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)
He was at Nozato in Kanoya City on the morning of April 18, 1945. Kiichi  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
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  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."
Translated by Bill Gordon
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.
Phantom Kenmu Squadron: Cancelled Just Before Takeoff