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Mabalacat West Airfield Monument
Clark Freeport Zone, Philippines

The first Japanese kamikaze pilots led by Lt. Yukio Seki took off from Mabalacat West Airfield on October 21, 1944. They returned to base after they could not locate any enemy ships.

On October 25, 2004, the monument at Mabalacat West Airfield, sometimes now called Kamikaze West Airfield, was unveiled in a special ceremony attended by both local Filipinos and visitors from Japan.

Daniel Dizon [1], a local historian and artist, argued since the 1960s that Mabalacat should do something to remember the Japanese Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. The first monument in Mabalacat Town to the Kamikaze Corps was erected in 1974 at the former site of Mabalacat East Airfield. However, this monument was buried nearly completely in ash from the 1991 eruption of nearby Mount Pinatubo. In 2000, a wall with the Japanese and Philippine flags was erected at the same site as the original monument at Mabalacat East Airfield. In October 2004, a kamikaze pilot statue was unveiled in front of the wall.

The Mabalacat West Airfield Monument has the same inscription in Japanese as the original monument built at Mabalacat East Airfield: "Airfield where Kamikaze Special Attack Corps aircraft first took off in World War II." The west airfield was the actual location from where the first kamikaze squadron led by Lt. Yukio Seki took off on October 21, 1944. However, it was impossible to build a monument there for many years since Clark Air Base, a US military installation until 1991, used the area of the former Mabalacat West Airfield as an ammunition dump.

The monument displays flags of both the Philippines and Japan. The left side has a plaque in English with a history of the Kamikaze Corps at Mabalacat, and the right side has a plaque with the same basic history in Japanese. The English sign reads as follows. This web page includes typographical mistakes on the sign, and some of these are explained in notes at the bottom of the page.

First Kamikaze Airfield of World War

This spot is the western end of Mabalacat West Airfield - the very first kamikaze take-off airfield of World War II. The very first kamikaze unit of the war was organized in the Mabalacat, Pampanga on 20 October 1944 by Vice Admiral Ohnishi Takijiro among the 23 flyers of the 201st Air Group, 1st Air Fleet, IJN. Then stationed in the said town, it was named the "Shimpu Special Attack Corps", and was commanded by Lt. Seki Yukio.

The first kamikaze force was subdivided into four units, namely the Shikishima Unit, the Yamato Unit, the Asahi Unit and the Yamazakura Unit. The first kamikaze force consisted initially of 13 pilots and were ceremoniously inducted by V. Adm. Ohnishi himself at this airfield at about 3 p.m. on the said date.

The very first official kamikaze attack sortie of World War II took-off from this airfield at 9 a.m. on 21 October 1944 when Lt. Seki, leading the Shikishima Unit, composed of five bomb-laden "Zero" fighters, flew-out and headed for U.S. Naval targets reported deploying at Philippine eastern seas. The unit was unable to locate targets and had to return by landing at the Mabalacat East Airfield - the air group's landing airstrip. For the next three days the Shikishima Unit took-off from the West Airfield to attack U.S. warships but due to bad weather it was unsuccessful. Finally, at 7:25 a.m., on 25 October 1944, the Shikishima Unit took-off from the Mabalacat East Airfield and at 10:52 a.m. hit U.S. targets near Tacloban, Leyte. Lt. Seki hit first and sank the carrier USS Saint Lo. His men also hit and heavily-damaged the carriers: USS Sangamon, USS Suwanee [2], USS Santee, USS White Plains, USS Kalinin Bay and USS Kitkun Bay. Some kamikazes from Cebu and Davao also joined in this successful attack.

Lt. Seki's men were, FC/FPO [3] Nakano Iwao, FC/FPO Tani Nobuo, C/FSS [4] Nagamine Hagime [5] and S/FSS [6] Oguro Shigeo. Their initial success popularized kamikaze tactics to the majority of Japanese pilots in the Philippines, Taiwan, Okinawa and Japan.

