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Iwo Jima 1st and 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadrons Monument
Iwo Jima (Iōtō in Japanese), Tōkyō Prefecture

The monument to remember the 1st and 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadrons stands atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima to the right of the American monument that commemorates the site where Old Glory was raised on Mount Suribachi by six  marines on the fourth day of the Battle of Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. The plaque in the middle has engraved the following history with the right monument dedicated to the 1st Mitate Special Attack Squadron and the left to the 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadron:

After American forces occupied Saipan Island in June 1944, they deployed B-29s to the same island in October. They planned to bomb the Japanese mainland.

As for our forces, in order to counter this, large Navy and Army aircraft took off from this island from the beginning part of November until near the end of the year. In 11 separate operations, a total of 73 night bombers repeatedly made attacks. With strengthened response measures by the American side, we suffered increasing losses, and in the end 34 aircraft were lost. Associated with this there were extremely heavy losses of crewmen.

During this period the 1st Mitate Special Attack Squadron took off from this island during the morning of November 27. Guided by two Saiun reconnaissance aircraft (Allied nickname of Myrt), 12 Zero fighters carried out a midday shooting against B-29s at Saipan Airfield and struck terror into the hearts of American forces.

In light of the impending war situation, American forces were driven by necessity to capture Iwo Jima without delay. In February 1945, they organized a huge attack force and came to invade the island. Against this, on our side the 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadron achieved a great battle result. Meanwhile, on the island 70,000 men in offensive and defensive forces on both sides continued intense fighting for over a month. One passage in a telegram to Imperial Headquarters stated, "The predominant feature of the fighting is that the enemy is aboveground and our troops are underground." This quotation portrays clearly the condition of the fighting.

When we remember the battle situation in those days as we now stand on this mountain top with a view of four stone monuments and with an overhead view of the signposts that we followed, the history of that battle becomes clear. With many tears we join our hands together in prayer as we remember with a view of the sun setting far away in the sea among the clouds and waves.

The back of the plaque has the monument's erection date of November 1, 1982, by the Association of Iwo Jima.

"Mitate" means "emperor's shield" in Japanese. Several other Navy Kamikaze Special Attack Corps squadrons used the name Mitate.


Monuments on Mt. Suribachi (L to R): Marine Corps Monument
where American flag was raised, 1st and 2nd Mitate Special Attack
Squadrons Monument, and Iwo Jima War Dead Monument

The monument plaque does not give details on the battle results achieved by the two Mitate Special Attack Squadrons. Based on information from Osuo (2005, 45-9), the 1st Mitate Special Attack Squadron took off from Iwo Jima's Chidori Airfield at 8 a.m. on November 27, 1944, and arrived at the airspace over Isley Airfield in Saipan at 1:10 p.m. The strafing attack by the Zero fighters totally destroyed two B-29 bombers and caused major damage to seven other B-29s. All but one of the eleven attacking Zero fighters were shot down by anti-aircraft fire and P-47 Thunderbolt fighters. One Zero left Saipan after the attack but crashed, killing the pilot, when trying to land on Pagan Island, 320 kilometers north of Saipan. On the way to Saipan, the propeller of one of the twelve Zero fighters in the original squadron hit the waves, so the pilot was forced to land on Pagan Island. The squadron was originally named the Saipan Special Strafing Squadron when formed on November 24, 1944, but after the attack the squadron was renamed the 1st Mitate Special Attack Squadron.


View from Mount Suribachi of black sand beach
along southeast side of Iwo Jima where
American forces landed on February 19, 1945

The 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadron took off from Katori Air Base in Chiba Prefecture. The web page on Katori Air Base provides the following history of the 2nd Mitate Squadron:

On February 19, 1945, the same day as the start of the Iwo Jima invasion, the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Mitate Special Attack Squadron was formed from the 601st Air Group at Katori Air Base with 12 Suisei two-seat carrier dive bombers (nicknamed "Judy" by Allies), 8 Tenzan (Jill) three-seat carrier attack bombers, and 12 escorting Zero (Zeke) fighters. The 2nd Mitate Squadron led by Lieutenant Hiroshi Murakawa took off the next morning toward Iwo Jima but returned to base due to poor weather.

In the early morning of February 21, 1945, the 2nd Mitate Squadron took off again from Katori Air Base. After the aircraft refueled at Hachijōjima Island, about 300 km south of Katori, the Japanese aircraft headed toward the American fleet near Iwo Jima. The suicide attacks sunk the escort carrier Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), heavily damaged the carrier Saratoga (CV-3) and cargo ship Keokuk (AKN-4), and slightly damaged the escort carrier Lunga Point (CVE-94) and amphibious ships LST-477 and LST-809. The 2nd Mitate Squadron lost 43 men in attacks that day (20 men in 10 Suisei bombers, 18 men in 6 Tenzan bombers, and 5 Zero pilots). Some aircraft never reached the Iwo Jima area. One Tenzan bomber returned to Hachijōjima due to mechanical problems, and another did not make a sortie from Hachijōjima due to damaged landing gear. Two Suisei bombers got hit by American Grumman Hellcat fighters in the skies near Hachijōjima, but they both made it back to the island airfield. On March 1, 1945, one of these Suisei bombers made a sortie alone from Hachijōjima toward Iwo Jima to make a suicide attack.

Casualties from the attack by the 2nd Mitate Squadron are summarized below:

Carrier Saratoga (CV-3) - 123 killed, 192 wounded
Escort carrier Bismarck Sea (CVE-95) - 119 killed, 99 wounded
Cargo ship Keokuk (AKN-4) - 17 killed, 44 wounded
LST-477 - 9 killed, 5 wounded
Escort carrier Lunga Point (CVE-94) - 11 wounded

Access to Iwo Jima is extremely limited and requires permission from the Government of Japan in order to visit. Each year there is a commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima. The following excerpt from the brochure for the 69th Anniversary Commemoration on March 19, 2014, explains the event's history:

On 19 February 1945, the United States of America and the Empire of Japan met again in conflict on the island of Iwo Jima. During the Battle of Iwo Jima, the Japanese lost 21,570 and United States lost 6,821 and suffered 26,038 casualties.

Forty years later, these nations met again on Iwo Jima, this time to bring together the veterans from this battle in a "Reunion of Honor" and to dedicate a monument in recognition of the sacrifices and lives both nations gave during this engagement.

In 1995, the surviving veterans of the Iwo Jima Association of America and the Japanese IwoTo Association agreed to meet every year on IwoTo to commemorate the occasion with a "Reunion of Honor."

This year marks the 69th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima.


Eight American veterans of Battle of Iwo Jima
at 69th Anniversary Commemoration on March 19, 2014

Source Cited

Osuo, Kazuhiko. 2005. Tokubetsu kōgekitai no kiroku (kaigun hen) (Record of special attack corps (Navy)). Tokyo: Kojinsha.