Kamikaze
   Images


Only search Kamikaze Images

 
Yatabe Naval Air Group Pilot Statue and Guard Gate
Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture

Kenichi Watanabe became a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Showa Unit from Yatabe Naval Air Group in March 1945. He and only 13 other Showa Unit members survived the war. In the postwar period he served as chief priest for many years at Entsuji, a Buddhist Temple in Tokamachi City [1], Niigata Prefecture.

Entsuji has three items together in one area in order to remember Yatabe Naval Air Group: a pilot statue, a column from the guard gate, and a stone plaque that lists the names of the 54 men of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Showa Unit.

A metal plaque on the pedestal of the pilot statue has engraved the following words:

We humbly dedicate this monument to those men in our air group who died in battle during the Greater East Asia War. Here are reminders of our friends who gave their lives during the dawn of their youth. Our prayer is that their spirits may rise up and forever bear witness to their sad history.

April 1979
Yatabe Naval Air Group Supporters

A separate stone plaque on the left side of the area dedicated to Yatabe Naval Air Group explains how a column from the former Yatabe Air Base guard gate ended up at Entsuji:

In April 1979, a memorial service took place at Entsuji Temple for the erection of the statue of an airman, which had been the deep desire of Kenichi Watanabe for 35 years after the war's end. Three years later an abandoned old stone column on a street corner in Yatabe Town [2] was confirmed to be part of the guard gate of our air group. It was moved to this location, and its commanding appearance revived as it stands together side by side with the statue.

Yuji Naito

Yuji Naito, one of the Kamikaze Corps Showa Unit members who survived the war, was instrumental in the transfer of the column of the former Yatabe Air Base guard gate. After the end of the war, he started work at Eisai, now a large Japanese pharmaceuticals company. He became President of Eisai in 1966 and Chairman in 1988. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 85.

The Kamikaze Corps Showa Unit plaque at the right side of the guard gate column lists the names of the 40 men who died during World War II and 14 men, including Kenichi Watanabe, who survived to the war's end. A pamphlet on the Kamikaze Corps Showa Unit, available from the temple, lists the names of the 40 men who died during the war as follows:

  • 35 men died from April 14 to May 11, 1945, in special attacks as members of one of the seven Showa Squadrons
  • 2 men died on June 22, 1945, in special attacks as members of the 1st Jinrai Bomber Squadron (apparently they were reassigned after originally being part of the Showa Unit)
  • 3 men died for other reasons
    • one died at airfield when his own bomb fell and exploded while taking off
    • one died after crash landing at Kikaishima when his plane developed engine problems after takeoff
    • one died at airfield


Yatabe Naval Air Group
Pilot Statue

The Yatabe Naval Air Group Monument was erected in 2013 on the grounds of the former Yatabe Air Base in what is now Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Notes

1. Entsuji used to be located in Nakajo Village, which was part of a 1954 merger to became the old town of Tokamachi.

2. Yatabe Town is now part of Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture.