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Kikaijima Naval Air Base Monument
Kikai Town, Kagoshima Prefecture

The Navy constructed an airfield in 1931 on Kikaijima, a small island about halfway between Kyushu and Okinawa. The naval air base, in the same place as the current Kikai Airport, was on the southwest end of the island.

Although Kikaijima was a naval air base, the Army also used the base during the Battle of Okinawa due to its strategic location. There were 19 Navy Kamikaze Special Attack Corps members who died after taking off from Kikaijima [1], and the Army also had 23 special (suicide) attack pilots who made sorties from the air base on Kikaijima [2].

In 1994 a monument was erected to remember the Kikaijima Naval Air Base and the men associated with the base who were killed in battle. A plaque to the right of the monument provides the following history:

Kikaijima Naval Base was expanded and improved in 1944 as a crucial frontline base for the country's defense. In July, the Navy's Iwao Unit was permanently stationed at the base.

In the following year of 1945 after the landing of the American forces on Okinawa, Kikaijima Air Base made huge contributions as a strategic base of the highest importance for carrying out the war. While receiving heavy bombing attacks day and night by American military aircraft, the base serviced and sent off tokko (special attack) aircraft.

However, during that time there was also a great number of persons who lost their lives during the war. These include first the brave young heroes who took off cheerfully toward Okinawa and undertook missions where they went far away and never returned. They also include Iwao Unit members who were killed while preparing special attack aircraft to make sorties or while manning gun batteries to provide air defense.

Here at the 50th anniversary of the base's opening we erect this monument to honor the memory of those war dead and to pray for everlasting peace.

1994
Former Naval Air Base War Dead Monument Planning Committee

The monument stands near the fence for the runway of Kikai Airport with the sea a short distance away


Kikaijima Naval Air Base Monument
with Kikai Airport runway in background
beyond road just behind the monument

The sign below tells the story of tokko (special attack) flowers that bloom around the airport. It used to stand by the current Kikai Airport runway near the Kikaijima Naval Air Base Monument, but a typhoon destroyed it.


Former sign near Kikai Airport about tokko flowers

The above sign can be translated as follows:

On Kikaijima, "tokko flowers" (Japanese name of tennningiku) hand down the story of the war's misery from generation to generation.

Every year they continue to bloom with flowers that have a message of peace. During World War II (Pacific War), there was a naval air base on Kikaijima. It was a tokko (special attack) transfer base to the Okinawan frontline. The farewell flowers given to young airmen who took off to the battlefront were "tokko flowers." Let's take good care of them.

Kikai Town

Photographer Chiho Nakata wrote the following two books about the tokko flowers that bloom around Kikai Airport:

Even after Nakata's research for the two books, she does not come to any firm conclusions on the origins of these flowers near Kikai Airport.

Notes

1. This number is from an exhibit at Kanoya Naval Air Base Museum.

2. Chiran Tokkou 2005, 69

Source Cited

Chiran Tokkou Irei Kenshou Kai (Chiran Special Attack Memorial Society), ed. 2005. Konpaku no kiroku: Kyuu rikugun tokubetsu kougekitai chiran kichi (Record of departed spirits: Former Army Special Attack Corps Chiran Base). Revised edition, originally published in 2004. Chiran Town, Kagoshima Prefecture: Chiran Tokkou Irei Kenshou Kai.