18th Otsu Class of Yokaren
(Naval Preparatory Flight
Assorted Thoughts During War
by Kiichi Kawano
Kiichi Kawano established a
Yokaren Museum in 1988 at
his home in Ōita City. He was a member of the Navy's Kamikaze Special Attack
Corps 7th Mitate Unit, which was formed at Kisarazu Air Base in Chiba
Prefecture along Tōkyō Bay on July 25, 1945. The war ended before he made a sortie
on his suicide mission.
Kawano in this article relates incidents with two fellow kamikaze airmen:
Flight Chief Petty Officer Kiyoshi Tanaka, who died in a special (suicide)
attack on August 9, 1945, and Flight Chief Petty Officer Yoshiomi Nishimori, who
died in a special attack on August 13, 1945.
This article comes from pages 318-22 of the Japanese book Yokaren no gunzō: Moto shōnen
kōkūhei no kiroku (Yokaren group: Record of former Navy youth pilots)
edited by Ōita-ken Yūhikai and published in 1995 by Kiichi Kawano.
Enemy Flying Boat Lands on Tōkyō Bay
Tōkyō first experienced B-29 air attacks on March 10, 1945. After that, the
mainland suffered air attacks again and again. On May 25, the whole region of
Tōkyō, Yokohama, and Kawasaki suffered intense bombings by large formations of
B-29s that resulted in heavy damage.
One day in July a crewman from a B-29 shot down by our air defense artillery
fire descended by parachute to Tōkyō Bay. It was right in front of us at
Kisarazu Base just a few hundred meters across the water.
When the air attack warning was announced, everybody had rushed into the air
raid shelter. We young crewmen, like young swallows poking out their beaks from
the nest, gathered at the entrance of the air raid shelter and looked up
anxiously at the skies. We watched intently the course of events of the air
battle with the Gekkō (Irving) fighters that had taken off from Atsugi Base to
intercept the enemy. After the aerial combat had ended, an enemy flying boat
came flying in protected by Grumman fighters. Everyone was surprised when it
landed on the water of Tōkyō Bay right in front of our eyes. Of course, all of
our eyes were fixed on the flying boat. As we were thinking what it would do, the
crew calmly lifted out of the water the American airman who previously had
descended by parachute.
Although it was the enemy, it was a brilliant rescue in which our
military was regarded with contempt. It was an event lasting only a few minutes,
and we could not even take captive the American airman before our very eyes.
Unfortunately what the enemy just did could not help but make us angry.
According to some accounts, if enemy planes did not approach to a very close
distance subject to the limits of our bullets, then it seemed that our
antiaircraft guns in those days could not fire. Also, the antiaircraft guns
seemed to not be able to fire at targets below the horizon.
We were struck for a moment by the landing of this flying boat right before
us just after our fighters withdrew.
When I saw this spectacle before us, I thought deep inside, "Japan has
already lost." Only now can I say this, but at that time, as a member of
the hot-blooded daring group of the 5th Attack Hikōtai (Squadron), I did not say
this to anyone.
Several days afterward on July 25, we all became a special attack unit named
the 7th Mitate Unit, which would make final attacks.
Night Before Special Attack
At the Ōtayama Family quarters, both our seniors in the Otsu Yokaren (Naval
Preparatory Flight Training Program) and we younger airmen were
living in the same lodging.
It was the evening of August 8. My senior in the 15th Otsu Class, Flight Chief Petty Officer Kiyoshi Tanaka, was scheduled to depart the next day, the
9th, on a special attack. He bumped his head against a column in front of me.
Petty Officer Tanaka said, "Kawano, that really hurt."
"The instant you crash is no pain," I said. We laughed together, and that was
finished, but I guessed his feeling. Not able to do anything for that indescribable feeling, I only said, "Tanaka,
since I will soon be going after you, please go before and wait for me."
I was treated especially kindly by Tanaka.
A special attack unit had the fate that death certainly would come with only
the date and time being different. It was often said, "Even the remaining cherry
blossoms will surely fall." Every day aircraft crewmen flew off together with their
Even now after 50 years have passed, this incident at Ōtayama on the night
before the special attack has never left my mind.
My Flight Suit With Prior Squadron
On August 13, the order was given for the 7th Mitate Unit 3rd Ryusei Squadron
to make a sortie on a special attack.
In that 3rd Ryusei Squadron was Flight Chief Petty Officer Yoshiomi
Nishimori, 16th Otsu Class, in the second plane of Section 1.
Petty Officer Nishimori, a few hours before his takeoff, surprised me when he
called me and said, "Kawano, will you swap your flight suit with mine?"
I replied, "Nishimori, what's got into you?"
He said, "On my trip to die I would like to go wearing your new flight suit.
Exchange with me."
Even though while thinking that I also would be leaving for a special attack
in a few days, since it was my senior talking, I said, "Yes, I understand. Let's
swap. Please go while wearing my flight suit." It was arranged that we would wear
each other's flight suit.
Since my own flight suit had become worn, I had gone to the quartermaster's
warehouse and had just exchanged it for a new one. I quickly took it off and
exchanged my flight suit with the one worn by my senior in this squadron before
mine that soon would take off for a special attack.
However, since our own names were written on the inside of each other's jacket,
it felt somewhat strange.
For the two of us destined eventually to cast ourselves into the southern
sea, it probably did not matter at all whatever was inside the flight suits.
Also, I told myself that it would probably be sufficient if we could exchange
them in the next world. I laughed and sent him off.
As for the lives of crewmen, one can say there was a thin line between life
and death, but I never exchanged back the flight suit. Petty Officer Nishimori's
flight suit is now permanently displayed at the current
Yokaren Museum in
Tsuchiura as an item that he left behind.
Now when I think about it, my own flight suit at that time seems to have
become my substitute that departed on a special attack. My body lived a long
time. God has used me and left me to grant requests from the spirits of those
many men who died in battle. I strongly desire peace as I tell future
generations the truths of that disastrous war.
Nishimori, my senior in the Otsu Yokaren, has his body wrapped in my flight
suit at the bottom of the dark, cold southern sea. It gives me somewhat of an
uneasy feeling, but please rest in peace. I really am praying for you.
Translated by Bill Gordon
Kiichi Kawano kindly granted permission for translation and publication of