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Katori Air Base Monument
Asahi City, Chiba Prefecture

Katori Naval Air Base was established in February 1944 with two crisscrossing runways in the shape of an X. On February 19, 1945, the same day as the start of the Iwo Jima invasion, the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps 2nd Mitate [1] 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 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

A monument was erected in 1976 at the site of the former Katori Air Base. A sign to the right of the monument provides the following explanation:

This place has become the remains of Katori Air Base, which was completed in the last stage of the Pacific War. This monument is dedicated to the spirits of young eagles who took off from this base for training or for the battlefield but did not return and the spirits of local residents who died during air attacks. Not just for these people, former comrades from all over the country and local neighborhood volunteers, filled with respect and affection, pray that these spirits rest forever in peace, hope that they will be a foundation for future peace, and erect this monument through our joint efforts. We humbly place the names of these spirits inside the monument.

November 28, 1976
Monument Erection Committee

The Katori Air Base Monument stands in a small park, which also has an SNJ advanced trainer aircraft on display. This aircraft, donated by the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, has no relation to the former naval air base.

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The following sources were used in preparation of this web page: Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Keokuk II (CMC-6); Hata and Izawa 1989, 74; Inoguchi 1958, 129-31; Osuo 2005, 49-54, 226-8; Rielly 2010, 320; Tokkotai Senbotsusha 1990, 328; Warner and Warner 1982, 171-4, 327; Yasunobu 1972, 100-6.

Note

1. Mitate means "imperial shield" in Japanese.

Sources Cited

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy, Naval History and Heritage Command. Web site. <https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs.html> (August 4, 2017).

Hata, Ikuhiko, and Yasuho Izawa. 1989. Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II. Translated by Don Cyril Gorham. Originally published in 1970 by Kantosha in Japanese. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

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

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

Rielly, Robin L. 2010. Kamikaze Attacks of World War II: A Complete History of Japanese Suicide Strikes on American Ships, by Aircraft and Other Means. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai (Tokkotai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990. Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tokyo: Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai.

Warner, Denis, Peggy Warner, with Commander Sadao Seno. 1982. The Sacred Warriors: Japan's Suicide Legions. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Yasunobu, Takeo. 1972. Kamikaze tokkōtai (Kamikaze special attack corps). Edited by Kengo Tominaga. Tokyo: Akita Shoten.