The Kokoda Track | Australians in World War II | The Pacific War

Exploring the site of the battle fought by Australians in World War II

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Four Peoples at War

The Japanese

Like the Australians until late 1942, Imperial Japanese Army units tended to be recruited by region...

4 August 1942. Rabaul, New Britain. Japanese naval flight personnel from the Tainan Air Group, 25th Air Flotilla, pose for a photograph three months before their reorganisation into Air Group 251. Nishizawa and Sakai, the leading Japanese aces in the south-west Pacific, appear in the photograph. Most, if not all the personnel depicted were involved in air attacks on New Guinea, including Port Moresby and Buna during 1942. This photograph was taken from 22-year-old Flight Petty Officer Third Class (PO3c) Kakimoto Enji, a Tainan Air Group pilot with five recorded aerial kills, who was captured on 31 August 1942 after being shot down in his Zero four days previously at Rabi, Milne Bay during a strafing attack in support of the Japanese landing by naval and marine forces. 
Kakimoto was  handed over to Australian troops by locals. Believing himself in friendly hands, he had pencilled a brief report of his operation on the back of the photo for his superior's attention, but had torn it up upon capture. Flight Lieutenant Jeff Wilkinson of 75 Squadron remembers ‘He sat for most of the time with his head in his hands - in disgrace. ... He looked a very dejected person.’ Repairs made to the photo by staff of the Directorate of Intelligence are still apparent. Kakimoto was an important figure in the break-out from Cowra POW Camp in August 1944 and died by his own hand. 
Identified personnel are: Rear row, standing, left to right: unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; Aviation Seaman First Class (Sea 1c) Yoshimura Keisaku; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; Flight Petty Officer Second Class (PO2c) Yamazaki Ichirobei; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified. Third row, standing, l to r: unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; Flight Petty Officer First Class (PO1c) Yoshida Mototsuna; PO1c Sakai Saburo; PO1c Nishizawa Hiroyoshi; unidentified; PO1c Oki Yoshio; unidentified; unidentified; PO1c Ota Toshio; Flight Petty Officer Third Class (PO3c) Endo Masuaki. Second row, sitting, l to r: Aviation Warrant Officer (WO) Yamashita Sahei; PO1c Takatsuka Tora-ichi; unidentified; Lieutenant (junior grade) (LTJG) Sasai Jun-ichi (division officer); Lieutenant (LT) Kawai Shiro (division officer); Commander Kozono Yasuna (executive officer and air officer); Captain Saito Masahisa (commanding officer); Lieutenant Commander Nakajima Tadashi (group leader); Lt Inano Kiku-ichi (division officer); Lt Yamashita Joji (division officer); unidentified; LTJG Ono Takeyoshi; unidentified. Front row, l to r: unidentified; PO3c Kuniwake Take-ichi; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified; PO3c Kazushi Uto; unidentified; unidentified; unidentified. [AWM P04029.001]
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During the Kokoda phase of the Papuan campaign the majority of the Japanese fighting troops were from the island of Shikoku or from the Hiroshima area. Later these were reinforced by troops mainly from Osaka. The Imperial Japanese Navy escorted shipping to Papua and was engaged in coastal operations. Two thousand of the Navy's marines served at Buna and Milne Bay. The IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) also provided almost all of the aircraft supporting land operations from bases at Lae, Gasmata and Rabaul. Perhaps 2100 of the Japanese force in Papua were not from Japan. These men, primarily engaged in carrying ammunition and food, were from Korea, China and Taiwan.