Rabauru Kōkūbuntai, Lakunai airfield, Rabaul, New Britain, second half 1943
This aircraft was finalized with grey paint on all surfaces. On the combat unit level, it was supplemented
with dark green paint, which had peeled off in many
places during operational service. When green paint
was applied in field conditions, it may not have been the
only paint used for Japanese aircraft. At Rabaul it may
have been paint from captured RAAF stocks, or paint
intended for Japanese warships. In the second half of
1943, the markings of fighter units at Rabaul changed,
and numerals ranging from 1 to 9 began to be used,
the assignment of which to individual units has not yet
been reliably determined. Aircraft with these markings
are unofficially assigned to a combat group called
Rabauru Kōkūbuntai (Rabaul Air Force). There are several theories to explain the meaning of these numerical
designations. One is the assignment of numerical codes
to the parts of the fighter units operating in Rabaul at
the time. These were Kōkūtai 201 (code designations
1 to 3), Kōkūtai 204 (4 to 6) and Kōkūtai 253 (7 to 9).
According to this theory, machine 6-171 would therefore
belong to the third Buntai within Kōkūtai 204. But other
explanations are also possible. There is an indication
that the Zeroes filmed in January 1944 at Rabaul with
code 9 on the tail surfaces belonged to Kōkūtai 204.
Ensign Tetsuzō Iwamoto, probably Kōkūtai 253, Rabaul, New Britain, late 1943/early 1944
This aircraft has repainted white trim of hinomaru
on the fuselage and upper surfaces. Tetsuzō Iwamoto was the most successful naval fighter ace with 14
victories from combats over China with 12th Kōkūtai.
As a member of fighter unit of HIJMS Zuikaku during
the Pearl Harbor attack he took part patrol the vicinity
of the carriers during first wave. In 1942, he took part
in battles in the Indian Ocean and Coral Sea with his
plane EII-102. From the summer of 1942 he served as
an instructor in Japan. From March 1943, he participated in patrolling in the Kuril Islands with Kōkūtai 281.
In November he was transferred to Rabaul to Kōkūtai
204 and later to Kōkūtai 253. At that time he used machines number 102 and 104. It is possible that machine
number 7-104 is his personal mount. In February 1944
he participated from Truk Atoll in the interceptions
of B-24 bombers. In June 1944 he was transferred to
Japan and from the autumn of that year as member
of Kōkūtai 252 he he took part in battles from bases
in Taiwan and the Philippines. By the end of the war,
he was serving with Kōkūtai 203 and participated in
the battle for Okinawa. He achieved rank Lieutenant
(junior grade) and passed away in 1955. Iwamoto
is credited with 80 victories, but in his war diary,
there were 202 successful attacks on enemy aircraft
recorded by him.
Lt. Cdr. Saburō Shindō, Kōkūtai 582, Buin airfield, Bougainville Island, June 1943
This plane with factory applied green camouflage and
long cannon barrels was personal mount of Lt. Cdr. Shindō. He was born in 1911 and graduated from the Naval
Academy in 1929. He was assigned to the Ômura Kōkūtai
in 1935 and a year later went to the aircraft carrier Kaga.
In 1940, he served in China with the 12th Kōkūtai during
combat trials of the A6M2 fighter. Under his command,
the first combat engagement occurred on September 13,
resulting in 27 victories without loss. In November 1940,
Shindō was transferred to the 14th Kōkūtai in Hanoi.
From April to December 1941 he was the Buntaichō of
the Akagi fighters, but had to be hospitalized after the
attack on Pearl Harbor. During the Pearl Harbor attack
Shindō led fighter escort of thirty-six Zeros in the second
wave. After recovering, he was appointed commander of
Tokushima Kōkūtai in April 1942. From November 1942,
as Hikōtaichō at Kōkūtai 582, he was involved in the
fighting over Guadalcanal. From July 1943, he was
Hikōtaichō with the Kōkūtai 204 in the same area. In late
1943 and early 1944, he led fighters of the aircraft carrier Ryūhō and later served with Kōkūtai 653 and 203
in the defense of Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan.
At the end of the war, he was Hikōtaichō at Tsukuba
Kōkūtai. Shindó-san passed away in 2000.