|Pilot CPO Jiro Nagai (MIA / KIA) Tokushima Prefecture
Observer PO1c Yoshio Sakamoto (MIA / KIA)
Radio PO2c Nobuo Miwata (MIA / KIA)
MIA April 27, 1945
Built by Nakajima. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber / B5N2 Kate.
During 1945, assigned to the 105th Naval Base Un
it at Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. No known nickname or tail code. Possibly, this aircraft had an unknown three digit tail code.
On April 27, 1945 at 8:10pm took off from Vunakanau Airfield piloted by CPO Jiro Nagai flying as the no. 2 (wingman) for flight leader B5N2 Kate piloted by Takahashi on a mission to bomb two American "aircraft carriers" (actually floating dry docks) and warships spotted on April 22, 1945 moored in Seelder Harbor between Manus Island and Los Negro Island.
Inbound to the target area, the pair flew at an altitude of 6,000' then descended to 300-600' in poor weather then reached Rambutyo Island and proceeded to the target at an altitude of 150'. They spotted a searchlight from Momote Airfield and the clouds cleared over Seelder Harbor which was lit up with lights and was not observing any blackout, believing there were no Japanese aircraft capable of threaten the area.
At 11:15pm, the pair commenced their attack and became separated, each attacking separate targets. This Kate released its aerial torpedo which hit and damaged ABSD-4 Floating Dry Dock.
After the attack, this Kate failed to return to Rabaul and was declared Missing In Action (MIA). The precise fate of this Kate is unknown, it was either lost over the target or returning in bad weather. There are two conflicting accounts of this plane's potential fate.
The Americans claimed this Kate crashed into Seelder Harbor. The U. S. Navy combat report stated: "After dropping the torpedo, the plane [B5N2 Kate piloted Nagai] climbed sharply, making a steep right bank over the starboard side and barely missing the crane [aboard ABSD-4]. The pilot seemed to loose control, and the plane fell sideways into the harbor. Searching afterwards, US Navy divers failed to locate the plane.
Postwar, Ensign Chuhei Okubo navigator aboard B5N2 Kate piloted by Takahashi claimed this Kate rejoined formation with them after the attack for about thirty minutes until they entered bad weather and was never seen again.
When this Kate failed to rejoin formation, the other Kate flashed a signal lamp, in hopes it was in the vicinity. At 0200 on April 28 when the surviving Kate landed, searchlights near Vunakanau Airfield were illuminated briefly in hopes the plane was nearby.
The Siege of Rabaul page 79-85
Thanks to Henry Sakaida for additional information
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November 6, 2018