|Pilot Sea1c Katsuro Nagatomo (survived, POW, suicide August 5, 1944)
Crashed February 28, 1942
Born in January 24, 1920 in Miyazaki-ken on Kyushu. Son of a doctor.
Built by Nakajima. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M2 Model 21 manufacture number 911 (unconfirmed). Painted overall gray with a black cowl. Assigned to the 4th Kōkūtai. Tail Number F-???.
On February 16, 1942 this was one of six A6M2 Model 21 Zeros that was transported to Rabaul as the first Zero delivery.
On February 23, 1942, Nagatoma took off piloting one of the six Zeros to intercepted the first American bombing mission by B-17 Flying Fortresses against Rabaul including B-17E
On February 28, 1942 took off from Rabaul piloted by Sea1c Katsuro Nagatomo as one of six Zeros on a mission to escort bombers over Port Moresby. Over the target, they met no resistance so dove down to strafe.
tested their guns on the wreck of the SS
Pruth, then strafed Australian
Catalinas moored in Fairfax Harbor off Napa
Napa and sink Catalina A24-3 and Catalina A24-6. Nagatomo's
Zero was hit by fire from a 7.7mm Lewis machine gun emplaced above Napa Napa, damaging it. Flying eastward, Nagatomo was able to
bail out before his Zero crashed into Bootless Bay.
Prisoner Of War
Nagatomo was captured by Australians, badly burned on his legs. He became Australia's first
POW taken in Australian territory during the war. He was taken
to a hospital, the to Australia. In captivity, he used the alias "Katsuro Sho" or "Eiori" and assigned prisoner number PWJA.100015.
In Australia, he spent six months recovering from his wounds in at RAAF hospital at Laverton near Melbourne. While hospitalized, he was interrogated for an hour during seven sessions over seven days. During these interrogations, he was "not inclined to be helpful" and responded to some questions with "scornful contempt". While recovering, he became friends with the nurse caring for him who he described as "a mature and understanding woman" and a chaplain at the hospital. Due to these relationships, his attitude changed and he freely answered technical questions.
Later, he was transfered to Redholme Manson in South Yarra, Victoria during the springtime and was given unrestricted use of the grounds and answered questions from the intelligence material section. He was asked to make a propaganda broadcast stating that Japanese prisoners were being fairly treated, which he declined, and requested to join other prisoners"to suffer with them". His request was initially declined and he remained at Redholme Manson, in hopes of further cooperation.
At one time, Nagatomo even offered to become an orderly at the hospital.
Eight months after being discharge from the hospital, he was interned at Cowra
POW Camp arriving May 22, 1943. Nagatomo participated in the "Cowra Breakout" attempted during the early morning of August 5, 1944. Attempting to escape, he was hit by a gun shot wound to the left side of the chest, killing him.
After the crash, Australian Army 39th Battalion 'C' Company Captain Robinson located the crash site, and were able to bring some wreckage to the surface with help from natives from the Tubusereia area.
On March 1, 1942 a 'fishing expedition' including RAAF Lt. Collet, RAN Captain Benjamin and four natives from Rabaul from the auxiliary ship Leander went to the crash site in Bootless Bay, and recovered additional pieces, including one 20mm cannon serial number 1339 (or 1389). Afterwards, returned to Port Moresby. Likely these pieces were later sent to Australia for technical evaluation (details unknown).
Today, SCUBA divers in Bootless Bay report the presence of a wreck in
murky water. Photographic evidence or confirmation is yet to be produced by a diver.
A small valve recovered
from the wreck by the Australian Army is displayed
in Aircraft Hall at the Australian
War Memorial. Also, several smaller pieces of wreckage are also in their collection: piping from Zero (AWM REL/16104.001), electrical cable (AWM REL/16104.002), direction indicator plate (AWM REL/16104.003) and shattered stud mount (AWM REL/16104.004).
Afterwards, Nagatomo was buried at Cowra Japanese War Cemetery at grave 21125.
War Diary HQ Inf Bde March 1, 1942
Intel Summary No. 15 and Appendix 1
Australian Post "Where Japs got the third degree" by David Sissons, July 17, 1986, page 4
War Diary 1942 February 28, 1942: "...a Japanese fighter was shot down in flames on the reef near Bootless Inlet. The pilot baled out and was captured, the first Japanese prisoner taken on Australian Territory in the war. The pilot was badly burned and taken to hospital."
Kijyo-nschi "Killed In Action, In Fact, A Life of a POW in Australia" July 10, 2004
Wrecks & Reefs pages 27
Thanks to Harumi Sakaguchi, Robert Piper, John Douglas and Daniel Leahy for additional information
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September 7, 2018