Reunion of 37th Hyakurigahara Class

Reunion of 37th Hyakurigahara Class

Between 1955 and 1965, the postwar confusion diminished little by little, and the whereabouts of my classmates gradually became known. Memorial services for the war dead and class reunions of the 12th Ko Flight Training Class were planned, and they were successfully held in different areas of the country. Also, meetings of various flight corps and gatherings of servicemen who flew different types of planes started to be held frequently, and opportunities to renew old friendships increased.

Among these was a gathering called the "Reunion of 37th Hyakurigahara Class." It was a reunion of the 37th flight training class members who received practical flight training for carrier flight bombers at Hyakurigahara Air Base. When we meet periodically, we hold memorial ceremonies and visit the graves of flight instructors and classmates killed during the war.


Graduation Photo of 37th Flight Training Class
Nearly all of the flight instructors died in battle in Special Attack operations.
I am in the third row from the front, second from right.
Kazuo Tanaka is in the last row, second from the left.
   
The mother of Kazuo Tanaka often attended these gatherings and memorial services of national class reunions. On those occasions, Kazuo's sister participated together with her mother. She was carrying out her filial duties to her mother in place of the deceased Kazuo. However, recently she has not attended due to her advanced age and since she seems to be disabled.

One time my classmate Kenya Hiraoka went to visit the grave of Mr. Tanaka after not doing so for a long time. However, he was told by Mr. Tanaka's younger sister who came out to receive him, "Mr. Hiraoka, I am very sorry, but please return home without seeing my mother." She explained the reason as follows to the questioning Mr. Hiraoka.

When Kazuo's mother Chiyoko looks at his photo from his days at the Naval Flight Training School and at a drawing he did in junior high school, she grieves deeply and whispers, "Kazuo! Kazuo!" Therefore, I try as much as possible to not have her lay her eyes on mementos that will remind her of my older brother, but she still finds them, takes them out, and gazes at them while her tears flow. I have a hard time trying to calm her down. Since she will surely remember my older brother and become uncontrollable if she meets you Mr. Hiraoka, I ask that you return home without seeing her.

Time is said to take away sorrow. However, even now after more than 50 years have passed, the sadness of the death of her beloved only son does not fade. Kazuo, still with the childish 17-year-old face, surely must continue to live in Chiyoko's heart.

Mr. Tanaka's calligraphy from
sixth grade of elementary school
    

Photo of Kazuo Tanaka
(at graduation from flight training)

Certificates showing conferment of decorations and promotion in rank
      
Let me introduce the late Naval Ensign Kazuo Tanaka of Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture. He graduated together with me from the carrier attack bomber practical training course at Hyakurigahara Air Base. The operational unit to which he was assigned was the 256th Attack Flight Corps of the 131st Air Group at Katori Air Base.

Here he did his training with Tenzan carrier attack bombers, and upon completion he sent to the sortie base in Kushira.

On April 6, 1945, at 3:35 p.m., as pilot of the second plane, third group in the Tenzan Squadron of the Kikusui Unit in the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces, he proceeded to Kushira Air Base because of attacks by an enemy task force about 57 nautical miles off Kikaijima. He died a heroic death in the skies as he carried out a "body-crashing attack" against an enemy ship. On that same date he was promoted to Naval Ensign and was awarded the Order of the Golden Kite 4th Class and the Order of the Rising Sun 6th Class. His distinguished accomplishment was announced to all armed forces in Combined Fleet Bulletin No. 91.

      Crew Members - Tenzan Squadron, Kikusui Unit  

2D - 2  Pilot - Petty Officer 1st Class Yoshimasa Noguchi (Kochi Prefecture, 17th Class, Otsu Flight Training Program)
Observer - Ensign Yoshio Masumi (Fukuoka Prefecture, 13th Class, Waseda University)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Kusuo Mochizuki (Oita Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
3D - 2  Pilot - Petty Officer 2nd Class Kazuo Tanaka (Ishikawa Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
Observer - Petty Officer 2nd Class Yoshito Ohkura (Nagano Prefecture, 12th Class, Hei Flight Training Program)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Atsushi Kawase (Kumamoto Prefecture, 18th Class, Otsu Flight Training Program)
4D -1  Pilot - Petty Officer 1st Class Haruji Makishima (Nagano Prefecture, 11th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
Observer - Lieutenant Junior Grade Rokuro Saitoh (Tochigi Prefecture, 13th Class, Tochigi Teachers College)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Minoru Tanabe (Ishikawa Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program) 
5D -1  Pilot - Petty Officer 1st Class Isamu Kado (Shimane Prefecture, 15th Class, Reserve Training Program)
Observer - Chief Petty Officer Keiji Hara (Kanagawa Prefecture, 16th Class, Otsu Flight Training Program)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Kazuo Oka (Yamanashi Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
5D - 2  Pilot - Flight Corps Leader Suehiro Ohta (Mie Prefecture, 1st Class, Special Otsu Flight Training Program)
Observer - Petty Officer 1st Class Tomoyoshi Takashima (Hiroshima Prefecture, 17th Class, Otsu Flight Training Program)
Radio - Petty Officer 2nd Class Makoto Toyoda (Hokkaido Prefecture, 12th Class, Ko Flight Training Program)
    

