KITS 06/2023

Kōkūtai 302, Atsugi Base, Japan, August 1945

This aircraft, probably built by Nakajima, bore

dark green paint applied at unit level. Plane was

seized by the Americans at the end of the war at

Atsugi Base, where it was captured on both sides

on a color footage. It bore considerable signs of

wear and one aerial victory marked on the tail.

The Zero was painted black on the underside

of the wing, horizontal stabilizer and elevator.

Kōkūtai 302 was established in 1944 as a unit

dedicated to the defense of Yokosuka Base. Its

1st Hikōtai was armed with Raidens and Zeros,

while its 2nd Hikōtai was armed with single- as

well as twin-engine fighter and bomber aircraft

that were modified for night interception. The

unit specialized in fighting B-29 bombers both

day and night. It was commanded by Capt. Yasuna

Kozono, who had night fighter experience in the

South Pacific when he commanded Kōkūtai 251

(formerly Tainan Kōkūtai) in 1943. He had its J1N

Gekkō (Irving) reconnaissance aircraft fitted with

fuselage-mounted guns that pointed obliquely

upward for night pursuit purposes. He pushed the

same solution, despite opposition from many pilots,

for the Kōkūtai 302. A single fuselage-mounted

gun was also fitted to some Zeros of Kōkūtai 302,

as they were primarily intended for night pursuit.

The YoD-1101 was not equipped with this additional

armament. A Squadron (Buntai) of night-fighter

Zeros claimed to shoot down seven B-29s, four

fighters, one Catalina, and one Privateer.

Kōkūtai 261, Kagoshima airbase, Japan, 1944

This Zero was manufactured by Nakajima with

factory painted dark green paint on the upper

surfaces. The white stripes and bands served

as a quick identification feature but their exact

purpose is unknown. Kōkūtai 261 was established

in June 1943 at Kagoshima Air Base, Japan, and

was given the battle name Tora (Tiger). It was

also referred to as Tora Butai. The identifying

feature of its aircraft was the numerical code

61, or Kanji character for tiger. Unit went through


INFO Eduard

heavy combat with US Navy airmen, primarily in

Central Pacific, but operated briefly also from

Biak Island north of New Guinea. By May 1944, its

aircraft strength was already reduced to half and

in July the unit had to be disbanded due to high

casualties. Some of the remaining members of

the unit were killed in ground combat or aboard

a submarine during the evacuation. The position

of Hikōtaichō was held by Lieutenant Masanobu

Ibusuki, who participated in the attack on Pearl

Harbor and the Battle of Midway on the aircraft

carrier Akagi and served on the aircraft carrier

Shōkaku during the fighting in the South Pacific.

It is possible that Ibusuki achieved from 25 to 30

aerial victories during the war. After the war, he

became the first JSDAF unit commander with

F-86 Sabre jets, reaching the rank of Lieutenant

Colonel, but was killed in January 1957 in

a collision with another F-86.

June 2023