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2nd Kōkūtai (2nd Air Group) / 582nd Kōkūtai (582 Air Group)
Imperial Japanese Navy Kokutai

Background
On May 2, 1942 the 2nd Kōkūtai (2nd Air Group) was established under Commander Sakae Yamamoto. The air group was a composite air group which operated D3A dive bombers and A6M fighters. All aircraft bore tail code Q-??? (three digit). The unit first operated under the Combined Fleet then under the 8th Fleet at Rabaul and finally under the 26 Koku Sentai (26 Air Flotilla).

Fighter Buntai
The fighter unit operated the Zero fighter and was the first unit equipped with the A6M3 Model 32 Zero.

On August 6, 1942 the Yawata Maru (Unyō) delivered fifteen A6M3 Model 32 Zeros to Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul. On August 7, 1942 they participated in their first interception against B-17 Flying Fortresses over Rabaul.

On August 22, 1942 a detachment flew to Buna Airfield on New Guinea.

On November 1, 1942 redesignated the 582 Kokutai. The unit was part of the 26 Koku Sentai (26 Air Flotilla) at Rabaul. In the middle of November 1942, the main body of the air group was detached to Lae Airfield and aircraft made sorties escorting convoys and operations over Buna.

During late January 1943 operated from Kahili Airfield (Buin) and Munda Airfield. During April 1943 participated in Operation I-GO mission against Tulagi, Milne Bay and Port Moresby.

On June 5, 1943 the unit's Zeros intercepted American aircraft attacking Japanese shipping between Shortland and southern Bougainville claiming seventeen victories and loosing three aircraft and two pilots missing: PO1c Satoru Ogawa (Hei 2) and PO2c Shigehiko Ito (Hei 3).

During the middle of 1943, the unit used the tail code T3-??? (three digits). Later used tail code 82-??? (three digits).

On August 1, 1943 the 582 Kokutai fighter unit was disbanded with the personnel transfered to the 201 Kokutai or 204 Kokutai or sent back to Japan. The dive bomber unit remained at Rabaul.

Dive Bomber Buntai
The dive bomber unit operated the Type 99 Carrier Bomber / Ku Ku Kamba (Kanbaku) D3A1 Model 11 Val and later the D3A2 Model 22 Val and operated from Rabaul with detachments operating from Lae Airfield plus forward forward airfields in West New Britain including Hoskins Airfield and Gasmata Airfield. Also from forward bases in Bougainville including Kahili Airfield (Buin) and the Solomon Islands including Munda Airfield on New Georgia.

By late August 1942, the bomber unit had sixteen D3A1 Val dive bombers led b Lt. Fumitô Inoue at Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul.

On August 24, 1942 a detachment of D3A1 Vals led by Lt. Fumitô Inoue arrived at Buna Airfield on New Guinea. Due to Allied attacks after four days the remaining Vals were withdrawn.

On August 27, 1942 lost attacking Milne Bay were D3A1 Val pilot Takahashi and D3A1 Val piloted by FPO2c Shibuya whose gunner, F1/c Masami Koyamada became a Prisoner Of War (POW) and survied captivity.

On September 2, 1943 D3A1 Val 3110, D3A1 Val 3114 and D3A1 Val 3287 took off Lakunai Airfield near Rabaul escorted by Zeros on a mission to attack shipping off Milne Bay and crash landed at Table Bay. Their crews attempted to evade capture but resisted and were shot.

On November 1, 1942 redesignated the 582 Kokutai. The unit was part of the 26 Koku Sentai at Rabaul. In the middle of November 1942, the main body of the air group was detached to Lae Airfield and aircraft made sorties escorting convoys and operations over Buna.

During late January 1943 operated from Kahili Airfield (Buin) and Munda Airfield. During April 1943 participated in Operation I-GO mission against Tulagi, Milne Bay and Port Moresby.

During the middle of 1943, the unit used the tail code T3-??? (three digits). Later used tail code 82-??? (three digits).

The dive bomber unit remained at Rabaul. Between December 15-31, 1943 582 Kōkūtai flew missions with 552 Kōkūtai against the Allied landing and U. S. Navy vessels off Arawe (Cape Merkus).

December 15, 1943
(IJN) 7 x D3A2 Vals from the 582 Kokutai attack Mercus at 7:30am local time.

