unit was incorporated into the 23rd Air Flotilla. The first aircraft assigned were twenty Type 96 Kansen (Carrier Fighter, A5M)

that arrived with Hikōtaichō LT Shingō

Hideki from Hanoi, Vietnam. Shortly after,

forty-five Reisen Model 21 were assigned.

These were distributed equally to form five

Chūtai with four Type 96 Kansen and nine

Reisen in each, with Lieutenants Shingō

Hideki, Asai Masao, Wakao Akira, Kawai

Shirō, and Inano Kiku-ichi as Buntaichō.

The Kawai Chūtai was detached to Palau, taking with it sixteen Type 96 Kansen. These aircraft came from the Shingō,

Asai, Wakao, and Kawai Chūtai. The Kawai

Chūtai aircraft and pilots departed Tainan

on December 1, 1941 aboard Kasuga Maru,

and stopped at Takao, Taiwan to pick up

some additional pilots from 3rd Kōkūtai.

There are no known photos showing how

the Type 96 Kansen were marked at Palau,

but they probably retained their original

Tainan Kōkūtai markings.

The Reisen from the Kawai Chūtai were

redistributed to the other Tainan Kōkūtai

Chūtai. Lt Kawai Shirō’s V-172 with Buntaichō markings was given to the Inano

Chūtai, and was lost when the unit was

flying to join the 22nd Koku Sentai. But,

it had not been repainted before it became

lost due to bad weather, ran out of fuel, and

forced landed on the Luichow Peninsula

in China. This Reisen became the famous

“China Zero” when it was captured, rebuilt,

and used for flight testing. In the photo

Nr. 1, it is still wearing it’s Tainan Kōkūtai

markings, yellow (Kawai Chūtai) fuselage

band and black (4th Shōtai) Buntaichō tail

stripes, but the white with red outline tail

code has been overpainted by the Chinese.

During January 1942 the Japanese began attacking and captured the Bismarck

Archipelago. The Kawai Chūtai left Palau

without their Type 96 Kansen, arriving at

October 2022

Rabaul on January 28 along with three

crated Reisen delivered by Meiten Maru.

They were joined on January 31 by fifteen

Type 96 Kansen of Chitose Kōkūtai under Lt

Okamoto Harutoshi. On February 10, 1942

these units combined to form the 4th Kōkūtai fighter group. While part of the 4th

Kōkūtai, the Kawai Chūtai continued the

use of yellow as the fuselage band color

for Chūtai identification.

The Inano Chūtai, which consisted of four

Type 96 Kansen, fourteen Reisen, and three

Type 98 (C5M) reconnaissance aircraft,

was detached to the 22nd Kōkū Sentai. The

Chūtai flew from Tainan, Taiwan to Saigon, Vietnam on November 26, 1941. Two

of these Reisen were lost during the trip

due to bad weather, as described above. The Inano Chūtai aircraft that joined

22nd Kōkū Sentai retained all their Tainan

Kōkūtai markings, changing only the “V”

in the tail code to “II”. Similarly, the Tokaji

Chūtai from 3rd Kōkūtai, which consisted

of thirteen Reisen and three Type 98 (C5M)

reconnaissance aircraft, was detached to

the 22nd Kōkū Sentai, retained all their 3rd

Kōkūtai markings, changing only the “X” in

the tail code to “II”. The photo Nr. 2 (a still

frame taken from an NHK newsreel film)

shows a Shōtai from the 22nd Kōkū Sentai consisting of a Shōtaichō from the Tokaji Chūtai with a red fuselage band, along

with two wingmen from the Inano Chūtai

with black fuselage bands, flying a bomber

escort mission.

Following the departure of the Kawai and

Inano Chūtai, the strength of the Tainan Kōkūtai was then increased to fifty-four Reisen distributed equally to form six Chūtai

of nine Reisen in each. The redistributed

Reisen of the Kawai Chūtai, along with

some new Reisen, were used to backfill the

slots left by the departing Type 96 Kansen.

Three new Buntaichō were added as well,

Lieutenants Setō Masuzō, Maki Yukio, and

one other. The Tainan Kōkūtai fought in this

form from the Philippines on December 8,

1941 through Bali, Netherlands East Indies

on April 1, 1942.

During this time period, the Tainan Kōkūtai suffered losses, including Buntaichō

Lt Wakao Akira who was KIA at Balikpapan on January 25, 1942 and Buntaichō

Lt Asai Masao who was KIA at Surabaya

on February 19, 1942. These losses were

partially addressed by shifting responsibilities and reassignments of pilots and aircraft between Chūtai. In two particularly

notable examples, the young LtJG Sasai

Jun’ichi assumed the role of Buntaichō, and

Hikōtaichō Lt Shingō Hideki reassigned his

trusted Shōtaichō FPO1c Sakai Saburō to

help improve Sasai’s fighting skills. At this

time, the markings on FPO1c Sakai Saburō’s

Reisen were tail code V-103 (white with red

outline), red (Shingō Chūtai) fuselage band,

and white (1st Shōtai) Shōtaichō tail stripe.

Possibly, if Sakai was allowed to take his

regular aircraft, V-103, with him after being reassigned, the fuselage band Chūtai

color may have been changed to blue.

If this happened, then this is in agreement

with one of the classic representations of

Sakai’s markings.

On April 1, 1942 the Tainan Kōkūtai went

through another major reorganization.

Lt Shingō Hideki and about half of the Tainan Kōkūtai pilots left Bali and returned

to Japan. A new Hikōtaichō, LtCdr Nakajima Tadashi replaced Shingō. The remaining Tainan Kōkūtai flight personnel were

transported from Bali to Rabaul, New Britain aboard Komaki Maru, arriving on April

16, 1942. The Tainan Kōkūtai aircraft were

left behind at Bali, and taken over by 3rd


Post-April 1, 1942, the remnants of the Tainan Kōkūtai combined with the 4th Kōkūtai

fighter group at Rabaul to form the rebuilt

unit and were incorporated into the 25th

Air Flotilla. Thus as part of the 4th Kōkūtai

fighter group, the Kawai Chūtai rejoined the

Tainan Kōkūtai. The Tainan Kōkūtai gained

one of its most well-known pilots from

the 4th Kōkūtai fighter group at this time,

FPO1c Nishizawa Hiroyoshi.

The Tainan Kōkūtai continued to build

strength when the 1st Kōkūtai fighter

Chūtai led by Lt Yamashita Jōji, left the

Marshall Islands to join the unit at Rabaul

INFO Eduard