The following is the epitaph of Kazuo Tanaka.

Achievements

The deceased Naval Ensign Kazuo Tanaka, awarded the Order of the Golden Kite 4th Class and the Order of the Rising Sun 6th Class, was born on October 17, 1927, at house number 23 in Ookuwa Town of Kanazawa City as the eldest son of the Tanaka family with Yusaku as the father and Chiyoko as the mother. He was recognized by his parents and by all his neighbors for being smart and moreover having a cool and collected character. He entered Ishikawa Prefectural No. 2 Middle School, and there was great optimism about his future. When the Greater East Asia War began, while still in school he applied at the young age of 18 for the Navy's Flight Reserve Enlisted Training Class. In the middle of his studies he threw away his pen to pick up a gun, and he entered the Kagoshima Naval Air Group. In March 1944, he graduated from basic training at Kagoshima Air Base. Next he graduated from the carrier attack bomber training course at Yatabe Air Base and Hyakurigahara Air Base in Ibaraki Prefecture. Then his skill reached the maximum level as he received intense training in the operational unit at Katori Air Base. At that time, the war situation around Okinawa turned unfavorable for our side. Therefore, no rest was allowed for this outstanding eagle. He received orders to advance to Kushira Air Base in southern Kyushu. A Kamikaze Special Attack Forces made up of Tenzan carrier attack bombers was formed there. On March 31, 1945, he was selected and assigned to the Kamikaze Special Attack Forces, Kikusui Unit, Tenzan Squad. Responding to the hopes of a hundred million citizens, he went to battle. On April 6, an order was received to carry out body-crashing attacks against enemy carriers, battleship group, and support unit that had advanced to a point about 57 nautical miles off Kikaijima in the southwest islands. At 3:30 p.m. on April 6, upon orders he sortied from Kushira Air Base. At 5:50 p.m., he spotted faraway an enemy ship that was burning. A brave wire was transmitted, "I will now carry out a body-crashing attack on the enemy ship." The wire transmission ended at 5:59 p.m. He successfully carried out his most important mission as a crew member. He sacrificed his body and devoted himself to his country. As a young Japanese man, there is no greater honor. This loyalty will shine for ten thousand years in the next world. This distinguished achievement was reported to the Emperor, who praised his loyalty. He was promoted from Naval Petty Officer 2nd Class to Naval Ensign. All his relatives honored this achievement. The people in his hometown also lifted their voices to praise him. His father Yusaku erected a stone monument with his son's record buried underneath in order that his deeds will not be forgotten and will be told to posterity. These achievements based on the report of the squad commander have been recorded while remembering your spirit.

May 1949
Sentetsu Andoh, Head of Kanazawa Temple, Shinshu Buddhist Otani Sect

     
In 1983, a Buddhist memorial service of the "Reunion of 37th Hyakurigahara Class" took place in Ube City in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The abovementioned mother of the Kazuo Tanaka and other bereaved families of my classmates were asked to attend. It was sponsored by my classmate Kenya Hiraoka.

On that day we visited the grave of Naval Lieutenant Commander Tatsuji Nakanishi located on the grounds of Shinsho Temple in Yamaguchi City. Also, the reading of his last letter brought by the bereaved family was deeply moving.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Nakanishi, graduate of the 72nd Naval Academy class, came often to the command headquarters of the carrier attack bombers and observed our flight training that we were receiving at that time at Hyakurigahara Air Base in the Second Flight Group. In March 1945 after we graduated from training, Hyakurigahara Air Base was converted from flight training units to operational units under the command of the 10th Naval Air Fleet.

