Chitose Kōkūtai (Chitose Air Group)
Imperial Japanese Navy Kokutai
On October 1, 1939 the Chitose Kokutai (Chitose Air Group) was formed at Chitose Airfield on Hokkaido in Japan. This was the 21st Kokutai organized and the first formed in Hokkaido, under the Command of Ominato Naval Yard in Aomori Prefecture. On November 15, 1940, the Chitose Kokutai was assigned to the 4th Kokutai.
On January 15, 1941, the group was assigned to the newly designated 24th Koku Sentai (Air Flotilla). Starting in June 1941 the group was engaged in training activities and operated from Saipan, Palau, and the Marshalls Islands in October 1941. During this period, the air group's strength was 36 x Type 96 Attack Bombers / G3M Nell divided into four hiko chutai and 18 x Type 96 Carrier Fighters / A5M4 Claude divided into two hiko chutai. During this period, some bombers carrier fighters also operated from Truk and Tarawa. Another part came from an ad hoc unit formed in December 1941 from pilots from 3rd Kokutai and Tainan Kokutai and was deployed with Type 96 fighters to Palau. The assigned pilots were a mix of those with experience and new pilots first assigned to operational units.
During October 1941, some bombers of this Group were dispatched Truk for reconnaissance of Rabaul. A Type 1 Rikko was dispatched to Kwajalein in November to fly reconnaissance over Wake Island. When the war broke out, the group attack bombers began bombing Wake Island and continued bombing there until the island was occupied on December 23, 1941. After the occupation of Wake Island, the Group again engaged in patrol missions.
The bomber section was known as the "Ohashi Butai" for Commanding Officer (C. O.) Captain Fujiro Ohashi. Equipped with 36 G3M2 Rikko (Nell) bombers, organized into four Hiko Chutai / Buntai. This unit made a bombing raid against Wake Island during December 1941.
Early in January 1942, 18 attack bombers (two hiko chutai) were dispatched to Truk to participate in the operations against Rabaul.
On February 1, 1942, 8 Chitose Kokutai bombers led by Lt. Nakai encountered the U. S. Navy (USN) Task Force led by Adm. W. F. Halsey when they hit a bull's eye strike upon the USS Chester CA-27 and Lt. Nakai made a suicide attack against the USS Enterprise.
On February 10, 1942, the 4th Kōkūtai (4th Air Group) was created at Rabaul. To form the cadre of the group, one chutai from the Chitose Kokutai was transfered to the newly established group while the fighter butai operated 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 11, 1942 four A5M4 Claudes from the Chitose Kokutai took off from Gasmata Airfield led by Ensign Satoshi Yoshinoto intercept three Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hudsons attacking ships off Gasmata (Surumi). They claimed all three shot down. In fact, only two were shot down: Hudson A16-91 pilot W/Cdr John M. Lerew (1 survived, 3 KIA) and Hudson A16-126 pilot F/O Graham I. Gibson (4 MIA).
On February 17, the first six A6M2 Zero were flown from Shoho to
Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul.
During the middle of February 1942, the Chitose Kokutai began to transition from the Type 96 Attack Bomber (G3M Nell) to the Type 1 Attack Bomber (G4M1 Betty). The group then continued patrol missions over Malaysia and reconnaissance mission over New Guinea. On March 8, 1942, some planes of the group were dispatched to Wake Airfield to fly patrols. On April 1, 1942 the group moved from the 4th Koku Kantai (4th Air Fleet) to the 8th Koku Kantai (8th Air Fleet).
On August 17, 1942, the U. S. Forces made a surprise landing over to Makin Island using two submarines and Chitose Kokutai bombers were active against the enemy. On September 2, 1942, two bombers were dispatched to Rabaul and participated in bombing missions against Guadalcanal and Port Moresby. The sorties continued until late September 1942. Afterwards, this detachment went to Kwajalein Island on September 23, 1942. The groups total strength moved to Rabaul on October 26, 1942.
On November 1, 1942 the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) renamed air groups with three digit identifiers. The bomber buntai became the 702 Kokutai and 703 Kokutai and the fighter buntai became the 201 Kokutai. The fighter buntai was designated the 201 Kōkūtai (201 Air Group)and would remain in the South Pacific.
S- – ? - November 1, 1942
W1-??? – November 1942 - July 1943
6-??? – Possibly used middle 1943
One of the tail fins in the Blayd collection has tail code 6-136 over an earlier code of W1-187.
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