|Pilot PO2c Enji Kakimoto (POW, suicide August 5, 1944)
Ditched August 27, 1942
Kakimoto was born in 1921 in Hitachi, Oita-Ken, and prewar occupation as farmer and religion Buddhist. In captivity, he stated April 28, 1920.
Built by Mitsubishi. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as A6M3 Zero manufacture number unknown. Assigned to the Tainan Kōkūtai with tail code V-??? (three digits). It is unclear if this aircraft was an A6M3 Model 22 Zero or A6M3 Model 32 Zero.
On August 27, 1942 took off from Buna Airfield piloted by PO2c Enji Kakimoto as one of five Tainan Kokutai Zeros on a mission to escort D3A Vals from the 2nd Kokutai against Milne Bay but did not rendezvous with them until 8:20am over the target area as they were completing their dive bombing runs and departing the area. Kakimoto flew in the 3rd Chutai in the no. 2 position as wingman to Sadao Yamashita.
Afterwards, the Tainan Kokutai Zeros dove down to strafe Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip, Fall River), firing at LB-30 Liberator AL-818 that was already destroyed and unservicable. Over the airfield, two of the Zeros including Kakimoto were hit by anti-aircraft fire.
Kakimoto was trying to rejoin the other Zeros when his oil pressure failed. He tried to find a target to crash into but found none and instead ditched in shallow water and landed unhurt.
Fates of the Pilot
Kakimoto swam to the beach nearby. On the back of a Tainan Kokutai group photograph he was carrying, he wrote a short diary. Finding native people, he stayed with them for four days and went with them, believing them were friendly.
Prisoner of War
Instead, on on August 31, 1942 they turned him over to the Australian Army and was captured by Private Farrer, WXM6468. Before being captured, he tore up the Tainan Kokutai group photograph, but the pieces were taken and later repaired and was later studied by Allied intelligence.
Kakimoto was taken to Milne Bay, and was observed by RAAF pilots from 75 Squadron and 76 Squadron, including taking a posed photograph blindfolded with "Bluey" Truscott pointing a revolver at him. Flight Lieutenant Jeff Wilkinson of 75 Squadron remembered Kakimoto: 'He sat for most of the time with his head in his hands in disgrace an and he looked a very dejected person'.
Kakimoto was registered as prisoner of war PWJA.110007. Transported to Australia, he arrived on September 12, 1942 at Broadmeadows and was marched to Hay on September 14. Next marched to Cowra POW Camp arriving January 9, 1943 and assigned to Hut 7.
He became a ring leader and instigator for the "Cowra Breakout", remembered as a vocal orator with a bad temper. During the breakout, he ordered a lame subordinate to hang himself, then hung himself on the morning of August 5 1944.
Fellow pilots PO/1 Sadaô Yamashita and NAP Kihachi Ninomiya witnessed the ditching and thought the Zero had ditched in very shallow water because they could see it from the air in very clear water. They dove down and strafed the water, in an attempt to destroy it to prevent it from being salvaged by the Allies. While strafing, the were surprised by two P-40s from 75 Squadron piloted by CO Les Jackson and his wingman Sgt Roy Riddel, who shot down both Zeros.
Kakimoto's Zero was nearly intact in 12-18 feet of water, 25 miles from the Marine wharf at Milne Bay. Located by the Allies, the wreck was inspected during October 1942 and deemed salvageable and described as the "Kanapope Zero" (location reference?) Later, an aborted attempt to salvage the wreck was undertaken by RAAF 10 Repair & Salvage Unit (RSU). With the capture of Buna Airfield and several intact Zeros at that location, the necessity for this Zero to be salvage diminished and no further work was undertaken.
The Hidden Chapters by Robert Piper "Zero Hour" pages 134-143
Australian Post "Where Japs got the third degree" by David Sissons, July 17, 1986, page 4
Cowra-Japan conversations: MURAKAMI Teruo, TAKAHARA Marekuni and YAMADA Masayoshi as former prisoners of war, Cowra, 1942–1945: Interviewed by Terry Colhoun at Australian War Memorial, Canberra, on 7 August 2004 (AWM S03331)
"YAMADA: I don’t think my role was anything special. I was just one of the others, but Mr KAKIMOTO, whose family has travelled to Australia with us this time, was a group leader. He told me that he was a Zero pilot, or something like that. We just followed his orders."
Thanks to Robert Piper, Osamu Tagaya and Edward Rogers for additional information.
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April 11, 2018