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  G4M1 Model 11 Betty Manufacture Number 2656 Tail T1-323
IJN
705 Kōkūtai

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Rust In Peace 1970
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1978
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Jessie Owens 2002
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Phil Bradley 1997
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Justin Taylan 2000
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Yamamoto Museum 2001

Pilot  Warrant Officer Takeo Koyani (KIA)
Chief Pilot  Flight Warrant Officer Takeo Kotani (KIA)
Co-Pilot  Chief Flight Seaman Akiharu Ozaki (KIA)
Engineer  Flight Petty Officer Haruo Ueda (KIA)
Radio  Flight Petty Officer Nobuo Hara (KIA)
Radar / front gunner  Flight Petty Officer Minoru Tanaka (KIA)
Asst Radio / scanner / top gunner  Chief Flight Seaman Mitsuo Ueno (KIA)
Tail Gunner  Chief Flight Seaman Harumasa Kobayashi (KIA)
Passenger
  Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (KIA)
Passenger  Rear Admiral Takata, Chief Surgeon Combined Fleet (KIA)
Passenger
 Cdr Kurio Toibana, Staff Office (KIA)
Passenger
 Cdr Noburu Fukusaki, Yamamoto Aide
(KIA)
Shot Down  April 18, 1943 at roughly 8:00am

"Yamamoto Mission"
Admiral Yamamoto was Commander in Chief of the Combined Japanese Fleet planned an inspection tour of forward airfields and bases in the Shortlands and southern Bougainville during Operation I-Go, as boost moral after the Japanese losses on Guadalcanal.

Knowledge of his flight was gleamed from a coded Japanese message sent on April 13, 1943 which American intelligence had broken the Navy code. Decoded, the message outlined Yamamoto's itinerary and timetable indicated in Tokyo time.

Yamamoto planned to depart Rabaul at 0600 and land at Ballale Airfield at 0800. Then, proceed by subchaser to Shortland at 0840, then depart at 0945 aboard the same subchaser and return to Ballale at 1030, then depart at 1100 by G4M1 Betty and arrive at Buin Airfield (Kahili) at 1110. Finally at 1400 depart Buin Airfield (Kahili) by G4M1 Betty and arrive back at Rabaul at 1540.

A secret plan was made to to intercept his flight and shoot down Yamamoto's bomber. Eighteen P-38 Lightings from the 347th and 18th FG would fly the longest intercept mission of World War II, flying 435 miles over the sea, by land based aircraft.

Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi at Nagoya No. 3 Works during March 1943. Assigned to the 705 Kokutai. Tail code T1-323.

Mission History
This bomber along with G4M Betty T1-326 took off from Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul and flew a short distance to Lakunai Airfield to pick up passengers including Admiral Yamamoto and his staff. Departed at 6:10am, escorted by six A6M Zeros from the 204th Kōkūtai. The formation departed on schedule and proceeded as planned.

Meanwhile, American P-38 Lightnings of the 339th Fighter Squadron had taken off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal. Flying with auxiliary fuel tanks for the six hundred mile round trip flight. They spotted the Japanese formation south of Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville, and the P-38s spilt up to engage the escorting Zeros while the attack group engaged the two bombers.

Roughly a mile away, the P-38s were spotted by the Japanese formation and Yamamoto's bomber dove to low altitude, and was followed by the other bomber, as a defensive maneuver.

Yamamoto's bomber was shot shot down around 8:00am into the jungle near Aku on southern Bougainville. His bomber was claimed by P-38G 43-2238 #122 piloted by Thomas Lanphier and P-38G "Miss Virginia" 43-2204 #147 piloted by Rex Barber. Later research attributed the shoot down solely to Barber, who attacked from the rear.

The second bomber G4M1 T1-326 was attacked from the rear by three fighters: P-38G piloted by Holmes, P-38G piloted by Hine and P-38G "Miss Virginia" 43-2204 #147 piloted by Rex Barber and was shot down and ditched into the sea off Moila Point.

The nearest Japanese Army post at Aku, Lt. Hamasuna observed smoke from the crash.  At first, he believed it is was an American airplane crash and he led a group of twelve to the crash site, and was the first to arrive the following day. Next, a Japanese Navy patrol was sent to the site to recover the Admiral's body. When they arrived, they found Yamamoto's sword and Admiral rank insignia (shoulder bars) missing. They have never been located to this day.

Yamamoto's Remains
Yamamoto's body was recovered by the Navy patrol and transported to the 1st Base Command at Buin, where an autopsy was preformed on April 20. Many published accounts state Yamamoto died in his seat, from a bullet wound to his chest. According to the the Navy doctor who examined his body at the crash site and performed his autopsy, Yamamoto's had no visible wounds aside from a small cut above his eye. This caused speculation he might have survived the crash, but died hours later from internal injury or shock.

