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  B5N1 Kate  
Kaga Air Group

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Bill MacGowan 1945

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Justin Taylan 2004
Pilot  PO1c Michinari Sugihara (KIA)
Crew  PO1c Katsuo Yamamoto (KIA)
Radio  PO2c Yoshikazu Tanaka (KIA)
Crashed  January 20, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Nakajima. True serial number unknown. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber Kanko / B5N1 Kate manufacture number unknown. Assigned to Kaga to Kaga Air Group. No known markings or tail number.

Wartime History
On December 7, 1941 took off from Kaga piloted by PO1c Michinari Sugihara with PO1c Katsuo Yamamoto and PO2c Yoshikazu Tanaka flying as wingman for B5N1 Kate with Commander Lt. Cdr. Takashi Hashiguchi (C. O. Kaga Air Group) for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu.

Mission History
On January 20, 1942 took off from Kaga piloted by PO1c Michinari Sugihara with PO1c Katsuo Yamamoto and PO2c Yoshikazu Tanaka armed with bombs for a horizontal bombing attack against Rabaul. Inbound to the target, this aircraft was damaged by Australian Army anti-aircraft fire from Frisbee Ridge and crashed into the north side of Mount Kombiu (Mother). This was the first Japanese aircraft shot down over Rabaul.

After the crash, Australian newspaper "Smith's Weekly" reported about the wreck:
"It was a bomber-fighter type, single engined. There were three dead Japs in it - stocky little fellows aged 24 or 25. Bombs were lying some little distance from the crashed plane."

Lt. D. M. Selby, C. O. anti-aircraft Frisbee Ridge via Hostages page 51
"Passing the battery position they came once more into range, our guns roared again and a plane appeared to stagger, burst into flames and crash into the side of the mother."

Cpl Challis, NGVR via Hostages to Freedom page 52
"Our AA guns manned by young militia lads had a merry time and were credited with a couple of Japs... It was pleasing to see a Jap bomber wrecked and smoking on the slopes of Mount Mother."

The crash site of this aircraft remained on the northern side of Mount Kombiu (Mother). After the end of hostilities sometime in September 1945, the tail section was photographed by Bill MacGowan. Years later, Yoshikazu Tanaka's brother visited the crash site. Sometime afterwards, the three bladed propeller was recovered to the New Guinea Club. Later, it was moved to the Kokopo Museum where it is displayed to this day.

Brian Bennett recalls:
"I visited the crash site near the top of Mt Kombiu [either 1979 or 80]. I went to the summit in a Hughes 500 helicopter, the pilot being a Garth Bean. In regard the propeller, this is the one just inside the gate at the Kokopo Museum. I don't recall the time of recovery or who did it [probably Pacific Helicopters] but it would have been because of my nagging for it to be done. The prop was originally displayed at the bunker opposite the New Guinea Club. A compass mount from the crash site was recovered by me. This was later presented to a fellow from the Australian 2/22nd Battalion that was on the gun crew that shot it down."

Hostages to Freedom
(1995) pages 50-54
Beyond Pearl Harbor (2008) pages 115, 140
Thanks to Brian Bennett for additional information

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Last Updated
April 4, 2021

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