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|Pilot P. O. 2nd Class Tsutomou
Ito (POW, survived)
Crashed May 17, 1942
During the strafing run, this Zero was damaged by anti-aircraft fire from 50 caliber machine guns on the ground and was damaged and failed to rejoined the formation. Alone, Ito flew northward towards Lae before his engine stopped and force landed in a flat area of the mountains. During the landing, trees tore off the outer wings and twisted the tail.
Fate of the Pilot
Prisoner of War
Accompanied by Turner and a group of police and boys, Ito was walked out of the mountains via Ioma to Awala then westward across the Kokoda Trail. Ironically, he was the only Japanese person to walk the entire length of the trail. In Port Moresby, Ito was placed in the custody of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Intelligence.
During late June 1942, he was flown to Townsville. In Australia, he was assigned prisoner number PWJA.110009. Transported to Redholme Manson in South Yarra, Victoria and interrogated. During that time, he suffered a bout of malaria for four days.
Under interrogation, He claimed he was the co-pilot of a bomber from the "Araki Butai" and the sole survivor of his crew, so they would not look for his Zero. But, his story, did not hold up under detailed interrogation. His story varied when he claimed his bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire in one telling and fighter attacks in another. Also, the bombing raids over Port Moresby he claimed to have participated on May 15 and 22, no bombers had been observed over Port Moresby on either date.
In later interrogations, he admitted: "On May 17, 1942 I was strafing Moresby air base [7-Mile Drome] following Lt. Yamaguchi. AA fire perforated the engine. I decided to return to Lae by direct route. While flying solely, engine stopped and crash landed in the jungle before crossing the ridge."
Afterwards, he was transferred to Hay Camp, NSW on September 14 and quartered with civil internees and volunteered to work at road maintenance to earn extra money to buy things at the canteen.
On January 9, 1943, he was sent to Cowra POW Camp. Again hospitalized on February 17 - March 11, then returned to the camp. Ito participated in the "Cowra Breakout" during the early morning of August 5, 1944. He spent the night pinned down by machine gun fire in a storm drainage ditch. The next morning, he ran towards a sentry post, and ignored orders to halt in an apparent attempt to commit suicide. He was shot twice and immobilized with compound fractures to both shoulders and taken to Murchison Camp. Afterwards, he was hospitalized from August 22 until March 7, 1945, then returned to Murchison Camp, then March 12 to Liverpool.
On March 1, 1946 taken to Sydney and departed aboard the Daikai Maru on March 2 and returned to Japan. Postwar, in Japan and lived under an assumed name "Isshiki". He never participated in Zero Pilot Reunion events. Saburo Sakai also confirmed Ito was reluctant to apply for medical benefits as wounded in action from the Japanese Government as he was ashamed of his captivity. Eventually he applied by Sakai's advice, but he claimed in an affidavit that he crashed and survived the war with natives until liberated.
Naoki Kodachi, V-P
of Zero Fighter Association:
Lawrence Kilemu adds:
Justin Taylan adds:
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