Losses
582nd Kokutai
Val MIA (PO1 ?, PO2 Hotta)
Val MIA (LS Nishiki Ori, PO1 Saito)
Total = 2

During December 1943 operated from Rabaul. Between December 17-31, 1943 582 Kōkūtai flew missions with 552 Kōkūtai against the Allied landing and U. S. Navy vessels off Arawe (Cape Merkus).

December 17, 1943
(IJN) 12 x D3A2 Vals from the 582nd Kokutai plus D3A2 Vals from the 552 Kokutai bomb Mercus at 7:06am local time, claiming damage to one small cargo ship, 1 sea tiger and an LVCP sunk. Plus, one small and one sea tiger burning. Also, one "P-43" [sic] shot down. Over the target, three Vals are lost. They report the American forces as APC 21, YMS 50, SC743 and 4 LSTs.

December 21, 1943 (first sortie)
(IJN) 32 x D3A2 Vals (12 x 582nd Kokutai plus 20 x 552nd Kokutai) attack Mercus between 10:55am until 11:08am and are intercepted by P-38 Lightnings.

December 21, 1943 (second sortie)
18 x D3A2 Vals (9 x 552nd Kokutai and 9 x 582nd Kokutai) attack Mercus at 3:45pm and claim 3 small transports sunk, 2 x LCT sea tigers sunk and ten small vessels burned, one large transport and part of the base destroyed. 20 x "F6F" and P-40s intercept.

Losses
552nd Kokutai
D3A2 Val pilot PO1 Honda, PO1 Tashiro
Total = 1

December 26, 1943
Japanese D3A2 Vals (15 x 582 Kokutai and 12 x 552 Kokutai) attack shipping off Merkus.
582nd Kokutai Vals claim 2 big cargo ships, 2 cruisers, 3 large cargo ships burning.

Losses
552nd Kokutai
D3A2 Val pilot LS Numao, observer PO1 Saruwairi **

December 27, 1943
17 D3A2 Vals (8 x 582 Kokutai, two abort plus 9 x 552 Kokutai) attack shipping off Merkus escorted by 40+ Zeros. Lost were two D3A2 Vals from the 582 Kokutai. Also lost from 552 Ku was D3A2 Val piloted by Ishisugi (MIA). During a 45 minute attack the Vals attack PT-190 "Jack O' Diamonds" and PT-191 "Bambi" until P-47s arrive and intercept them. The PT boat gunners claim four planes shot down with Lt. Farley reporting "Toward the end of the attack, the enemy became more and more inaccurate and less willing to close us. It is possible that we may have knocked down the squadron leader as the planes milled about in considerable confusion, as if lacking leadership."

December 29, 1943
17 Vals attack (9 x 582nd Kokutai, 8 x 552nd Kokutai) attack Merkus at 7:50pm and claim two PT Boats sunk and enemy base on island burned.

December 31, 1943
9 x Val attack Merkus at 13:15 and meet 30 fighters and claim cargo ships sunk. This was the last mission against Merkus


Captured Aircraft
Several 582 Kokutai aircraft were captured by the Allies during 1943–1944.

Abandoned at Buna Airfield was D3A1 Val Tail Q-276 tail section captured by the U. S. Army in January 1943.

Abandoned at Munda Airfield was D3A1 Val 3470 Tail T3-261 largely intact, D3A2 Val 3029 Tail T2-222 and D3A2 Val 3106 Tail T3-260 were captured by U. S. forces in September 1943.

Abandoned at Lae Airfield were D3A2 Val 3023 Tail 82-227, D3A2 Val 3030 and D3A2 Val 3033. These Vals were among the Japanese aircraft captured by the Allies in the middle of September 1943.

Abandoned at Hoskins Airfield was D3A2 Val Tail 82-224 largely intact, captured by U. S. Marine Corps in May 1944.

Abandoned at Gasmata Airfield was D3A2 Val 3357 Tail 82-248 tail section only, salvaged and displayed at National Museum of the Pacific War (Nimitz Museum).

References
The First Team And the Guadalcanal Campaign pages 44
Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units of WWII page 158
Japanese Naval Air Force Fighter Units and Their Aces, 1932-1945 pages 231-232
Kodochosho, 582 Kōkūtai, December 15, 1943–December 31, 1943
Japanese missions against Arawe (Cape Merkus) December 15–31, 1943

Aichi D3A2 Val losses and air crews by Justin Taylan

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