Afterwards, his body and uniform were cremated and buried at Buin. Part of his ashes were transported aboard a G4M1 Betty from Buin Airfield (Kahili) to Rabaul and then Truk.  Transferred to Battleship Musashi and transported to Tokyo arriving on May 3, 1943 when news of Yamamoto's death was officially reported to the Japanese press as "having died in combat aboard an aircraft". On June 5, Yamamoto received a state funeral in Tokyo. His remains were buried at Tama Cemetery, and a portion given to his wife and buried at his family shrine at Nagaoka.

Credit for Shooting Down Yamaoto
After the mission, Thomas Lanphier landed first and immediately claimed to have solely shot down Yamamoto. He was officially credited with the victory, before a post mission briefing was conducted or other pilots interviewed.

During the war, the news of the shoot down was suppressed in the United States, so as not to reveal that Japanese codes had been broken. Postwar research confirmed that Rex Barber actually shot down Yamamoto alone. This long standing controversy spawned a series of inquiries by several USAF credit review boards and the "Second Yamamoto Mission Association" to study the mission. But, officially, the USAF never changed the victory credit. Yet, Rex Barber is understood to be the sole pilot who shot down Yamamoto's Betty. This position was supported by "Second Yamamoto Mission Association", observations of the sole surviving Zero pilot, and even a letter Lanphier wrote to General Condon (claiming he shot down a bomber over the sea) and evidence from the bomber wreckage.

Wreckage
This wreck is without question, one of the most historically significant wrecks of WWII. Located in jungle near Moila Point, a few kilometers off the Panguna-Buin road near Aku. A path has been cut through the jungle to the site and requires an hour walk from the main road. Today, the wreck is closely guarded from theft or removal of any souvenirs.

Since the 1960s, Japanese delegations have visited the crash site, and erected a memorial plaque on the admiral's seat, and often leave memorial sticks at the site.

The fuselage door, a section of the outer wing and Yamamoto's seat were recovered from the crash site during the 1970s. Other smaller relics were also salvaged, including one of the control columns, and the aircraft's manufacture number stencil were in the possession of RAAF 183rd Reconnaissance Flight, Pacific Island Regiment, based at Lae during the 1970s (the fate of these items today is unknown).

The fuselage door, outer wing panel and seat were donated and were displayed at The Air Museum of Papua New Guinea until it closed in the late 1970s and were transferred to the PNG Museum. In the 1990s, the outer wing panel and seat were placed on permanent loan to the Isoroku Yamamoto Memorial Hall & Museum.

Richard Rudd recalls visiting the site in October 1968:
"While on an aerial mapping project, based out of Buin in October.1968 and the 'kiaps' at the time, (Australians), whilst imbibing and in conversation at the Buin Club, mentioned that a couple of weeks prior to our arrival, they had escorted a group of Japanese, complete with maps and WWII drawings to try and relocate the crash site. Which they did. We asked if it would be possible to be guided there again and when their time permitted, we drove up the coast/ inland track, getting permissions from various villages, until we quit the road and hiked off into the jungle for an hour or so. First sight was a wing, with hinomaru leaning against a forest tree, a flap? and then the bulk of the rear fuselage and engines. Much forward was all crushed and burnt and the Admirals seat by the rear door. In the jungle quiet, it was a sad scene to contemplate. Author Terry Gynne-Jones did a comprehensive article, with excellent color pics in GEO magazine in the late 1970s"

Josh Mcdade visited the site on September 1999. He found some updated info on the Yamamoto crash site. This notice has been passed around to the local PMG members that have been around that area. This notice has been amended by us (PMG members) because the charge has now increased to K25, as of 2002.

YAMAMOTO CRASH SITE LANDOWNER ASSOCIATION

Due to some changes been made within the Yamamoto Crash Site Association, management, We would like to inform the tourist or any person wishing to visit the site with the following guidelines.

1. VISIT TIMES
a. From now on visiting times will be on Mondays and Fridays only.
b. Book before visiting or at arrival with Albert Sipim at Konte, Buin
c. Arrival Time 8.00 am.
d. Departure time 9.00 am for the Lanphier crash site.

2. VISITING PAYMENT
a. Yamamoto crashed site visitors are charged K10.00 fee each person. Indefinitely.
b. Payment will be made with Albert Sipim, the register at booking time or at arrival.

Thank You
A. SIPIM, Secretary   A.AKANOI, Manager

References
Air'Tell Research Report "G4M Serial Numbers" by Jim Long
13th Fighter Command "Fighter Interception Report" April 18, 1943
Rust In Peace page 201-206
Yamamoto Autopsy details the crash site, remains recovery and autopsy
13th Fighter Command in World War II Chapter 8 Yamamoto Mission pages 137 -162 by Jim Lansdale, 320 (profile)
Thanks to Charles Darby for additional information

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Last Updated
January 1, 2014

 

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