Vice-Admiral Matome Ugaki
Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Chief of Staff Combined Fleet
Matome Ugaki was born February 15 1890 in Akaiwa District, Okayama (today Okayama city) in Okayama Prefecture in Japan.
Ugaki kept a personal diary that survived the war and in 1991 was first published and translated to English as Fading Victory The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941-1945.
He joined the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1912 and placed 9th in the class of 144 cadets. Afterwards, served on cruiser Azuma, Hirado. On December 1, 1913 commissioned as an Ensign and assigned to Ibuki, Kongo, Iwate and destroyer Nara. On December 1, 1918 promoted to Lieutenant and attended Naval artillery school and then as gunnery officer on destroyer Minekaze. During 1924 attended Naval Staff College and promoted to Lieutenant Commander and served aboard light cruiser Ōi, then three years at Naval Gunnery School.
In 1930, promoted to Commander and posted to Germany during 1928–1930. On December 1, 1932 promoted to Captain and became an instructor at the Naval War College. In 1935 assigned as a staff officer to the Combined Fleet and in 1936 commanded cruiser Yakumo. In 1937 commanded battleship Hyuga. On November 15, 1938 promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
In 1941, appointed as Chief of Staff, Combined Fleet serving under under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief Combined Fleet. On November 1, 1942 promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral.
In April 1943, during Operation I-Go, Admiral Yamamoto and his senior staff including Vice-Admiral Ugaki were at Rabaul to oversee the operation. At the conclusion, Admiral Yamamoto and his senior staff including Vice-Admiral Ugaki planned an inspection tour of forward airfields and bases in the Shortlands and southern Bougainville area. Yamamoto and his staff would make an inspection of the forward airfields to boost morale
and praise the Army-Navy cooperation during Operation I-Go.
April 18, 1943 "Yamamoto Mission"
On April 18, 1943 at dawn, two G4M1 Betty bombers from Vunakanau Airfield landed at Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul to pickup Yamamoto and his senior staff for the inspection tour.
Aboard the first bomber, G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 four passengers boarded this aircraft including: Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Rear Admiral Rokurou Takata, Cdr Kurio Toibana and
Noburu Fukusaki plus their baggage.
Aboard the second bomber, G4M1 Betty Tail 326 five passengers boarded Vice-Admiral
Matome Ugaki, Captain Motoharu Kitamura, Rinji Tomoro, Kaoru Imananka and Suteji Muroi. At 6:10am both Bettys took off from Lakunai Airfield and flew southeast bound for Ballale Airfield. Over southern Bougainville, intercepted and shot down by P-38 Lightings from the 399th Fighter Squadron.
After the shoot down of G4M1 Betty 2656 Tail 323 with Yamamoto aboard, this bomber was attacked from the rear by three fighters: P-38G 42-12690 piloted by Holmes, P-38G piloted by Hine and P-38G "Miss Virginia" 43-2204 piloted by Barber. During the attack, Holmes dove at the bomber, firing at it and causing the left engine to smoke. Hine next fired at it. Finally, Barber fired into the fuselage and claimed to cause it to explode. Damaged, the bomber ditched into the sea off Moila Point at the southern tip of Bougainville.
Three survived the crash: Vice-Admiral
Matome Ugaki, Captain Motoharu Kitamura and pilot Hiroshi Hayashi. All three managed to wade ashore. The rest of the crew and passengers were killed in the air or during the crash. Later , the body of one of the crew washed ashore.
Recovery In Japan
Afterwards, Ugaki convalesced in Japan to recover from his injuries and blamed himself for Yamamoto's loss. He did maintain a diary during his hospitalization in Japan, but his son Hirosmitsu refused permission to publish the entries claiming they were "personal and of no historical interest". After he passed away, his widow was asked but also declined to share them, citing her husband's wishes. Whatever might be written in those "personal" entires is unknown. Another interesting revelation is that according to Watanabe, Ugaki felt he was responsible for Yamamoto's death. Although his diary gives no reason, it was likely because Ugaki felt it was his eagerness to visit the front line influenced Yamamoto to make the inspection and resulted in his death.
Final Kamikaze Mission
On August 15, 1945 after the Emperor made the radio announcement that Japan would surrender, Ugaki made a final diary entry, noting that he had not yet received an official cease-fire order, and that as he alone was to blame for the failure of his aviators to stop the enemy and decided to fly a final kamikaze mission himself to show the true spirit of bushido. His subordinates protested, he posed for pictures, removed his rank insignia and wore a Type 3 uniform (dark green) and carried a sword given to him by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto then boarded a D4Y Judy 701-122 and took off from Oita Airfield. During the flight, Warrant Officer Akiyoshi Endo sent Ugaki's final radio message at 7:24pm reported that the plane had begun its dive onto an American vessel, but was instead shot down by anti-aircraft fire or crashed into the sea.
The Ōita Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Takeoff Site Monument was built during October 1976 at Ōsu Athletic Park in Ōita City. The back of the memorial reads: "At 4:30 p.m. on August 15, 1945, the Pacific War's last kamikaze attack corps sortied from this site. The names of these men who died when they dove into American ships near Okinawa are listed at left." At left are the names Kamikaze pilots and crews, the first name is Matome Ugaki, 55 years, from Okayama Prefecture. Plus, seventeen others aged 19 to 24.
Fading Victory The Diary of Admiral Matome Ugaki, 1941-1945 mentions this loss page 624, 663-664, 665-666 (epilogue)
Combined Fleet Decoded page 462–463
"Admiral Ugaki had been asleep until the moment of the attack. He ought not to have come along in his feverish condition, but now he awoke and intervened with an order to the pilot to stay behind Yamamoto's plane. Hayashi was surprised that the P-38s seemed to concentrate their attacks on the first plane, and soon they saw fires in both engines. Petty Offier Hayashi got his plane down close to the water as close as he could get and when his Betty was at last hit, it pancaked on the water and made a more or less sucessful crash landing. Admiral Ugaki fractured an arm and suffered a broken artery; fleet paymaster Admiral Kitamura and pilot Hayashi also survived. Assistant air staff officer Muroi Suteji apparently died from bullet wounds as American fighters attacked. There were no survivors from the Yamamoto plane. The admiral himself, decked out in a green tropical uniform he had never used, was found sitting in his flight seat, clutching his sword in classic fashion, except that the seat had been flung clear of the aircraft and rested against a tree."
Ōita Kamikaze Special Attack Corps Takeoff Site Monument Ōita City, Ōita Prefecture (photo)
Do you have photos or additional information to add?