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Masayoshi Sugihara

Continued Commitment: Main Force for Mainland Decisive Battle (Tsuzuku tōnyū: Hondo kessen e muke shuryoku ni)
Researched and written by Shūji Fukano and Fusako Kadota
Pages 192-4 of Tokkō kono chi yori: Kagoshima shutsugeki no kiroku (Special attacks from this land: Record of Kagoshima sorties)
Minaminippon Shinbunsha, 2016, 438 pages

"Shiragiku Special Attack Unit sorties greatly stimulated the fighting spirit of air groups with operational aircraft in that they realized attacks could be made with even the Shiragiku."

In the last month of the Okinawan air war that continued from late March to June 25, 1945, Shiragiku onboard operational training aircraft along with seaplanes became the core of the Navy's special (suicide) attacks in order to supplement exhausted frontline aircraft. Tokushima Naval Air Group, which made sorties on five occasions from Kushira Air Base as the Tokushima Shiragiku Unit, left this lesson learned from battle (see first paragraph) in the battle details of its operation report.

At Kushira and surrounding Navy air bases, there also were units responsible for conventional aircraft not limited to one-time use in a special attack such as Tenzan torpedo bombers (Allied code name of Jill) and Suisei dive bombers (Allied code name of Judy). The "huge result" of the Shiragiku Unit was that it inspired members of these air groups, "If there are men who are going in such a low-performance aircraft as the Shiragiku, then we must also do it."

The lesson learned in battle was not a result from a strategic or tactical standpoint. By stating too much only the effect on spirit, conversely it attracts attention to the recklessness and meaninglessness of Shiragiku special attacks.

However, even afterward the Navy continued special attacks with their "unreasonable logic." On June 16 just before the end of the Battle of Okinawa, the Navy held an "extraordinary military preparedness meeting" and confirmed about 3,500 usable aircraft would be prepared by the middle of July for use in the upcoming decisive battle for the mainland, and a breakdown of these included 1,440 Type 93 Intermediate Trainers called Akatonbo (Red Dragonfly) (Allied code name of Willow), which were biplanes with wings made of cloth. The next largest number was 400 Shiragiku. Shiragiku together with Intermediate Trainers were positioned as the main force for special attacks to be used in the decisive battle for the mainland.

Masayoshi Sugihara (88 years old, Shinseichō, Kanoya City) was assigned to be a Shiragiku Special Attack Unit member at Tsingtao Naval Air Group in China. He says, "I was told by the squad officer that from today you are in the 'Kikusui Special Attack Unit 33rd Section' and began special attack training. My fellow pilots and I were checking together with a wooden protractor whether a crash attack could be made at a 45-degree angle with a Shiragiku.

Sugihara departed from Tsingtao in early July 1945, stopped at Pohang on the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula, and arrived at a base at Itoshima-gun, Fukuoka Prefecture, in early August. He joined with the Shiragiku aircraft that had come from Miho Base in Tottori Prefecture. He reached the war's end just before going to Kanoya Base where he was to make his final sortie.

In about May 1945, Takeyoshi Inokubo (93 years old, Kumano, Miyazaki City), senior instructor at Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture, was conducting special attack training that used Shiragiku aircraft for Yokaren (Flight Preparatory Training Program) trainees who had just completed the program.

On a certain day, with 60 trainees and instructors lined up before Inokubo, he announced completion of training. The squad leader who came from nearby shouted, "completion of your training is too late," and he suddenly struck them hard.

"He complained that the main point was to take off, and it would have been sufficient to train to the degree that they could crash into an enemy ship, but they were being taught thoroughly to excess about landings. With the decisive battle for the mainland imminent, crewmen training quickly was becoming perfunctory. What a pity for young crewmen."

Shiragiku trainer positioned to be main force of Navy
aerial special attacks in decisive battle for mainland
(provided by Masato Tajiri)

Translated by Bill Gordon
October 2022