The 45th Sentai was equipped with Ki-48 Lily light bombers. During late November 1942 embarked twenty Ki-48 Lily light bombers from the 45th Sentai aboard Ryūjō departed Japan bound for Truk. During the voyage on December 12, 1941 torpedoed by USS Drum SS-228 and afterwards returned to Yokosuka for repairs.
Ryuho was torpedoed and returned to Japan. The unit re-embarked on another carrier in January 1943 and was transported to Truk, then flew to Rapopo Airfield near Rabaul the first Japanese air unit to use the newly built airfield, and was observed by American photo reconnaissance on January 23, 1943.
From Rapopo Airfield, the 45th Sentai staged to Munda Airfield on New Georgia to support Operation Ke-Go, the Japanese evacuation of Guadalcanal by conducting bombing missions against Guadalcanal.
On January 27, 1943 a total of 74 Japanese aircraft attack Guadalcanal, the only mission flown by the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) against Guadalcanal. The Japanese formation includes nine Ki-48 Lilys from the 45th Sentai that took off from Munda Airfield escorted by Ki-43-I Oscars from the 1st Sentai and 11th Sentai. Over Guadalcanal, the Japanese formation is intercepted by P-40 Warhawks from the 44th Fighter Squadron and 68th Fighter Squadron.
Afterwards, at least three of the unit's bombers were destroyed on the ground at Munda Airfield including Ki-48 Lily 534, Ki-48 Lily and Ki-48 Lily. Afterwards, the 45th Sentai withdraws to Rapopo Airfield. Although Operation Ke-Go was still in progress, the situation in New Guinea was so perilous that the 45th Sentai and 11th Sentai were diverted to Lae Airfield to support the Japanese Army attempt to capture Wau.
On February 6, 1943 nine Ki-48 Lilys from the 45th Sentai took off from Lae Airfield on a bombing mission against Wau, escorted by 29 Ki-43 Oscars of the 11th Sentai. Over the target, the bombers release their bombs over Wau Airfield. A stick of bombs fell along the runway destroying Wirraway A20-447 and a direct hit on the Air Cooperation Signals hut which received a direct hit, killing three inside. But the score
was more than evened in the air where the fight waxed furious over Wau township
itself and then swung off down the Bulolo Valley and out over the mountains. In total, three bombers were lost. One claimed by the 156th Light Anti-aircraft battery, the other two by U. S. fighters.
Thanks to Richard Dunn for additional information.
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