Part of USS Saratoga war diary with entry about Lt. “Pug” Southerland on August 7, 1942. He came back to his unit several days later after getting
help from Guadalcanal natives.
of the Dominators was attacked by Sakai and
his colleagues from Yokosuka Kōkūtai. After the
war, Sakai was not sure if he piloted a Zero or a
N1K “Shiden”, but according to his own words he
believes he instinctively chose his beloved Zero.
He claimed the Dominator as a damaged one.
Another fighter ace Warrant Officer Ryōji Ohara
(48 v.) also took part in this final battle. At least
two of the flying giants were damaged. One of
them was hit by fighters on the wing and fuselage and disengaged from the combat in a shallow but rapid descent. It was B-32-20-CF “Hobo
Queen II” (42-108532) piloted by Captain James
F. Klein. His crew had several members wounded, one of the men eventually died of injuries.
American crews claimed four kills and three
probables. One day later, on August 18, fifteen
pilots led by Ensign Komachi (18 v.) intercepted
two Dominators over Tokyo. Komachi damaged
the machine of Lt. John R. Anderson of 386th BS.
Shortly after the war Sakai was promoted to
Lieutenant Junior Grade and was discharged
from the Navy. American military occupation
police started to focus on Sakai very soon. Sa-