|Pilot PO3c Yoshimitsu Maeda (POW, survived)
Crashed April 28, 1942 at 4:30pm
Born in Tokyo on May 5, 1918. Maeda began flying combat missions with the Tainan Kōkūtai based at Lae Airfield beginning on April 21, 1942 with a CAP over Lae. On April 22 he also flew CAP over Lae. On April 23 he flew two CAP missions over Lae. On April 24 he flew two CAP missions over Lae. Also, CAP on April 25 and April 26.
Built by Mitsubishi on February 9, 1942. Assigned to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) to the Tainan Kokutai. Painted in overall gray, this aircraft had a red fuselage diagonal stripe and was assigned tail code V-110.
On April 28, 1942 took off from Lae Airfield on a morning combat air patrol (CAP) and landed safely. Later that same day at 13:00, again took off from Lae Airfield along with A6M2 Zeros piloted by Arita in pursuit of a Lockheed Hudson, in fact B-25C "Der Schpy" 41-12496. Arita claimed it as shot down, but Maeda did not return and was declared missing.
If fact, Maeda became separated, crossed the Owen Stanley Mountains and ended up east of Port Moresby when he spotted a ANGAU ship [MV Laurabada] east of Abau. As he turned to strafe it, and hit a coconut palm on Otamata plantation and made a crash landing in the plantation. Maeda survived the crash landing unhurt but stunned from the impact.
The official Japanese report said Maeda was ill due to oxygen starvation, and that is why he made a forced landing. Other reports incorrectly state this Zero was hit by Allied gunfire and the pilot made a forced landing with the engine running at the time.
Prisoner of War
The crash was observed by locals and ANGAU spotter Duffy based at the plantation. Maeda was captured without resistence and became a Prisoner Of War (POW). First, he was taken to Abau then transported aboard the MV Matoma bound for Port Moresby.
In captivity, he used the alias "Hideo Oki" or "Maida" (mispelling of his real name) and was assigned prisoner number PWJA.110008.
Transported by ship to Australia arriving at Broadmeadows on September 12, 1942. Then marched to Hay on September 14. Taken to the hospital from October 22 - November 4, then returned to Hay. On January 8, 1943 transferred to Cowra POW Camp. On June 5-7 was again taken to the hospital. On September 5, transfered to Murchison camp. He departed Australia aboard the Daikai Maru, March 2, 1946 and returned to Japan.
Australians told to salvage the wreckage from Otamata plantation cut off the wings so it would fit inside the back of a truck and was transported to Abau. Loaded onto two native canoes aboard the MV Matoma during late May and transported to Port Moresby.
During late May or early June, the Zero was displayed and photographed at Port Moresby on its belly and vertically against a building, souvenir hunters removed practically every instrument, dataplate, indicator, and lever that would come off and many cables and pulleys were missing.
Transported to Brisbane, the wreckage was not particularly useful for ATIU efforts at Eagle Farm Airfield / Hanger 7 to rebuild a Zero, because of the items removed and wings being cut off.
During July 1943, the Zero engine, wing and fuselage were paraded on a flatbed with a sign stating (incorrectly) "Jap Zero Fighter shot down by U.S. Air Force". After intelligence officers finished with the Zero at Brisbane, it was shipped on to Melbourne to be studied further for whatever could be learned.
Jim Long adds:
"No report was made regarding the condition of the plane immediately after the crash, but observers told intelligence officers that it was in good enough condition to easily be made airworthy. Orders for the plane to be shipped to Melbourne for reconditioning and flight tests were issued, but in order to ship the plane the attending salvagers literally chopped off the outer panels of the main wings. It was crated and shipped, but by the time it reached Brisbane, souvenir hunters had removed practically every instrument, name plate, indicator, and lever that would come off and many cables and pulleys were missing. After intelligence officers inspected the plane at Brisbane, it was shipped on to Melbourne to be studied further for whatever could be learned. But it was not in condition to be easily rebuilt after the the souvenir hunters had done their work. It was a mean lesson for the Technical Air Intelligence officers to learn. In future crashed planes were guarded vigorously, and souvenir hunting was discouraged with new regulations and procedures designed to preserve valuable enemy aircraft and equipment for intelligence studies."
