|Pilot PO1c Michinari Sugihara (KIA)
Crew PO1c Katsuo Yamamoto (KIA)
Radio PO2c Yoshikazu Tanaka (KIA)
Crashed January 20, 1942
On December 7, 1941, this same crew was number one wing man for Kaga Air Group Commander Lt. Cdr. Takashi Hashiguchi during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu.
On January 20, 1942 took off from the Kaga piloted by PO1c Michinari Sugihara armed with bombs for horizontal bombing mission over Rabaul. Inbound to the target, this aircraft was damaged by Australian militia anti-aircraft on Frisbee Ridge and crashed into the north side of Mount Kombiu volcano (Mother). This was the first Japanese aircraft shot down over Rabaul.
Australian newspaper "Smith's Weekly" reported on 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, 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."
Years after the war, Tanaka's brother visited the crash site. Its propeller from this crash site 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, page 50-54
Beyond Pearl Harbor pages 115, 140
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
April 6, 2018