Giretsu Airborne Unit Monument
Itoman City, Okinawa Prefecture
Twelve Type 97 Heavy Bombers (Allied code name of Sally) carrying commandos
from the Giretsu Airborne Unit took off from Kengun Airfield in Kumamoto
Prefecture in the early evening of May 24, 1945. Eight aircraft headed toward
Okinawa's Yomitan (Yontan) Airfield, and the destination for four aircraft was
Kadena Airfield. The entire operation included 136 commandos and 32 pilots and
other aircraft crewmen from the 3rd Dokuritsu Hikōtai (Independent Air
Squadron). The name of giretsu (義烈) means "strong loyalty." Four aircraft had
to return and make forced landings due to engine trouble or other reasons. Only
five of the remaining planes reached Yomitan, and only one of these successfully
landed with the others crashing. The commandos in this one plane destroyed
American planes and supplies at Yomitan Airfield until they were killed.
A monument to the Giretsu Airborne Unit was erected in 1976 at Mabuni Hill,
where there are about 50 monuments in remembrance of those who died during the
Battle of Okinawa. A bronze tablet to the left of the path that leads to the
monument has the following words in honor of the Giretsu Airborne Unit:
Tribute to Giretsu Airborne Unit
Already evening on May 24, 1945, at the Okinawan battleground where there was
a likely defeat, several bombers made an exceptional crash landing at Yomitan
(Yontan) Airfield. Soldiers who were fully prepared for death leapt out of the
aircraft, fired at numerous enemy planes and supplies of fuel and ammunition at
the airfield, and turned it into a scene of chaos. As a result, the airfield
was not operational for three days, and during this period of time our aerial
special attack aircraft achieved great battle results against enemy ships.
In an heroic mission, 113 officers and men of the Giretsu Airborne Unit,
selected from the 1st Raiding Regiment and the 3rd Dokuritsu Hikōtai (Independent
Air Squadron), gave their lives here for an eternal cause.
Believing in those who would continue afterward, they became the foundation
for protection of the Japanese people. We want to provide support to the
spirits of these officers and men.
May 24, 1976
Japan Airborne Association
The back of the bronze tablet has engraved the names of the men of the
Giretsu Airborne Unit who died in battle.
The white plaque on the Giretsu Airborne Unit Monument's front side has
information about the monument. The characters of giretsu (義烈) on the
monument are in the handwriting of Unit Commander Okuyama in his farewell letter.
The monument stone is from Mount Kinbō in Kumamoto Prefecture, from where the
Giretsu Airborne Unit made its sortie on May 24, 1945.
On the right side of the path to the monument there are two paintings, one of
the departure at Kengun Airfield and the
other of a young man of the Giretsu Airborne Unit who is writing his last letter.
Bronze tablet with tribute to Giretsu Airborne Unit
Yomitan Village, about 45 kilometers north of Mabuni Hill, has a white post to mark where the members of the Giretsu
Airborne Unit died in battle at Yomitan Airfield (see photograph below).
Post in Yomitan Village to mark where
members of Giretsu Airborne Unit died in battle
There is an annual memorial ceremony held in front of the
Giretsu Airborne Unit Monument on the Sunday nearest to May 24.
The following last letters were written by a Army Special Attack Corps
Giretsu Airborne Unit member who died in
a special attack:
Mabuni Hill also has the 19th Hikō Sentai Special Attack Monument
16 Army Type 3 Hien Fighter
(Tony) pilots who died in special (suicide) attacks.
The historical information in the first paragraph includes information from pages 96-7 of the following book:
Tokkōtai Senbotsusha Irei
Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai (Tokkōtai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association). 1990.
Tokubetsu Kōgekitai (Special Attack Corps). Tōkyō: Tokkōtai Senbotsusha
Irei Heiwa Kinen Kyōkai.