The last kamikaze sortie from this airfield took-off at 4:45 p.m. [7] on 06 January 1945 and attacked the U.S. landing armada at Lingayen Gulf. They were five "Zeroes", led by a Lt. [8] Nakano. His men were: W/O [9] Goto, W/O Taniuchi, W/O Chichara [10] and Lt. (jg.) Nakano [11]. Other kamikazes from Angeles and Echague joined in this attack [12]. Sunk was the USS Long. Heavily damage [13] were: USS New Mexico, USS California, USS Louisville, USS Minneapolis, USS Columbia, USS Allen M. Sumner, USS Walke, USS O'Brien, USS Southard and USS Brooks.

Kamikaze West Airfield sign.
In background, monument at left and
air raid bunker near center of photo.

 

At dawn on 08 January 1945, the last flight from this airfield took-off when two evacuation planes loaded with classified kamikaze documents and personnel made a low flying escape to Taiwan [14]. All other pilots and ground crewmen who were left behind fought to the last man as infantrymen for the defense of the entire Clark Field Complex against attacking U.S. Army forces. On 26 January 1945 this airfield finally fell into American hands.

By the end of World War II, the kamikaze sunk and heavily-damaged 322 U.S. Navy vessels, killed 12,300 American sailors and 36,000 others were seriously wounded. Out of 13,022 kamikaze warriors, 4,600 died in action [15]. The Japanese kamikaze of World War II was the largest military suicide organization in all the annals of war history. It was instituted as a last desperate measure for the defense of homeland Japan from foreign invasion. The visitor is respectfully requested to say a prayer for the eternal repose of the souls of all kamikaze and American war dead and for lasting peace and friendship throughout the world.

A Project of Clark Tourism & Cultural Affairs Office
Clark Development Corporation

Researcher:
Daniel H. Dizon
Villa Gloria, Angeles City
Tel (045) 322-4176

The hill to the right of Mabalacat West Airfield Monument contains a tunnel in which visitors can enter. A sign put up in 2002 describes the tunnel history:

Air Raid Bunker
A Known Kamikaze Tunnel

Situated at the northwest corner of the Kamikaze west airfield in a hill called "babang dapu" (alligator's jaw) named by the Aytas. This is the only known Kamikaze tunnel that remained intact after World War II.

It was constructed quickly as an air raid bunker for Tamai Asaichi, commander of the 201st Air group, 1st Air Fleet, Imperial Japanese Navy, the very first Kamikaze unit of World War II. It was constructed in late October 1944 and provided protection for Commander Tamai and some of his Kamikaze pilots during deadly U.S. air raids.

The sign has a photo with the caption: "The Commander of Japanese Air Force in Clark addresses a group of pilots."

There was also a color sign put up in 2002 near the road, but this no longer stands in 2009. The sign had the following history:

Kamikaze West Airfield

This airfield was constructed by the Japanese in March 1944. By October 1944, it was operating as the West kamikaze air field during World War II. It was here where the first Kamikaze pilots took-off on 21 October 1944 to attack U.S. naval forces east of the Philippines. This airfield was used by the Kamikaze up to 10 January 1945 when they transferred to Taiwan [16]. On 28 January 1945, American liberation forces captured this airfield as well as the whole of Clark Field.

The bottom part of the sign showed a photo of the arrival of Vice Admiral Takijirō Ōnishi at the West Airfield.


Daniel Dizon (left) and Mabalacat tourism official (right) at
unveiling of Mabalacat West Airfield Monument on
.October 25, 2004. His Eminence Ekan Ikeguchi, a Buddhist
bishop from Japan (shown directly behind Daniel Dizon),
 offered prayers at the unveiling ceremony. [17]

Notes

1. In Dizon's autobiography (2007, 216-52), he describes in detail his many years of efforts to do something to remember the kamikaze in the Philippines.

2. The correct spelling is Suwannee rather than Suwanee.

3. FC/FPO means Flight Petty Officer 1st Class.

4. The "FSS" in the infrequently used abbreviation of C/FSS may mean "Flight Superior Seaman." Nagamine's rank was hikō heichō (Tokkōtai Senbotsusha 1990, 130), which Hata (1989, xiii) translates as Flight Leading Seaman.

5. This should be Hajime rather than Hagime.

6. The "FSS" in the infrequently used abbreviation of C/FSS most likely means "Flight Superior Seaman." Oguro's rank was jōtō hikōhei (Tokkōtai Senbotsusha 1990, 130), which Hata (1989, xiii) translates as Flight Superior Seaman.

