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Kyoichi Yoshi'i (KIA)
Crashed March 23, 1942
Built by Mitsubishi or Nakajima. At the factory painted overall gray with a black cowling and Hinomaru markings on the wings and fuselage. Assigned to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 Zero manufacture number unknown.
Likely, this Zero was one of the nineteen A6M2 Model 21 Zeros loaded aboard aboard Shōhō at Truk and ferried to Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul arriving March 9, 1942. Assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai (4th Ku) at Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. Tail code F-??? (three digit number in the range of F-151 to F-169).
On March 23, 1942 took off from Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul piloted by Lt. Kyoichi Yoshi'i as one of three Zeros that rendezvoused with G3M1 Nells from the 1st Kōkūtai to escort them on over Port Moresby.
Over Port Moresby, the 1st Chutai (12 Nells) bombed anti-aircraft emplacements. The 2nd Chutai (7 Nells) bombed 7-Mile Drome. Facing no enemy aircraft, the escorting Zeros dove down to strafe 7-Mile Drome. During the strafing run, this Zero was hit by machine gun fire from the ground and crashed into Morris Hill near Bootless Bay. Pilot Yoshi'i was killed on impact.
War Diary 1942, March 23, 1942:
"One Zero crashed on Morris Hill after being shot down by fire from machine gun post. Another A6M2 seen trailing white smoke at low level."
The crashed Zero scattered wreckage over a large area. ATIU did investigate the site, and assigned the wreckage SWPA Technical Reference AD 2, but failed to find any manufacture number in the wreckage. After the crash, Morris Hill was renamed "Zero Hill" by the Australian soldiers stationed in the vicinity.
Justin Taylan adds:
"During October 2007, Henry Mayer and I searched for any traces of this Zero atop "Zero Hill". We failed to find any trace, aside for observing the spectacular view of the area from the summit of the hill."
Recovery of Remains
After the crash, the remains of the pilot were located dismembered from the impact of the crash. Presumably, the pilot's remains were recovered and likely buried nearby or at the Japanese War Cemetery at Bomana near Port Moresby.
War Diary 1942, March 23, 1942
"SWPA Technical References to Inspected Enemy Airplanes" ATIU, September 27, 1943, p 2
Note, some sources list pilot's surname as "Yoshii"
War Diary 1942 (Raid #17)
"This afternoon there was half and hour of great excitement when the Japs sent over their biggest air armada yet - 19 heavy bombers in two waves (9 + 10) and four Zero fighters - 23 planes. The bombers, tightly packed at 20,000' dropped sticks on the aerodrome and near the AA batteries without any success. Then the fighters came in low for a machine-gun and cannon attack and destroyed two of our fighters on the ground [P-40E A29-10 and P-40E A29-25] and damaged a third. The Japs, however ran into a hail of MG fire from many infantry posts. The pilot of one was shot through the groin. His machine swerved and crashed into hillside, ricocheted 40 yards then blew to smithereens. Fragments scattered over about 6 acres. Body of the pilot was hurled 500' through the air and the planes engine 100' beyond that. [A6M2 Zero piloted by Yoshi'i (KIA)] One other Jap fighter was seen diving into hills in flames and a third was hit and possibly didn't get home. Although given 35 minutes warning of the raid the fighters were on the ground or preparing to land and never joined action."
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February 28, 2020
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