|Pilot Seaman 3rd Class Masajiro Kawato (POW, survived)
Observer P. O. Tokio Shimizu (MIA / KIA March 9, 1945) Enzan City
Ditched March 9, 1945
Kawato flew 35 combat missions between December 1, 1943 until February 6, 1944. Although he claimed 18 victories, he actually only earned 1.25 victories. On December 17, 1944 he collided with a RNZAF Kittyhawk, his first victory. During the night of March 22, 1944 he earned a quarter victory over a PBJ Mitchell with three other Zeros. Observer Shimizu was assigned to the 958 Kokutai and transferred to the 105th Naval Base Unit.
During October 1944, this Zero was field modified at Rabaul into a two seat Zero in a modification conceived by commander Tomoyoshi
Hori. A rear facing seat for an observer was installed behind
the pilot with a telegraph for transmitting long range communications during reconnaissance missions. Assigned to the 105th Naval Base Unit.
Took off from Tobera Airfield armed with two 70kg cluster bombs with A6M Zero piloted by Shimbo on a mission to attack Australian forces off Zungen (Tol). Encountering bad weather, Shimbo aborted the mission. Kawato flew eastward for a spontaneous strike on Green Island Airfield (Nissan) but found it covered in heavy clouds. Returning via Zungen (Tol) they overflew Wide Bay then spotted an enemy gunboat ten miles southwest of Cape Orford.
Diving to attack ML-825 when the Zero attacked and dropped one cluster bomb that exploded 30 yards away. Turning around for another run, the vessel fired back with 40mm, 20mm and machine gun fire as the Zero fired three bursts, hitting the gunboat nine times. The Zero was hit by anti-aircraft fire that exploded the right fuel tank, mortally wounded Shimizu. The entire attack attack lasted only 42 seconds.
Descending, Kawato salvoed the other bomb then ditched into the sea a mile away. Observer Shimizo did not escape, either he was already dead or went down with the Zero. Afterwards, ML-825 searched where the Zero had ditched, but did not find any trace of the crew.
Fates of the Crew
Kawato suffered a broken wrist and concussion during the ditching. He swam over a mile and a half before reaching East Owen Point and attempted to follow the coastline in the jungle. At Baien, on March 14, 1945 he was spotted by natives and fed. Natives from ANGAU delivered him to the Australian Army, 6th Infantry Brigade, then taken to the 5th Division Provost Company.
On March 17, 1945 he was taken to Jacquinot Bay and interrogated starting on March 24 by Major R. E. M. Cameron, ATIS. Kawato was assigned PW Number JA-161003. Transported to Australia and on April 2, 1945 interned in the Gaythorne POW Camp in Queensland. On August 6, 1945 transferred to the US Army, Provost Marshal Department. Repatriated to Japan during November 1995.
Shiro Shimizu (brother of
"We were not notified of Tokio's death until eight months had passed. On March 9, 1946, we held a funeral service for him. His name and date of death were inscribed on the tombstone of our ancestral grave."
Siege of Rabaul pages 62-63, 73-78
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January 3, 2015