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  A6M3 Zero Manufacture Number ? Tail V-???
Tainan Kōkūtai

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IJN August 4, 1942

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RAAF August 27, 1942

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RAAF September 1942
Pilot  PO2c Enji Kakimoto (POW, suicide August 5, 1944) Hitachi, Kyushu, Japan
Ditched  August 27, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M3 Zero manufacture number unknown. This aircraft was either an A6M3 Model 22 or A6M3 Model 32.

Wartime History
Assigned to the Tainan Kōkūtai (Tainan Air Group) with tail code V-??? (three digits unknown). During late August 1942 a detachment of A6M3 Zeros including this aircraft were flown from Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul to operate from Buna Airfield on the north coast of New Guinea.

Mission History
On August 27, 1942 took off from Buna Airfield piloted by PO2c Enji Kakimoto as one of seven Zeros including five from Tainan Kokutai (Tainan Air Group) and three from the Kokutai (2nd Air Group) on a mission to escort D3A1 Val dive bombers from the 2nd Kokutai (2nd Air Group) against Milne Bay. The Zeros did not rendezvous with the Vals until 8:20am as they were completing their dive bombing runs and departing the area. Kakimoto flew in the 3rd Chutai in the no. 2 position flying as the wingman for A6M3 Zero pilot Sadao Yamashita.

Afterwards, the five Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai dove to strafe No. 1 Strip (Gurney Field) firing at LB-30 "Yard Bird" AL-818 that was already destroyed and unservicable. Over the runway, two of the Zeros including Kakimoto were hit by anti-aircraft fire. From the ground, one of the Zero was photographed after strafing flying at low level. As Kakimoto was trying to rejoin the other Zeros, his oil pressure failed. He tried to find a target to crash into but found none and instead ditched in shallow water and landed unhurt. Also lost was A6M3 pilot Jôji Yamashita (KIA), A6M3 pilot Sadaô Yamashita (KIA) and A6M3 pilot Kihachi Ninomiya (KIA).

Fates of the Pilot
Kakimoto swam to the beach nearby. On the back of a Tainan Kokutai group photograph he was carrying, he wrote a short diary. Finding native people, he stayed with them for four days and went with them, believing them were friendly. On August 31, 1942 the villagers turned him over to the Australian Army to Private Farrer, WXM6468. Before being captured, he tore up the Tainan Kokutai group photograph, but the pieces were found and later repaired by Allied intelligence.

As a Prisoner Of War (POW), Kakimoto was taken to Milne Bay. During early September 1942, he interacted with Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilots from No. 75 Squadron and No. 76 Squadron, including taking a posed photograph blindfolded with "Bluey" Truscott pointing a revolver at him. Flight Lieutenant Jeff Wilkinson of No. 75 Squadron remembered Kakimoto: "He sat for most of the time with his head in his hands in disgrace an and he looked a very dejected person".

Kakimoto was registered as prisoner of war PWJA.110007. Transported to Australia, he arrived on September 12, 1942 at Broadmeadows and was marched to Hay arriving September 14, 1942. Next marched to Cowra POW Camp arriving January 9, 1943 and assigned to Hut 7. Over the next year, he became a ring leader who advocated for the prisoners to riot. He was remembered as a vocal orator with a bad temper.

On August 5, 1944 during the Cowra Riot (Cowra Breakout) he ordered a lame subordinate to hang himself. In the early morning, Kakimoto hung himself to commit suicide.

Fellow pilots PO1c Sadaô Yamashita and NAP Kihachi Ninomiya witnessed the ditching and thought the Zero had ditched in very shallow water because they could see it from the air in very clear water. They dove down and strafed the water, in an attempt to destroy it to prevent it from being salvaged by the Allies. While strafing, the were surprised by two P-40s from 75 Squadron piloted by CO Les Jackson and his wingman Sgt Roy Riddel, who shot down both Zeros.

Kakimoto's Zero was nearly intact in 12-18 feet of water, 25 miles from the Marine wharf at Milne Bay. Located by the Allies, the wreck was inspected during October 1942 and deemed salvageable and described as the "Kanapope Zero" (location reference?) Later, an aborted attempt to salvage the wreck was undertaken by RAAF 10 Repair & Salvage Unit (RSU). With the capture of Buna Airfield and several intact Zeros at that location, the necessity for this Zero to be salvage diminished and no further work was undertaken.

Kakimoto is buried at Cowra Japanese War Cemetery at Grave QC 32.

Kodochosho Tainan Kōkūtai - August 27, 1942
The Hidden Chapters (1995) by Robert Piper "Zero Hour" pages 134-143
Australian Post "Where Japs got the third degree" by David Sissons, July 17, 1986, page 4
Cowra-Japan conversations: MURAKAMI Teruo, TAKAHARA Marekuni and YAMADA Masayoshi as former prisoners of war, Cowra, 1942–1945: Interviewed by Terry Colhoun at Australian War Memorial, Canberra, on 7 August 2004 (AWM S03331)
"YAMADA: I don’t think my role was anything special. I was just one of the others, but Mr KAKIMOTO, whose family has traveled to Australia with us this time, was a group leader. He told me that he was a Zero pilot, or something like that. We just followed his orders."
Thanks to Robert Piper, Osamu Tagaya and Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
August 25, 2021

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