7. Inoguchi (1958, 219) and Osuo (2005, 171) indicate the actual time as 1655 rather than 1645.

8. Most Japanese sources (Hara 2004, 165; Osuo 2005, 171; Tokkōtai Senbotsusha 1990, 142) show Nakano's rank as Ensign. Osuo (2004, 41) inconsistently indicates earlier in his book that Nakano was a Lieutenant Junior Grade. Inoguchi (1958, 112) is the only source to give Nakano's rank as Lieutenant as indicated on the monument plaque.

9. Inoguchi (1958, 112) gives the rank of Goto, Taniuchi, and Chihara as Warrant Officer. However, Hata (1989, xiii) translates their rank of jōtō hikō heisō (Tokkōtai Senbotsusha 1990, 130) as Flight Chief Petty Officer.

10. This name should be Chihara rather than Chichara (Hara 2004, 165; Osuo 2005, 171; Tokkōtai Senbotsusha 1990, 142).

11. This name should be Nakao rather than Nakano (Hara 2004, 165; Osuo 2005, 171; Tokkōtai Senbotsusha 1990, 142).

12. Inoguchi (1958, 219) states that Angeles and Echague were the bases from which other kamikaze planes sortied on January 6, 1945. However, other Japanese sources (Hara 2004, 165-6; Osuo 2005, 170-3) do not indicate any kamikaze sorties from Echague Airfield on that date but do state that sorties were made from Angeles and other Navy airfields such as Nichols.

13. Warner (1982, 325-6) has a slightly different list of ships that suffered extensive damage or heavy casualties on January 6, 1945: New Mexico, Louisville, HMAS Australia, Columbia, Allen M. Sumner, Walke, and Brooks. Warner lists California, Minneapolis, Newcomb, Richard P. Leary, O'Brien, and Southard as being damaged but not seriously.

14. This evacuation is described in Inoguchi 1958, 116-7.

15. The total of Navy Kamikaze Special Attack Corps members who died in action is 2,525 men (Shirai 2002, 22), although other sources have slightly different totals. There were also 1,432 Army Special Attack Corps members who died in aerial suicide attacks (from Tokkōtai (Special Attack Corps) Commemoration Peace Memorial Association plaque in front of Yasukuni Jinja Yūshūan in Tokyo, total includes 88 men of Giretsu Airborne Unit), although other sources have slightly different totals. It is unclear how Dizon arrived at 4,600 kamikaze pilots who died. The source of a total of 13,022 "kamikaze warriors" is also unclear, although numerous members of the Special Attack Corps survived the war with most never participating in a suicide mission.

16. This statement contradicts information on the monument plaque that states, "At dawn on 08 January 1945, the last flight from this airfield took-off when two evacuation planes loaded with classified kamikaze documents and personnel made a low flying escape to Taiwan." The date of January 10 may have come from Inoguchi 1958, 105, which states that Vice Admiral Ohnishi evacuated from Clark Field, near Mabalacat Airfield, on that date.

17. Fumiko Hattori kindly provided this photo of the 2004 unveiling ceremony.

Sources Cited

Dizon, Daniel H. 2007. Firipin shōnen ga mita kamikaze: Osanai kokoro ni kizamareta yasashii nihonjintachi (Kamikaze seen by Philippine youth: Kind Japanese individuals engraved in my young heart). Tōkyō: Sakuranohana Shuppan.

Hara, Katsuhiro. 2004. Shinsō kamikaze tokkō: Hisshi hitchū no 300 nichi (Kamikaze special attack facts: 300 days of certain-death, sure-hit attacks). Tōkyō: KK Bestsellers.

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: Naval Institute Press.

Inoguchi, Rikihei, and Tadashi Nakajima, with Roger Pineau. 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)). Tōkyō: Kōjinsha.

Shirai, Atsushi. 2002. Tokkōtai to wa nan datta no ka (What were the special attack forces?). In Ima tokkōtai no shi o kangaeru (Thinking now about death of special attack force members), Iwanami Booklet No. 572, edited by Atsushi Shirai. Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten.

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