Production figures of the Mitsubishi/Nakajima A6M Zero by Jim Long
Kodochosho, Tainan Kōkūtai, April 21-28, 1942
New York Times "Japanese Flier Fears for Family If Tokyo Learns of His Capture" by Byron Darnton, 1942
Australian Post "Where Japs got the third degree" by David Sissons, July 17, 1986, page 3
Private War of the Spotters:
"Maeda crashed in a plantation at Otamata, East of Abau on 28th April 42. There were two Spotters posted to Otamata, [Duffy and Fahey]. Vic Fahey was on walkabout and Duffy had malaria. He was in a canoe crewed by locals going to a passing supply ship [Elevada] when a zero passed overhead at 50 feet. He returned to the beach and was met by the local labourers who told him that the plane had crashed in the plantation.The pilot was stunned by the crash and Duffy took him prisoner. He was taken to Abau, where the District office was. The pilot couldn't speak english, but by signs Duffy was able to understand him. The pilot wanted Duffy to kill him. Duffy refrained. Duffy recorded that he was rather a good type of Japanese, handsome and only about his own age, 19 years. The plane was salvaged by two Air Force men and taken back to Port Moresby."
The New Guinea Diaries of Philip Strong:
"The Anglican Bishop Strong was traveling on the Matoma from Port Moresby to Samarai On the 28th April. They anchored at Otamata at 4.30 PM.The Engineers went ashore. Shortly afterwards he saw a a Jap plane flying low, and was horrified to see it turn around and make as if it was coming for them. He woke the skipper, who had to search for the stored MG ammo. By the time they found it, the plane had disappeared. One of the soldiers from the spotting station came along in a canoe. a little later, a dinghy came out with the pilot of the Jap plane. He had crashed on the Coconut trees and had come down. He had a wound on his head, having gashed it in the crash. The Bishop asked for the pilots needs. when these had been supplied, and his wounds bound, he was fed and searched. Then a mattress was put down for him and he lay down. Later on two soldiers came on board to keep guard over him. The next morning they reversed direction and sailed for Abau, where they arrived about noon. The prisoner seemed very depressed. By signs he asked if he would be shot or have his head cut off. At abau he was handed over to the the District Officer, Claude Champion. Claude said that the prisoner had implored them to shoot him."
Col. Hal Maull [A-20 pilot, 3rd BG, 13th BS] memoir written around 1992:
"...The schooner Matoma arrived. They have to move on around Milne Bay to the north coast to pick up some other crews. We politely declined the skipper's offer to take us aboard, stating that we'd wait until he returned. Several days later the Matoma was back with a P-39 pilot and a B-17 [or another bomber] crew. We boarded and started back to Moresby. But we had to stop at Abau to pick up a Jap Zero which had landed on the beach. As it was [being] lightered out on two native canoes lashed together, I was saddened by the damage that had been done to it in moving it to the Matoma. I took some pictures nonetheless."
The War Diaries of Eddie Allan Stanton, page 13, 15
"A report has been received that a Japanese Zero fighter had crashed at Otawatu, near Abau, and that the pilot, a young fellow about 19, had been captured. His plane had run out of petrol. The Japanese pilot had asked to be shot, but his wish was not granted. He was shaken up, and given a glass of whiskey. It must be stated that the Japanese handle their planes with courage & skill. The Japanese pilot captured near Abau could name and draw most of the Allied planes, especially the number of guns and their armament. His knowledge of the aerodromes was also good. They apparently don't mind dying, this fellow in particular was always demanding to be shot or bayoneted However, until more evidence in this respect is forthcoming, it is difficult to say whether this Japanese was an exception or one of many."
Eagles of the Southern Sky pages ?
Thanks to Edward Rogers, Harumi Sakaguchi, John Douglas, Jim Long for additional information.
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January 5, 2018