Petty Officer Hajime Toyoshima
Pilot A6M2 Zero 5349 crash landed February 19, 1942
Prisoner Of War (POW) died Cowra POW Camp breakout August 5, 1944
Hajime Toyoshima was 5' 5" tall with a dark complexion, black hair and brown eyes. joined the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and was trained as a pilot assigned to Hiryu as a Zero pilot.
On February 19, 1942 took off from Hiryu piloting A6M2 Zero 5349 as one of thirty-six Zeros on a fighter sweep over Darwin. The formation included other A6M2 Zeros from Soryu plus D3A1 Vals and B5N1 Kates from Kaga and Akagi.
Over the target, damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Returning, this Zero force landed on Melville
Island. The Zero force landed largely intact but impacted vegetation that damaged the wings. During the landing, the propeller broke off and the engine became dislodged and the stress of the landing caused ripples on the rear fuselage. During the landing, Toyoshima hit his face on the gun site and suffered facial injuries. used his parachute to wipe the blood off his face.
Fate of the Pilot
Toyoshima used his parachute to wipe the blood off his face and wandered away. Later, he was found by Aboriginal Matthias
Ulungura from the
Snake Bay Settlement who managed to disarmed him, take his pistol and escort him to Bathurst
Island. On February 24, 1952 he was handed over to Sergeant Leslie J. Powell of the 23rd Field Company,
Royal Australian Engineers who was on the island but unarmed. On February 27, 1942 the pair were photographed with Toyoshima's face bandaged and Powell holding his pistol on a lanyard. Afterwards, he was taken to Darwin.
Prisoner of War
During his initial interrogation, he told the Australians his name was Tadao Minami born March 20, 1919 in Kanagawa-ken and was a farmer. In hopes of discouraging the Australians for searching for his Zero, he claimed he was an aerial gunner from a bomber based on Ambon that bailed out and swam ashore. He became the first Japanese Prisoner Of War (POW)
captured in Australia. Initially he was assigned prisoner number PWJ 910.1 and later became PWJA.110.001 (also listed as PWJA.110001).
To the contrary, his flight suit had the ideograph for "Hiryu" and was not stained with sea salt. Later his Zero and parachute with a blood stain was found. During one of his interrogations, Toyoshima's Senninbari (thousand stitch belt) was taken from him by an intelligence officer.
On April 9, 1942 his internment as a prisoner began and was taken to Redholme Manson in South Yarra, Victoria for further interrogation. On March 23, 1942 taken to Lavcony (?) 14C compound, then on April 4, 1942 arrived at Nayport Setenton (?) Barracks. Next, on April 9, 1942 he was taken to Hay Camp. Meanwhile, on April 17, 1942 police matched the blood stain on his parachute to be a match to his blood type. On June 6-15, 1942 he was hospitalized then returned to Hay Camp.
On January 8, 1943 transferred to Cowra
POW Camp. Between August 6-11, 1943 again hospitalized then returned to captivity. On August 28, 1943 until September 4, 1943 again hospitalized. Next, placed in detention, pending trial on September 19-23, 1943 the crime or charge is unknown. During October 4-11, 1943 again hospitalized as sick then returned to camp.
By early 1944, there were 1,100 Japanese prisoners at the camp, larger than the capacity of the camp or guards. The aviators including Toyoshima made alliances with the other extremist Navy and Army prisoners. As time passed, they decided on a ban on all labor and planned a riot and breakout with the goal of engaging the Australian guards in a suicidal battle to die honorably. During the planning, the prisoners gave the impression of being contented and cooperative.
By early 1944, there were 1,100 Japanese prisoners detained, larger than the capacity of the camp or guards. The aviators including Toyoshima made alliances with the other extremist Navy and Army prisoners. As time passed, they decided on a ban on all prisoner labor and secretly planned a riot and breakout with the goal of engaging the Australian guards in a suicidal battle to die honorably. Meanwhile, they gave the impression they were content and cooperative. Meanwhile, the prisoners gave the impression they were content and cooperative. Between May 13-15, 1944 hospitalized and returned to camp.
On August 5, 1944 at 2:00am Toyoshima signaled the start of "Cowra Breakout" with a bugle and hundreds of Japanese prisoners rushed to the perimeter fence near the No. 2 Vickers machine gun, towards the northeast F guard tower and Broadway gate. The Australians were initially caught by surprise then opened fire killing roughly 100 rioters with gunfire before they reached the gate. Meanwhile, some rioters managed to break into the officers D compound but were pinned down by gunfire as reinforcements arrived.
During the riot, Toyoshima managed to reach a storm drain ditch just outside the perimeter wire, but was shot in the chest when he tried to move. Mortally wounded, he lit a cigarette, then cut his own throat and was found dead the next morning. The Cowra Breakout was the largest attempted prison break in history. A total of 231 Japanese prisoners including Toyoshima died in the riot many from self-inflicted wounds. Three others later died of wounds and 108 others were wounded. The Japanese managed to kill four guards and wounded four others.
Toyoshima was buried at Cowra Japanese War Cemetery at grave QC 18.
The Australian Aviation Heritage Centre (Darwin Aviation Museum) displays the center section of this Zero.
The Australian War Memorial (AWM) has three items in their collection related to Toyoshima and his Zero. On public display is the bugle (REL/04058) he used to signal the start of the Cowra Riot with the upper portion of the bell bent. In their collection but not on public display is his Senninbari (thousand stitch belt) REL49365 donated by the family of the intelligence officer who took it. Also in their collection but not on public display is a dataplate from this Zero with instructions for a front hydraulic shock absorber (REL/02094).
The Royal Australian Air Force Museum Point Cook (RAAF Museum Point Cook) has two items from Toyoshima on public display his Japanese flag and flight suit.
WW2 Nominal Roll - Leslie Joseph Powell, NX160184 (N51613)
Report on Internee [over typed with XXXXXX] Prisoner Of War Tadao Minami [Hajime Toyoshima] 21 April 1942
Internee [over typed XXXXX] Prisoner Of War Service and Casualty Form Identification No. PWJA.110.001 Tadao Minami
Australian Post "Where Japs got the third degree" by David Sissons, July 17, 1986, page 3, 5
"War Comes To Australia" article by Robert Piper at display at RAAF Museum Point Cook
The Hidden Chapters (1995) by Robert Piper
AWM "The bugle and the breakout" by Claire Hunter 30 July 2019
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