Photo: ©Izawa


Continued from issue 04/2023

Text: Jan Bobek

This image was taken in 1943 during a Kōkūtai 802 patrol in the central Pacific. Note the paint wear on both machines. The 60kg bomb armament was standard for patrol

flights against enemy surface vessels and submarines.


INFO Eduard

in campaigns in the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and

Java. In May 1942, Kamikawa Maru participated

in the Japanese landing at Tulagi, took part

in Battle of the Coral Sea, and supported the

landings in the Aleutians.

In August 1942, the Kamikawa Maru air unit was

joined by a fighter Buntai with Rufe aircraft

under the command of Lt. Jirō Ôno, who had

commanded a seaplane unit aboard the cruiser

Chikuma during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Commanding the Kamikawa Maru was Captain

Torahachi Shinoda, who had held that position

since September 1941. The primary mission

of the Rufe pilots was base defense and

reconnaissance. However, they also took on the

role of ground attack aircraft during the fighting

on Guadalcanal.

From the Shortland base near Bougainville, the

Kamikawa Maru´s Rufe seaplanes operated from

September 4, 1942, that very day their pilots

already engaged a reconnaissance bomber B-17

and reported its damage.

The first victory was achieved by two pilots on

September 13. The two Rufes piloted by CPO

Jirō Kawai and W.O. Makio Kawamura took off

from Rekata and were tasked with determining

if Henderson airfield on Guadalcanal was back

in Japanese hands. Although they did not spot

Japanese forces at the base, they encountered

a lone SBD Dauntless from VMSB-231. They

managed to shoot it down and then attacked

ground targets. Both Americans were killed,

one of them, gunner Cpl. Horace B. Thomas who

had survived the Battle of Midway at VMSB-241.

The tables turned the next day when, in the early

morning hours, three Rufes under the command

of Lt.(jg) Masashi Kawashima conducted

another reconnaissance over Henderson Field.

However, they encountered a force of seven

Wildcats from VF-5 under the command of

Photo: Naval History and

Heritage Command

Kamikawa Maru

In response to the Guadalcanal landing and

lacking airfields between that island and the

base at Rabaul, the IJN decided to establish

a seaplane command in the area from August

28, 1942. It was given the name R-Hōmen Kōkū

Butai (abbreviated R-Butai), R being the code

name for Rabaul, i.e., R-Area Air Force. It was

headed by Rear Admiral Takatsugu Jōjima, who

had previously commanded several carriers,

the last being Shōkaku. In late June 1942, he

became commander of the 11th Seaplane Tender

Division, which was the operational part of the

newly formed R-Butai.

The seaplane tenders Chitose (with Pete and

Jake planes), Sanyo Maru (Petes and Jakes),

and Sanuki Maru (Petes) were the first ones

under Jōjima's command. During September,

they were joined by Kamikawa Maru (Rufes and

Petes) and Kunikawa Maru (Petes). These units

were tasked with defending the anchorages at

Shortland and Rekata Bay off Guadalcanal. The

Americans consistently attacked Rekata Bay,

where the Japanese were trying to establish

a base. Its supplies were provided by the

seaplane tenders Akitsushima, Chitose and

Nisshin. The seaplanes from R-Butai could not

stay overnight in Rekata Bay for safety reasons,

so crews flew to this location from Shortland in

the early morning hours.

The Kamikawa Maru was completed as a cargo

vessel in 1936. The Imperial Navy took her

over in 1937 and completed her conversion

to a seaplane tender two years later. After

deployment in war against China she took part

Kamikawa Maru anchored off Amoy (Xiamen), China in July 1939, with a deck load of Kawanishi E7K and Nakajima

E8N float planes. The Kamikawa Maru was completed in 1936 as an ocean liner but was converted to a seaplane

tender a year later and was combat deployed in the aggression against China until the spring of 1941. At the start

of the fighting in the Pacific, her air unit was equipped with E13A1 Jake and F1M2 Pete seaplanes. She was sunk

by USS Scamp on May 29, 1943 approximately 250 miles north-west of Kavieng.

June 2023