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USAAF December 1941
|Pilot CPO1c Takeo Harada (KIA, BR)
Co-Pilot Hidetoshi Tokuda (KIA, BR)
Observer Yoshitaka Shirai (KIA, BR)
Observer Toshiho Nishida (KIA, BR)
Radio Kanichi Shudoh (KIA, BR)
Radio Sadakane Watanabe (KIA, BR)
Mechanic Goro Seino (KIA, BR)
Mechanic Asakichi Miura (KIA, BR)
Crashed March 31, 1942 at 12:45pm
On December 12, 1941 took off piloted by CPO1c Takeo Harada as one of eighteen G3M2 bombers on a bombing mission against Clark Field on Luzon in the Philippines. Due to cloud cover, the formation bombed from lower altitude and was hit in the left engine by anti-aircraft and force landed near the target. The entire crew survived and were captured and became Prisoners Of War (POW). Back at base, the entire crew was listed as missing and given a one rank promotion and listed as killed in action. Later, when the Japanese Army captured Luzon, the entire crew were liberated.
Officially, the men were declared dead and had been promoted yet in fact were alive and had been captured by the enemy. According to Japanese military culture, they represented a bad example to the service and the doctrine of no surrender. Afterwards, the crew returned to combat duty but were segregated from other air crews for morale purposes. This crew was continually placed in the most vulnerable position on missions so their situation could be rectified by having them die in combat. Despite the fury and danger of the battles in which they participated, the crew just kept returning alive.
Built by Mitsubishi. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 96 Land Based Attack Bomber Rikko / G3M2 Nell manufacture number unknown (four digits).
Assigned to the 1st Kōkūtai (1st Air Group). Tail code 67 was painted on the underside of the wings in large black numbers.
Because the crew were disgraced because they were taken prisoner in the Philippines, they were ordered on a risky mission, in hopes they would be shot down.
On March 30, 1942, this bomber and crew were ordered to take off from Lae Airfield and fly over Port Moresby at low altitude without escort. Amazingly, they returned without a scratch and managed to take excellent photographs of 7-Mile Drome. Admiral Takajiro Onishi ordered them to return to Port Moresby the next day and were told “do not return”. The crew shared cigarettes and drinks together before their final mission.
On March 31, 1942 in the morning took off from Lae Airfield pilot CPO1c Takeo Harada on a solo reconnaissance and suicide bombing mission over 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby.
At 12:45pm over the target at 15,000' a radio message was received at Rabaul: “Finished bombing. All bombs hit mark”. Fifteen minutes later, another message came on the radio: “We will go in. All around is clear. Thank you for your kindnesses during our lifetime. Tennōheika Banzai (Japanese: Long live His Majesty the Emperor)".
Japanese sources report that this bomber made a suicide dive and crash into the enemy after a successful bombing mission.
Many Australians and Americans on the ground witnessed this bomber's demise. Some claimed the bomber's wing broke off midair, causing it to crash about a mile from 7-Mile Drome. Others observed one bomb was jettisoned before the plane crashed and other bombs exploded on impact. Regardless, no damage was caused to any Allied installation by the bomb or crash.
Osamu Tagaya adds:
"The speculation is that the crew carried one of their armed bombs inside the aircraft and detonated it over Moresby. The mission of the 31st is listed as a bombing mission, and that communication was lost after the crew reported bombing completed."
This bomber was reported to have "crashed into the hills" causing a cloud of smoke on impact. Afterwards, the crash site was examined by Australian forces. Reportedly, the bomber had large black painted "67" on the underside of both wings (or tails?).
Kodochosho, 1st Kōkūtai, December 12, 1941
Kodochosho, 1st Kōkūtai, March 30, 1942
Kodochosho, 1st Kōkūtai, March 31, 1942
Ware Jibakusu Tenkou Hare (We crashing weather is fine) by Takashi Iwakawa
Intelligence Report No. 21
"Plane bore same markings, large black figures "67" on underside of both wings, as recce plane on previous day [March 31, 1942]."
Osamu Tagaya adds:
"Large figures beneath both wings at that stage of war in a front line unit is an anomaly."
Frederick C. Eaton Diary entry March 31, 1942 via The Swamp Ghost DVD
"I happened to be out at 7 Mile Drome when an air raid alarm was given at 11:15am. A two engined bomber flew over us at 15,000' without a shot being fired. His wing broke off and he crashed about a mile away from me in flames."
30 Brigade Intelligence Summary no. 27 - 2 April 1942 a Moresby Recce 31 Mar
"... One bomb was jettisoned before the plane crashed and a number appeared to explode on the plane as it hit the ground."
The Decisive Factor (1997) RAAF pilot Turnbull was on the ground, pointed a stick at the plane, did a mumbo jumbo dance and was dumb founded when the plane actually crashed.
Ôzora no samurai (1976) by Saburo Sakai mentions this incident
War Diary 1942 (1984) page 46
"Jap Bomber falls to pieces! An extraordinary incident this afternoon. A big Japanese bomber was overhead on reconnaissance in cloudy weather - the same plane that tried unsuccessfully to drop bombs yesterday. None of our fighters went up and the AA never fired a shot, but suddenly the bomber was seen to be falling after losing part of a wing or tail plane. It crashed into the hills in a big cloud of smoke. The bodies of the crew were found in the wreckage - including the body of a high ranking Japanese officer in full uniform and wearing his sword!"
Samurai! (2001) by Saburo Sakai mentions this incident
Air Force "Kamikaze Mystery" Volume 46, No.13 July 29, 2004 by Robert Piper
Thanks to Robert Piper, Osamu Tagaya and Edward Rogers for additional information
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March 31, 2021
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