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10th Ko Class Monument to Vanguard of Special Attack Corps
Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture

About half of the 1st Kamikaze Special Attack Unit pilots who died in attacks graduated from the 10th Ko Class of the Yokaren, the Navy's Preparatory Flight Training Program [1]. Surviving members of the 10th Ko Class Association erected this monument in remembrance of the 1st Kamikaze Special Attack Unit, and the unveiling ceremony took place in April 1994.

This monument is located in the cemetery at Shoten Temple in Takarazuka City. Takarazuka Naval Air Group started in August 1944 as a detachment of Shiga Naval Air Group and became an independent air group in March 1945. Takarazuka Air Base, along with several other air bases, had responsibility for Yokaren training in the last year of the war.

The 10th Ko Class Monument to Vanguard of Special Attack Corps has the following inscription:

In the early part of the Showa Period (1926-1989), the Ko Preparatory Flight Training Program (Yokaren) was established with the aim of drastically expanding the Navy's air power. On April 1, 1942, we joined Tsuchiura Naval Air Group as students of the Yokaren's 10th Ko Class. We endured rigorous training, finished the flight training program, and took off for the skies of the Pacific War's decisive battles. In October 1944, a great American task force, including some 30 aircraft carriers, crowded in and around Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. The naval battle off the coast of the Philippines with the Combined Fleet, with Vice Admiral Kurita leading the main force, was the fiercest naval air battle during the Pacific War. At this critical moment of our country's existence, Vice Admiral Takijiro Ohnishi, 1st Air Fleet Commanding Officer, decided there was no other way but to attach 250-kg bombs on Zero fighters to carry out "body-crashing" (taiatari) attacks one by one. On October 19, the formation of a special attack unit was directed by Commander Tamai, second in command of the 201st Air Group. The 24 men who received orders were selected from Zero pilots who were former students of the 10th Ko Class, and they formed the 1st Kamikaze Special Attack Unit.

Ah, this was the vanguard of the Special Attack Corps:

The Japanese spirit is like mountain cherry blossoms, radiant in the morning sun (by Motoori Norinaga). [2]

The names of the four squadrons (Shikishima - poetic name for Japan, Yamato - ancient name for Japan, Asahi - morning sun, and Yamazakura - mountain cherry blossoms) came from this poem, and the Kikusui Squadron was added soon afterward. Searching for the enemy for several days until October 25, each squadron successfully found them. Strong in their conviction of retaliation while praying for the peace and security of their homeland, all planes plunged downward and accomplished great battle results. Young men not even 20 years old, believing fervently in final victory for their homeland, carried out their mission silently and gave their lives in battle as they thought of their fathers and mothers and remembered their hometowns. Of the 1,004 men who graduated in the 10th Ko Class, 80% did not return alive. We erect this monument in order to make known to posterity their noble pure deeds and spirits, to comfort their souls, and to praise their virtue.

The cemetery has a small memorial hall dedicated to the Yokaren's 10th Ko Class. This hall, not open to the public, was built in 1978 and contains mainly photos and a small wooden Kannon (Buddhist goddess of mercy) statue that stands in the back center of the hall. A replica of a Zero fighter is on top of the building.

    

Replica of Zero fighter
on top of memorial hall

Memorial hall with
10th Ko Class Monument
to left of stairs

Notes

1. The table of kamikaze pilot deaths in Tokkotai Senbotsusha (1990, 130-1) indicates that 19 of 39 pilots who died in battle as part of the 1st Kamikaze Special Attack Unit were from the Yokaren's 10th Ko Class.

2. Source of English translation of poem: Inoguchi and Nakajima 1958, 24.

Sources Cited

Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 1958. The Divine Wind: Japan's Kamikaze Force in World War II. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press.

Tokkotai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyoukai (Tokkotai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990. Tokubetsu Kougekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tokyo: Tokkotai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyoukai.