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|Pilot PO1c Yoshio Saito / PO1c Akira Akao
Observer WO Masanobu Shibata / PO1c Noriyoshihiro Otake
Radio PO3c Seikaku Tsunemae / S1c Kazuo Sakahita
Ditched May 7, 1942
Built by Nakajima. True serial number unknown. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber Kanko / B5N Kate manufacture number unknown.
Assigned to the Shōkaku with tail number EI-302. This aircraft had a white vertical stripe on the fuselage and horizontal strip on below the tail number.
On May 7, 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea this aircraft and B5N2 Kate EI-306 took off from Shōkaku during the Battle of the Coral Sea on a search mission for the American fleet. The air crews aboard both aircraft are known, but not which of the two planes they were aboard (EI-306 or EI-302).
Together, they spotted two enemy vessels they reported to be an aircraft carrier and a cruiser. In fact, they were fleet oiler USS Neosho (AO-23) and destroyer USS Sims (DD-409). The pair loitered in the area too long and ran low on fuel and were unable to reach Shōkaku. Instead, both aircraft proceeded to the Indispensable Reef and ditched onto the reef.
Fates of the Crew
The crews survived the landing unhurt and burned the cockpit area of each aircraft to destroy them. Afterwards, both crews were rescued by a Japanese destroyer Ariake.
A month later on June 7, 1942 the wreckage of this Kate was spotted from the air by a US Navy PBY Catalina from Patrol Squadron 71. Two days later, a PBY Catalina landed nearby to inspect and photographed the wreckage. Possibly, the wreckage was recovered by the USS Tangier AV-8.
Thanks to Jim Sawruk for additional information
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April 2, 2021
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