Kamikaze Special Attack Units were formed one after another when the Battle of Okinawa started. I imagine that perhaps Lieutenant Junior Grade Nakanishi volunteered first. He possessed such a keen daring character. Mr. Nakanishi left behind the following farewell tanka poem:

Remaining cherry blossoms will also be scattered
Falling, to bloom as a flower defending our country

When the storm blows, even the cherry buds perish
For the Emperor, offering myself with folded hands

At Hyakurigahara Air Base, the flight instructors who had taught us became the core of the Kamikaze Special Attack Units formed with Type 97 carrier attack bombers and Type 99 carrier dive bombers that had been used for training flights. The carrier dive bombers (First Flight Group) advanced to Kokubu Air Base, and the carrier attack bombers (Second Flight Group) proceeded to Kushira Air Base. They took off on attacks of no return against the enemy fleet around Okinawa.

Mr. Jinichi Gotoh, commander of the Second Flight Group in March 1976, called for volunteers to join him in planting cherry trees at one corner of the remains of Hyakurigahara Air Base and erecting a commemorative monument

A listing of those who died in battle and in the line of duty was wrapped in a naval flag, placed in a large gun cartridge, and buried underneath the monument. It is a monument that tells the history of the air base during the war, but our sincere wish is that it be a monument to comfort the spirits of the war dead.

I deeply appreciate the support and cooperation of each of the members of the Air Self-Defense Force at Hyakuri (formerly Hyakurigahara) Air Base for erecting this monument and holding an unveiling ceremony. In the future when the cherry blossoms appear, I will be pleased if people stop by here and remember the young men who died heroic deaths at the sky's end in defense of the fatherland.

For each Special Attack Unit formed at Hyakurigahara Air Base, following are the date of formation in 1945, name, number and type of plane used, number of members, commander, and sortie base.
   

April 6, No. 1 Seitoo Corps, 10 Type 99 carrier dive bombers, 20 members, Lieutenant Satoshi Kuwabara, Kokubu
April 12, Joban Chuka Corps, 6 Type 97 carrier attack bombers, 18 members, Lieutenant Hideo Nishimori, Kushira
April 16, Kouka Corps, 4 Type 97 carrier attack bombers, 12 members, Lieutenant Junior Grade Iwaji Hata, Kushira
April 28, No. 2 Seitoo Corps, 6 Type 99 carrier dive bombers, 12 members, Lieutenant Junior Grade Toshio Gotoh, Kokubu
April 28, No. 1 Seiki Corps, 2 Type 97 carrier attack bombers, 6 members, Ensign Yoshimune Suga, Kushira
May 4, No. 2 Seiki Corps, 2 Type 97 carrier attack bombers, 6 members, Lieutenant Junior Grade Masaei Igarashi, Kushira
May 12, No. 3 Seiki Corps, 1 Type 97 carrier attack bomber, 3 members, Ensign Soji Horie, Kushira
May 25, No. 3 Seitoo Corps, 1 Type 99 carrier dive bomber, 2 members, Chief Petty Officer Iwao Anzai, Kokubu
June 3, No. 4 Seitoo Corps, 3 Type 99 carrier dive bombers, 6 members, Lieutenant Junior Grade Susumu Sekijima, Kokubu
   
The following flight instructors (those directly responsible for our training on carrier attack bombers) and classmates (reconnaissance specialists) participated in the above Kamikaze Special Attack Corps. The rank shown is at the time of sortie.
   
Chief Flight Instructors - Joban Chuka Corps, Lieutenant Hideo Nishimori (Fukui), Lieutenant Junior Grade Nakanishi Tatsuji (Yamaguchi)
Flight Instructors - Joban Chuka Corps, Chief Petty Officer Soji Sunohara (Nagano), Chief Petty Officer Yasunori Yokoyama (Kagoshima), Chief Petty Officer Shigeo Takao (Yamaguchi), Chief Petty Officer Sadamasa Masuko (Fukushima)
Flight Instructor - Kouka Corps, Chief Petty Officer Kunio Yoshiike (Tokyo)
Flight Instructor - No. 1 Seiki Corps, Chief Petty Officer Kotaro Kirihata (Oita)
Classmate - No. 1 Seiki Corps, Petty Officer 2nd Class Teruo Yanaga (Fukuoka)
Classmates - No. 2 Seitoo Corps, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kaneyuki Fukuda (Fukuoka), Petty Officer 2nd Class Yasuo Urushidani (Fukuoka), Petty Officer 2nd Class Yoshiaki Ono (Fukuoka), Petty Officer 2nd Class Norio Itoh (Oita)
Classmate - No. 3 Seitoo Corps, Chief Petty Officer Akio Kashima (Fukuoka)
Classmate - No. 4 Seitoo Corps, Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Isamu Nanri (Saga)


Translated by Bill Gordon
March 28, 2004