KITS 08/2023

c/n 3028, Tainan Kōkūtai, Buna airfield, New Guinea, August 1942

This aircraft, released by Mitsubishi on June 28,

1942, was assigned to Lt. Inano, commander of

Buna detachment of Tainan Kōkūtai. It was donated

by citizens of Hongwon County in North Korea,

captured by Allied units at Buna on December 27,

1942 and selected for further evaluation as well

as rebuild. Allied personnel at Eagle Farm Field

built a flyable A6M3 Zero using parts of three

Zeros transported from Buna Airfield. Inano’s

surname was originally Takabayashi, but he

changed that before mid-1941. In late November

1941, smaller part of Tainan Kōkūtai under his

command was transferred to French Indochina

and temporarily became part of 22. Kōkū Sentai

HQ fighter squadron. Lt. Inano returned to Tainan

Kōkūtai in July 1942 to participate in combat over

New Guinea and Guadalcanal. From January 1943

he was involved in evaluation of weapons for new

naval aircraft. From October 1944 he served as

Hikōtaichō of Tainan Kōkūtai (II) in Taiwan.

c/n 3305, Kōkūtai 204, Buin, Bougainville island, January 1943

This aircraft was manufactured by Mitsubishi,

probably on November 25, 1942. The radio equipment

has been dismantled due to weight reduction. At the

same time, it was equipped with long-barrel guns

and a later type rudder trim that could be operated

from the cockpit. Previously known aircraft of this

unit with yellow fuselage markings had identification

numbers of values under 148. The wreckage of this

aircraft was recovered by the Allies in May 1944 off

Kolombangara Island. The camouflage and markings

would indicate that its pilot was leader of Chūtai of

Kōkūtai 204 in early 1943. The first candidate could

be Lt. Tatenoshin Tanoue, who was shot down in

a dogfight with Wildcats from VMF-121 on January

15, 1943, while covering a convoy. However, the

crash site is too far from the area where combat

took place. The pilot of the aircraft may have been

a Lt(jg) Kiyoharu Shibuya, who was lost on January

23, 1943, in dogfight with the Wildcats of VMO-251

while escorting the cargo vessel Toa Maru 2 and the

destroyer Oshio.

Warrant Officer Matsuo Hagiri, Rabaul, New Britain, July 1943

This aircraft was painted in green camouflage

applied in field conditions and had radio equipment

removed to reduce weight. Kōkūtai 204 appears to

have been the only unit in the area to apply green

field camouflage plus white outline of Hinomaru

on fuselage and upper wing surfaces. Its pilot was

Matsuo Hagiri. He was born in 1913 in Shizuoka

Prefecture and served with the Yokosuka Kōkūtai

from 1935. In 1937 and 1938 he served on the aircraft

August 2023

carrier Sōryū and took part in battles in China. In

1940, he was among the pilots of the 12th Kōkūtai

who first tested the Zero in combat conditions. In

the raid on Chengtu on October 4, 1940, he was one

of four pilots who landed at an enemy base and set

its equipment afire. More to it, Hagiri shot down

three Chinese fighter aircraft after take off from

the burning enemy base. After further service with

Yokosuka Kōkūtai, including tests of the Raiden and

Zero Model 32, he was assigned to Kōkūtai 204 in

July 1943. In a dogfight on September 24 over Vella

Lavella, he managed to score two victories, but

suffered injuries himself and had to be transported

to Japan. In April 1945, he was wounded again, this

time in combat against a B-29. In all, he achieved

13 victories. After the war, he became a Fuji City

Councilor and a member of the Shizuoka Prefectural

Council. He died in January 1997.

INFO Eduard