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4th Kōkūtai (4th Air Group)
Imperial Japanese Navy Kokutai

Background
The 4th Kōkūtai (4th Kokutai, 4th Ku) or 4th Air Group was a land based unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). The group operated was established at Rabaul and had a fighter butai operating the Type 96 (A5M4 Claude) and later A6M2 Model 21 Zero from Lakunai Airfield and a bomber butai operating the Type 1 Attack Bomber (G4M Betty) from Vunakanau Airfield. On November 1, 1942 the bomber butai was redesignated 703 Kōkūtai (703 Air Group).

Wartime History
On February 10, 1942, the 4th Kokutai was created at Rabaul. To form the cadre of the group, one chutai of the Chitose Kokutai was transfered to the newly established group with fighter butai operating the Type 96 (A5M4 Claude) and later the A6M2 Model 21 Zero at Lakunai Airfield and a bomber butai operating the Type 1 Attack Bomber (G4M Betty) from Vunakanau Airfield.

On February 17, 1942 six A6M2 Zero from Shoho to Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul and assigned to the 4th Kokutai.

On February 23, 1942 the six Zeros that scrambled to intercept the first U. S. bombing mission against Rabaul when a formation of B-17 Flying Fortresses that bombed shipping in Simpson Harbor. The intercepting Zeros fired at the bombers and claimed a victory. In fact, any damage inflicted was superficial. Some gunfire hit did hit the tail of B-17E 41-2446 this bomber later force landed due to low fuel.

On February 28, 1942 the six Zeros took off on a mission to escort G4M1 Bettys on a bombing mission against Port Moresby. Over the target, the Zeros met no resistance so they tested their guns on the wreck of the SS Pruth, then strafed strafed flying boats moored in Fairfax Harbor off Napa Napa and sink Catalina A24-3 and Catalina A24-6. During the atack, A6M2 Zero 911 piloted by Sea1c Katsuro Nagatomo was hit by gunfire from a single 7.7mm Lewis machine gun and crashed into Bootless Bay.

On March 22, 1942 nineteen G3M1 Nells from the 1st Kokutai took off from Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul on a bombing mission against Port Moresby escorted by three A6M2 Zeros from the 4th Kokutai that rendezvoused over Lae. Lost is A6M2 Zero piloted by Yoshi'i (KIA).

On November 1, 1942 the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) renamed air groups with three digit identifiers and the 4th Kokutai "Ohashi Butai" named for Commanding Officer (C.O.) Captain Fujiro Ohashi operating from Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul was redesignated 703 Kōkūtai (703 Air Group). Aircraft tail code "S-"

Tail Codes
F-151–F-169  A6M2 Zero butai tail code Febrary 1942–March 1942 at Rabaul

References
Combined Fleet - IJN Shoho: Tabular Record of Movement
Kodochosho, 4th Kōkūtai, February 23, 1942

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