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  D3A1 Model 11 Val Manufacture Number 3122 Tail 31-212
31st Kōkūtai

Former assignment:
33rd Kōkūtai

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ATIU 1943
Pilot  Ensign Yobishi Kagawa (KIA)
Observer  PO2c Toshiyuki Moriyama (KIA)
Crashed  October 16, 1942

Aircraft History
Built by Aichi completed approximately January 1941. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 99 Dive bomber / D3A1 Model 11 Val manufacture number 3122.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 33rd Kōkūtai with tail 33-??? three digits unknown. During August 1942 the when the unit ceased operating dive bombers, transfered to the 31st Kōkūtai with tail code 31-212. Painted with dark green on the upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces. During late 1942, operated from Rabaul and Buin Airfield.

Mission History
On October 16, 1942 took off from Kahili Airfield (Buin) on Bougainville piloted by Ensign Yobishi Kagawa with gunner PO2c Toshiyuki Moriyama at 1:55pm as one of nine dive bombers armed with two 60kg bombs on a mission to search for an enemy aircraft carrier reported southeast of Guadalcanal.

Finding none, the formation instead bombed a tanker unloading off the north coast of Guadalcanal. The dive bombers claimed four direct hits causing a fire and four near misses. During the attack, three Vals were shot down over the target area and observed to crash including one shot down by an F4F Wildcat. Returning, the formation encountered bad weather. When this Val failed to return it was reported as missing when the five surviving Vals landed at Kahili Airfield at 9:30pm.

Justin Taylan adds:
"I researched the 31st Kōkūtai at the Tokyo Defense Archives. They were based at Rabaul and were operating from Buin Airfield (Kahili) in late September until the end of October 1942. There were only two missions towards Guadalcanal that involved a total of seven Vals were lost on these two missions. All the Vals were observed to crash over the target area, or crash elsewhere. Only one Val is listed as 'MIA'. This Val was pilot by Ensign Yobishi Kagawa and was lost on the October 16, 1942 mission. I believe, this wreck is his aircraft."

In fact, this Val crashed near Sombiro on Gatukai Island (Nggatokae). The cause of the crash was either due to damage or due to bad weather. The wreckage was largely intact indicating the possibility the pilot attempted a force landing. Both crew were killed in the crash and villagers from Sombiro buried their bodies nearby and reported the aircraft to Coastwatcher Donald Kennedy at Segi.

Between August 1943 and before April 1944 a team from Allied Technical Intelligence (ATIU) visited the crash site and took photographs of the wreckage and located manufacture number 3122, tail code 31-212 and many part serial numbers. They also documented the presence of a generator manufactured by Eclipse Aviation Company in East Orange, New Jersey. Their findings were reported in Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report No. 51 (CEAR #51).

Jim Long adds:
"Although the report fails to give a date of assembly for the airframe, it does include nameplates from several components that indicate its assembly date would have to have been after 13 December 1940. The following component plates came from Val Model 11 #3122:

Plate from bomb rack:
Fuselage No. = Aichi No. 3122; Part Date = 13 December 1940.

Plate from dive brake:
Mfr No. = Aichi No. 3111; Part Date = 13 November 1940.

Plate from 74-Liter Gas Tank
Fuselage No. = Aichi No. 3124; Part Date = 4 October 1940.

Plate from a 3-Liter tank
Mfr No. = Aichi 3122; Part Date = 25 October 1940.

There were 15 enclosures, including eight photos and translations of battery marking, landing gear shock absorber nameplate, tail wheel shock absorber nameplate, a safety switch marking, engine nameplate, Kinsei Engine Model 44 w/diagram of vacuum pump, gas tank nameplate, Dive brake nameplate, magneto nameplate, and two other nameplates.

I call your attention to the four serial numbers on the four nameplates from Val 11 #3122. Two of them have the airframe manufacture number and two do not. If the Allied inspectors of this wreck had recovered only the nameplate with #3111 on it, they might well have assumed back in September 1942 that the airframe's manufacture number was #3111, and they would have been wrong. Later on the Allied crash inspectors knew better than to assume that all nameplates on a particular airframe carried the airframe manufacture number, but early in the war they didn't understand why the various nameplates had different numbers. They assumed at that early time that the Japanese were cannibalizing parts from disabled planes to keep other planes flying.

That did happen to some extent, but not nearly as much as might be assumed, and cannibalization was not the main reason for the abundance of numbers. The main reasons were (1) that component parts were numbered in the same way as the whole airplanes were numbered, and (2) all of the numbers looked the same, whether they were for components or for whole airplanes, and (3) production line personnel were under no pressure to assure that all serial numbers on an individual airframe matched.

When an assembler working on airframe #3122 drew the the 74-liter fuel tank, he didn't look to see what the serial number of it was. He didn't care that the tank had #3124 on it; all he wanted was a tank that was completed, inspected, and ready to be installed. That is how tank #3124 wound up on airplane #3122, instead of on airplane #3124. Airplane #3124 might well have had fuel tank #3122 on it. Such was the dynamic and hectic scene at the assembly building. The only airplanes that might have had all of the nameplates on each of them carrying the same numbers as the airframes, themselves, were the early machines: the prototype and a few of the other experimental planes . . . and perhaps the first few production planes."

Kodochosho, 31st Kōkūtai, October 16, 1942
Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report No. 51 (CEAR #51)
Thanks to Minoru Kamada and James Long

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020


Tech Info

8 44' S
158 13' E


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