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44th Shinyō Squadron Accident Victims Monument
Setouchi Town, Kagoshima Prefecture

The 44th Shinyō Special Attack Squadron with 50 shinyō explosive motorboats was stationed at Kuji Bay in the south of Amami Ōshima, an island about 130 miles north of Okinawa. During one morning in June 1945, there were two explosions in a shinyō storage tunnel that killed 13 men, including Squadron Leader Miki.

In November 1955, a small monument next to the tunnel where the explosions occurred was erected by Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare to remember the 13 victims from the accidental explosions. The monument's front has engraved the words "Shinyō Squadron Accident Victims Monument," which are now difficult to read with the passage of several decades since the monument's erection. The monument is located west of the village of Kuji and is about a 20-minute walk from the road along a rocky beach.

The 44th Shinyō Special Attack Squadron at Kuji Bay had 178 total members including 6 officers, 50 shinyō motorboat pilots, 29 maintenance workers, 21 headquarters personnel, and 72 other base workers. The squadron had 55 one-man Model 1 shinyō motorboats loaded with explosives for suicide attacks to crash into enemy ships.

The squadron's shinyō motorboat pilots were from the 20th Otsu Class of the Navy's Yokaren (Preparatory Flight Training Program) at Mie Naval Air Group. They were selected in November 1944 from volunteers for pilots of a new weapon. The shinyō motorboat pilots received their training at Kawatana Torpedo Boat Training School in Nagasaki Prefecture. The 44th Shinyō Special Attack Squadron was formed on January 25, 1945.

The shinyō pilots arrived at the Kuji Bay base on March 8, 1945. The shinyō motorboats were hidden in several tunnels that were dug into the base of the mountain next to the bay. A spark apparently caused the explosion in June 1945 in one of the tunnels. Squadron Leader Miki was not there when the first explosion occurred, but he came running to the tunnel to find out what happened, but he was killed in the second explosion.

The 44th Shinyō Squadron pilots ended the war without ever making a suicide sortie against enemy ships.


View toward Kakeroma Island [1] from Kuji Bay near the
44th Shinyō Squadron Accident Victims Monument

Very little remains of the tunnels that used to hide the shinyō motorboats. Most are hidden in the underbrush. Below is one of the remaining tunnels that is mostly filled with rocks.


Shinyō storage tunnel next to Kuji Bay


The historical information on this web page about the 44th Shinyō Special Attack Squadron is from pages 94-5 (written by Masao Iimura, former 44th Shinyō Squadron crewman) of the following book:

Shinyō Association (Shinyōkai), ed. 1990. Ningen heiki: Shinyō tokubetsu kōgekitai (Human weapon: Shinyō Special Attack Corps). Shiro Arai, general editor. Volume 2 of 2. Tōkyō: Kokushokankōkai.

Note

1. Kakeroma Island was the base for the 18th Shinyō Special Attack Squadron. The Toshio Shimao Literature Monument was erected there in honor of the squadron's commander.