Kōkūtai 452, Kiska island, Aleutians, early 1943
This Rufe got dark green paint at the unit level. The camouflage later showed signs of wear, especially on the wing and on the rear fuselage around the horizontal tail surfaces. The aircraft of this fighter unit successively bore at least four different markings on the tail surfaces, depending on how the unit was designated and subordinated to different commands. Its most successful fighter was the CPO Gi-ichi Sasaki. The native from Miyagi Prefecture joined the Navy in 1937. He became a pilot of two-seat float planes and participated in combat in China. He took part in the conquest of the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies on board of the Mizuho seaplane tender. After its sinking, he was assigned to the Tōkō Kōkūtai in the Aleutians, which was eventually renamed the 5th Kōkūtai and then Kōkūtai 452. He achieved a total of four individual victories – five shared and one aircraft credited shared as probably destroyed. He was killed on February 19, 1943, over Amchitka Island in a dogfight with a Curtiss P-40 pilot.
Seaman 1st class, Takio
Maruyama, aviation unit of seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru, Shortland, September 1942
This plane was early production Rufe with folding wingtips. 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, but by September 1942 she was deployed in the Solomon Islands area with eleven A6M2-Ns and two F1M2s. The main tasks of her airmen were base protection, convoy escorts and also attacks on ground troops on Guadalcanal. In addition to engagements with B-17s and Cactus Air Force pilots, the Kamikawa Maru airmen also got into combat with aircraft from the USS Hornet (CV-8). One of them was Takio Maruyama. He was credited with one victory over a B-17 bomber. The Kamikawa Maru and Maruyama’s performance with the No. 107 aircraft was cited in a letter of commendation by the Commander of the Combined Fleet in September 1942. Maruyama with machine YII-107 was killed on October 10, 1942, in a dogfight with VMF-223 Wildcats while escorting Japanese vessels from the so-called Tokyo Express bound for Guadalcanal. On board the light cruiser Tatsuta was Lt. Gen. Hyakutake.
Faisi-Poporang base, Shortland Islands, February 1943
This aircraft was among the new ones that Kōkūtai 802 took over in Japan during early 1943. At the unit level, the aircraft received a dark green paint and it probably had a late production stencil on the fuselage. The tail sported a horizontal red stripe on the vertical tail surfaces, which was probably the unit’s identifying marking. It is likely that the aircraft took part in the aerial combat on February 13 and 14 during the defense of the Shortland Islands and Buin, in which the American units suffered fairly significant losses. After relocation to the Marshall Islands area in March 1943, Kōkūtai 802, under the command of Lt.(jg) Yamazaki, was primarily engaged in anti-submarine patrols and the pursuit of four-engine bombers. Long-range reconnaissance was carried out by another part of this unit, which was armed with H8K Emily flying boats. In September 1943, the designation of its aircraft was changed to Y4 in connection with the transition to the subordination of the 22nd Kōkū Sentai (Air Flotilla). The identification markings on the tail surfaces of Rufe seaplanes changed from red to white during service in the Marshall Islands. In October, fighter unit of Kōkūtai 802 was integrated into Kōkūtai 902, and in November, the fighter unit clashed with US Navy aircraft during a raid on Truk.
Takuma Kōkūtai, Takuma base, Japan, 1944
This aircraft was originally finished with grey paint on all surfaces. Later, at the unit, it was given a dark green paint job on the upper surfaces. By the time it was in service with Takuma Kōkūtai, the green paint was badly worn, with reddish-brown primer and metal surfaces visible in some areas. The stripe on the fuselage was probably the designation of the aircraft flown by leader of fighter unit. Takuma Kōkūtai was established in mid-1943 to train seaplane crews and it included a fighter unit with Rufe aircraft which was also tasked with training, including dogfight practicing. However, the command envisaged the eventual deployment of Rufe aircraft by this unit for the air defense of Japan. A photograph of a Rufe seaplane from the Takuma Kōkūtai exists, showing the mount of Ensign Kyoshi Suga armed with 30 kg bombs for use against B-29 bombers, but there is no evidence that such a combat deployment occurred. In 1945, part of the Takuma Kōkūtai was deployed on Kamikaze missions. Takuma Kōkūtai was disbanded at the end of the war.
Kashima Kōkūtai, Kashima base, Japan, 1944
This late production aircraft was finished in a factory applied dark green paint. Kashima Kōkūtai was established in 1938 as a training unit for seaplane crews. Her fighter unit, armed with Rufe floatplanes, was deployed several times to fight alongside Katori Kōkūtai airmen in the Home Defence and achieved several fighter and bomber kills. It was probably with this unit that the Hellcats of VBF-12 from USS Saratoga (CV-3) came into conflict around Kashima on February 16, 1945 and the Hellcats of VF-29 from USS Cabot (CVL-28) on March 18. In the first mentioned combat, the American fighters reported five Rufe kills and in the latter encounter claimed four victories. In May 1945, the Kashima Kōkūtai training section was cancelled, and a number of aircraft and crews were deployed on Kamikaze missions. Kashima Kōkūtai was disbanded at the end of the war.