Photo: Jeffrey Ethell Collection


Photo: US Naval History and Heritage Command

Photo: US Naval History and Heritage Command

An image of the wreck of the seaplane Rufe from Kōkūtai 802 taken in 1944 at Emidj Island, Juluit Atoll,

in the Marshall Islands. The reddish-brown base paint is visible on the aircraft.

Part of the US enemy aircraft identification manual,

dedicated to the Rufe. It was created using captured


Japanese seaplane base on Dublon Island under bombing attack on the first day of raids, February 17, 1944.

Note bombs falling in lower center, and variety of Japanese planes in the water and on the ground at left.

This was the base used by Rufe seaplans of Kōkūtai 902.

Toshiharu Ikeda, fought against Spitfires on

August 10, 1943 while escorting the crew of

E13A Jake which belonged to his parent unit.

On the route of the patrol flight, they reached

a point about 50 miles off the Australian coast.

An Australian radar operator sent a pair of

Spitfires from No. 452 Sqn RAAF against them,

with F/O “Fred” Young and P/O “Bill” Coombes

at the controls. Early in the engagement, the

Japanese first surprised their opponents with

the maneuverability of their machines. However,

Young eventually managed to shoot down the

Jake which crashed into the water in flames.

Coombes attacked Ikeda, hitting his Rufe in

the central float and fuselage. Although the

float tank caught fire, Ikeda managed to return

to base. He was not injured, but his machine

sank on landing. After the fight, he claimed one

Spitfire as shot down.

By the end of 1943 the unit had achieved 21

victories with the loss of four pilots. In early

1944 it also deployed new N1K Rex seaplanes

in combat, but in March its fighter unit was



INFO Eduard

Pacific and Japan

In March 1943, the fighter unit of the Kōkūtai 802

led by Lt.(jg) Yamazaki moved from Shortland to

Jaluit Island in the Central Pacific. In October

it was integrated into Kōkūtai 902 based

on Truk Atoll. The base was often attacked

by B-24s, but the massive raid (Operation

Hailstone) by American carrier planes on Truk

in the early hours of February 17, 1944, had fatal

consequences. The Japanese radar operators

considered the incoming formation to be their

own bombers, and Japanese naval land-based

and seaplane fighters only took off during the

bombardment. The Japanese lost 81 aircraft

on the ground and 31 were shot down. The

American airmen were impressed by the raid as

if it were a Hollywood movie. Kōkūtai 902 sent

June 2023