On November 1, 1942 part of the bomber section of the 4th Kokutai / Chitose Kokutai was re-designated 702 Kōkūtai (702 Air Group) operating the Type 1 Attack Bomber / Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betty".
On May 1, 1943 thirty-six Betty bombers departed Kisarazu Airfield under the command of Shuzo Kuno (Naval Academy #49) in two formations of eighteen bombers departed on a ferry flight bound for Tinian. Six bombers experienced aborted the flight due to bad weather with three landing at Pagan Airfield and three led by Otsuka returning to Kisarazu Airfield.
On May 2, 1943 the three departed Kisarazu Airfield and landed at Pagan Airfield, joining the other three already there. That same day twenty-seven of the other thirty bombers on Tinian departed bound for Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul. On May 3, 1943 the remaining six Bettys from Pagan Airfield arrived at Tinian. On May 4, 1943 the six Bettys plus three others that missed the prior flight departed Tinian and landed at Kavieng Airfield due to bad weather. On May 5, 1943 all nine remaining Bettys departed Kavieng Airfield and arrived at Vunakanau Airfield where the entire 702 Kokutai was assembled. On May 6, 1943 an additional eleven Betty bombers departed Kisarazu Airfield via Tinian arrived at Vunakanau Airfield.
These bombers were distributed as reserve aircraft.
During the middle of May 1943 operated from Ballale Airfield flying reconnaissance missions until June 30, 1943 when heavily shelled and remaining aircraft returned to Vunakanau Airfield.
By October 27, 1943 the 702 Kokutai lost most remaining planes during the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay off Bougainville. On December 11, 1943 the 702 Kokutai was disbanded and surviving air crews were absorbed into the 751 Kokutai.
Markings and Tail Codes
The 702 Kokutai used different tail codes at various dates. In Japan, a letter and three digit tail code were used, likely 'U2-XXX' (three digits). In combat, each Hiko Buntai had nine bombers, with extra bombers used as replacement aircraft. In combat, the tail code became 2-3?? (last two digits determined Hiko Buntai assignment).
1st Hiko Buntai - assigned tail numbers 301 to 320. Tail had three horizontal white stripes surrounding the number.
2nd Hiko Buntai - assigned tail numbers 321 to 340. Tail with a double width upper stripe and a lower stripe above the number.
5th Hiko Buntai -
assigned tail numbers 341 to 360. Tail with a single white strip above the number.
6th Hiko Buntai - assigned tail numbers 361 to 380. Tail with a double white strip above the number.
Serial 296 - Page 5
Thanks to Minoru Kamada and Richard Dunn for additional information
Do you have photos or additional information to add?