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Kiichi Yasuda just before planned sortie on April 18, 1945. Taken as last photograph.
(provided by Kiichi Yasuda)

Phantom Kenmu Squadron: Cancelled Just Before Takeoff (Maboroshi no kenmu tai: Hasshin chokuzen, toriyame ni)
Researched and written by Shūji Fukano and Fusako Kadota
Pages 118-20 of Tokkō kono chi yori: Kagoshima shutsugeki no kiroku (Special attacks from this land: Record of Kagoshima sorties)
Minaminippon Shinbunsha, 2016, 438 pages

The person at right had to wipe out the enemy fleet by a special (suicide) attack.

He was at Nozato in Kanoya City on the morning of April 18, 1945. Kiichi [1] Yasuda (Uwajima City, Ehime Prefecture), 18-year-old Jinrai Butai (Thunder Gods Corps) Flight Petty Officer 1st Class, found his own name on the list of names that was posted with other items at the unit's barracks. It was the designation to Kenmu Squadron members who would crash into enemy ships with carrier-based Zero fighters each carrying a 500-kg bomb.

There were only 30 minutes until the time when they would assemble. During that time, he gave his previously prepared last latter, hair locks, and fingernails to the person who was responsible for these, and he changed into new underwear.

When the 20 men who would make sorties lined up in front of the command bunker, the officers' briefing began. Although the talk was long, they were silent. We were told, "Today is the date of the death of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Wreak vengeance on the enemy through your great efforts." Yasuda thought, "It is good that our death date is the same as the Admiral."

As I was riding a truck toward Kanoya Air Base, there was a voice, "Yasuda, are you going?" When I turned around, it was Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Shige'ichi [2] Kimura, who was from my hometown and one year ahead of me. On the 12th, he had made a sortie in the 3rd Ōka Special Attack as chief pilot of a Type 1 land-based (Betty) bomber. He returned safely after a rocket-powered special attack ōka glider was dropped.

"Is there anything you would like me to tell your family?" "You turned in your last letter, but if I see them, I will tell them that you went in high spirits." Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Shige'ichi Kimura nodded at Yasuda's reply, and he saw me off for a long time while saluting as the truck went up the slope to the base.

In the standby area, the bomb-laden fighter already had its propeller rotating. "I would never again step on land." Yasuda stepped firmly on the ground two or three times, and he got into the pilot's seat with that sensation engraved in his mind.

However, suddenly a flare went up. An order was shouted, "Takeoff cancelled. Move planes to shelters." The planes were taken to shelters with maintenance men on top of the bomb-laden fighter wings. I heard after the cancellation that information had come in that many enemy fighters were in the skies above with the intention to attack the airfield.

The 9th Kenmu Squadron, expected to be made up of Yasuda and his comrades, was made up of other men who made a sortie on April 29. This was because as ordered Yasuda pulled back on the 20th to Tomitaka Base (Hyūga City). He was retained as a crewman for a new ōka weapon that was being developed in order to receive training in dropping the ōka glider.

Afterward, Yasuda did not have an opportunity for a sortie before the war ended. As for Flight Petty Officer 1st Class Shige'ichi Kimura, on June 22 nearly at the end of the Battle of Okinawa, he departed as part of the 10th Ōka Special Attack in the last ōka sortie, and this time he did not return.

"I was blessed with considerable fortune," when Yasuda looks back on that day. "How was I to use without waste the life that I had been given? During my life after that, I lived only thinking of that."

Kiichi Yasuda

Translated by Bill Gordon
August 2022


1. The given name of Kiichi could not be verified. It is possible that it is Motokazu or Motoichi.

2. The given name of Shige'ichi could not be verified. It is possible that it is Shigekazu or Moichi.