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|Pilot Major Akira Takatsuki, C.O. 78th Sentai (MIA / KIA)
Crashed December 22 1943
Major Akira Takatsuki was the Commanding Officer (C. O.) of the 78th Sentai since it arrived in New Guinea in April 1943 until he was killed on December 22, 1943.
Built by Kawasaki. Delivered to the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as a Type 3 Hein / Ki-61 Tony manufacture number unknown. Assigned to the 78th Sentai. No known numbers or markings.
On December 22 1943 took off from Boram Airfield near Wewak piloted by Major Akira Takatsuki on a combat air patrol (CAP) plus other Ki-61 Tonys from 68th Sentai plus Ki-43 Oscars from 59th Sentai over three transports from the 15th Resupply Convoy unloading in Wewak Harbor.
Spotting P-38 Lightnings from the 8th Fighter Group, 80th Fighter Squadron, the Ki-61 Tonys from the 78th Sentai intercepted them. During the combat, Takatsuki was fired on by Major Edward "Porky" Cragg from about 200 yards with a deflection shot, but missed. Takatsuki attempted a tight loop to get onto the tail of his attacker, but was hit at the top of his loop by gunfire from the top cover P-38 piloted by Lt. Bert Reed or Lt. Delbert Furgason, as they joined the combat.
Reportedly, Takatsuki jettisoned his canopy and bailed out of the cockpit. Below, Major Cragg was unable to avoid hitting his parachute as it opened and his right propeller ripped it to shreds and witnessed the pilot fall into the jungle below. When he returned from the mission, a portion of his parachute was wrapped around his right wing.
A rescue party from the 78th Sentai departed Wewak was dispatched from to search for Major Akira Takatsuki, but instead found Sgt Iwao Tahata and they arrived back on December 26, 1943.
Japanese Defense Archives Library booklet "A Desperate Struggle in the Jungle" by Tabata
Attack & Conquer (1995) pages 135-136
Death of Major Akira Takatsuki
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