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Osamu Yamada

Special Mission: Symbolic of "Irresponsibility" in Upper Ranks (Aru tokumei: Jōsōbu no "tekitōsa" shōchō)
Researched and written by Shūji Fukano and Fusako Kadota
Pages 171-3 of Tokkō kono chi yori: Kagoshima shutsugeki no kiroku (Special attacks from this land: Record of Kagoshima sorties)
Minaminippon Shinbunsha, 2016, 438 pages

Osamu Yamada (92 years old, Mizuho Ward, Nagoya City), who was serving as a training officer at Fukuyama Naval Air Group in Ōtsuno Village in Hiroshima Prefecture (now Fukuyama City), was named as a member of the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Kotohira Reconnaissance Seaplane Squadron on April 1, 1945.

The Fukuyama Air Group originally was a training air group like the Amakusa Naval Air Group in Kumamoto Prefecture that trained two-man seaplane pilots. The same Type 0 Observation Seaplanes and Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplanes (Allied code names of Pete and Dave, respectively) were planes also used for special (suicide) attacks.

On May 5, 1945, the Kotohira Reconnaissance Seaplane Squadron became part of the 12th Air Flotilla of the 5th Air Fleet, and it was decided that 12 Type 0 Observation Seaplanes would make up Kutai (Sections) 1 to 3 and 8 Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplanes would make up Kutai 4 and 5. Yamada says, "Since I was senior officer, I was thinking that I would be Kutai 1 Commander and crash first into an enemy ship." He was told, "you will be responsible for the old and difficult-to-pilot Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplanes," and he became Kutai 5 Commander.

Yamada, who moved to Amakusa Air Base on May 20, received orders for a special mission. That was to find a candidate for a required transit base in order that Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplanes could reach Okinawa.

The distance between Amakusa and Okinawa is 730 kilometers (450 miles). The Type 0 Observation Seaplanes, even though they each carried a heavy bomb, could just make the flight, but it was thought that it would be difficult for Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplanes to reach Okinawa and that they would need a transit base to refuel. The previous transit base was Koniya at Amami Ōshima, but lately there had been continuous air attacks by American military.

Yamada actually flew over the Nansei Islands in a Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplane and searched for a place that could be used. He soon was pursued by a three-plane formation of American Grumman F6F fighters. He fled to the shadows in the mountains of Kuchinoerabu Island and escaped danger. He says, "I really felt the difficulties in reaching Okinawa with a low-speed seaplane."

In the end, an appropriate transit base was not found. I do not know if this was the reason, but during the period of the Okinawa aerial special attack operations (Kikusui Operations), not one Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplane was used in a special attack, and Yamada also survived. From June 25 to 28, 1945, after the end of fighting on land at Okinawa, seven Type 0 Observation Seaplanes from Kutai 1 and 2 of the Kotohira Reconnaissance Seaplane Squadron dove into American warships, and nine men lost their lives in battle.

As for the attitude of the military's top ranks, Yamada feels they were "irresponsible" and "self-conceited" with thinking that "it would be OK so long as they sent a certain number of aircraft for special attacks." After forming special attack units, they did such things as making me search for a transit base site for seaplanes and ordering sorties after the outcome at Okinawa had already been decided. "I want to tell others a little about the tragedy of such a strategy where I was ordered recklessly by men in a position where they would not die." It is with such thoughts that his personal memoir Kumo nagaruru mama ni (As the clouds flow) (privately published) was put together in 2015, 70 years after the end of the war.

Kotohira Reconnaissance Seaplane Squadron before advancing
to Amakusa Air Base in Kumamoto Prefecture. Lieutenant Junior
Grade Osamu Yamada is third person from left on front row.
At Fukuyama Navy Air Base on May 20, 1945.
(provided by Osamu Yamada)

Translated by Bill Gordon
August 2022