|Pilot CPO1c Takeo Harada (KIA)
Co-Pilot Hidetoshi Tokuda (KIA)
Observer Yoshitaka Shirai (KIA)
Observer Toshiho Nishida (KIA)
Radio Kanichi Shudoh (KIA)
Radio Sadakane Watanabe (KIA)
Mechanic Goro Seino (KIA)
Mechanic Asakichi Miura (KIA)
Crashed March 31, 1942 at 12:15
One of eighteen G3M2 bombers that took off on a bombing mission against Clark Field. Bombing from lower altitude due to cloud cover, this Nell was hit in its left engine by anti-aircraft fire and force landed near the target.
Back at their base, they were listed as missing in action and according to naval custom given a one rank promotion and listed as killed in action. Instead, the crew had all survived the landing. As the Japanese Army overran the Philippines, the crew were liberated. It is unclear if they were captured, or lived with Filipino people during that period.
Officially, the men were dead, but here they were back with their promoted rank. They represented a bad example to the other services and 'no surrender' doctrine. Segregated from other aircrews for morale purposes, this crew was continually placed in the most vulnerable position on missions against Australian targets. But, despite the fury and danger of the battles in which it participated, the crew just kept coming back to base alive.
Built by Mitsubishi. Delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). Assigned to the 1st Kōkūtai. Tail code 67 was painted on the underside of the wings in large black numbers.
Osamu Tagaya adds:
"That's very interesting. Large figures beneath both wings at that stage of war in a front line unit is an anomaly."
Due to this crew's disgrace as being taken prisoner, they were ordered on a risky mission, in hopes they would be shot down.
On March 30, 1942, this bomber and crew were ordered to take off from Lae Airfield and fly over Port Moresby at low altitude without escort. Amazingly, they returned without a scratch and managed to take excellent photographs of 7-Mile Drome.
Admiral Takajiro Onishi ordered them to return to Port Moresby the next day and were told “do not return”. The crew shared cigarettes and drinks together before their final mission.
On March 31, 1942 took off from Lae Airfield on a solo suicide bombing mission over from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby flying at roughly 15,000'. Over the target at 12:45 (local time) a message was received from the bomber back at Rabaul: “Finished bombing. All bombs hit mark”. Fifteen minutes later, another message came on the radio: “We will go in. All around is clear. Thank you for your kindnesses during our lifetime. Banzai for the Emperor (Tenno heika banzai).”
Japanese sources report that this bomber made a suicide dive and crash into the enemy after a successful bombing mission.
Many Australians and Americans on the ground witnessed this bomber's demise. Some claimed the bomber's wing broke off midair, causing it to crash about a mile from 7-Mile Drome. Others observed one bomb was jettisoned before the plane crashed, and other bombs exploded on impact. No damage was caused to any Allied installation by the bomb or crash.
Osamu Tagaya adds:
"The speculation is that the crew carried one of their armed bombs inside the aircraft and detonated it over Moresby. The mission of the 31st is listed as a bombing mission, and that communication was lost after the crew reported bombing completed."
The wreckage was examined by the Allies after the crash. Reportedly, the bomber had large black painted "67" on the underside of both wings (or tails?).
Kodochosho, 1st Kōkūtai, March 31, 1942
Ware Jibakusu Tenkou Hare (We crashing weather is fine) by Takashi Iwakawa
Kamikaze Mystery by Bob Piper
Decisive Factor RAAF pilot Turnbull was on the ground, pointed a stick at the plane, did a mumbo jumbo dance
and was dumb founded when the plane actually crashed.
Samurai! by Saburo Sakai mentions this incident
Ôzora no samurai by Saburo Sakai mentions this incident
War Diary 1942 page 46
Bomber falls to pieces! An extraordinary incident this afternoon. A big Japanese
bomber was overhead on reconnaissance in cloudy weather - the same plane
that tried unsuccessfully to drop bombs yesterday. None of our fighters
went up and the AA never fired a shot, but suddenly the bomber was seen
to be falling after losing part of a wing or tail plane. It crashed into
the hills in a big cloud of smoke. The bodies of the crew were found in
the wreckage - including the body of a high ranking Japanese officer in
full uniform and wearing his sword!"
Intelligence Report No. 21
"Plane bore same markings, large black figures "67" on underside of both wings, as recce plane on previous day."
Eaton Diary entry March 31, 1942 via The Swamp Ghost DVD
"I happened to be out at 7 Mile Drome when an air raid alarm was given at 11:15am. A two engined bomber flew over us at 15,000' without a shot being fired. His wing broke off and he crashed about a mile away from me in flames."
30 Brigade Intelligence Summary no. 27 - 2 April 1942 a Moresby Recce 31 Mar
"... One bomb was jettisoned before the plane crashed and a number appeared to explode on the plane as it hit the ground."
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January 5, 2018