Japanese ACES WW II
 

When the Japanese attacked the American, Dutch, and Australian possessions in the Pacific and Southeast Asia in December 1941, they had some of the best battle-seasoned pilots in the world, including many who had become multiple aces in the China and Manchurian/Mongolian campaigns.
In addition, their pilots were equipped with some of the best fighter aircraft existing. The Navy pilots with their Mitsubishi Zero-Sens (Zeros) and the Army pilots with Nakajima Ki.43s (Oscars) simply overwhelmed the air opposition in the early stages of the war.

Although the Zeros had been exposed in previous conflicts, their performance and maneuverability were still a shock to the Allies.

The Allies suffered great losses until June 1942, when the U.S. Navy was able to turn the tide at the Battle of Midway. The quantity and quality of new Allied aircraft and training began to show results. After defeats in the Solomons and at New Guinea, the Japanese were forced to continue the war with hurriedly trained replacement pilots. The new pilots were not as well qualified as the earlier Japanese pilots, but they fought valiantly through the hard campaigns in New Britain, the Philippines, and Okinawa, and especially so in defending the home islands against U.S. bombing raids. In defending against the bombers, some Japanese resorted to ramming, a practice that brought some success but was costly in terms of valuable pilots and aircraft.

In World War II, more than 90 Navy pilots and nearly 50 Army pilots claimed 10 or more victories, with a much larger number claiming at least five.

Warrant Officer HIROYOSHI NISHIZAWA

Japan's Ace of Aces was Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, a young Navy pilot who first flew in the East Indies campaign and began to score at Lae, New Guinea. In the fighting for Guadalcanal, he shot down six American aircraft on August 7, 1942. His score continued to climb in the fierce fighting over the Rabaul naval base, and he soon reached the 50 mark. Nishizawa was picked to escort the first of the Kamikaze suicide attacks against the American invasion of the Philippines. Taking off from Clark Field, Manila, just before dawn on October 24, 1944, the escort Zeros took up wingman position on the Kamikazes, each carrying a huge bomb, led by Lt. Lukio Seki. They headed for the ships in Leyte Gulf. As they reached the fleet, a Hellcat unit raced to head them off, but Nishizawa and his fighters fended them off long enough for most of the Kamikazes to get through. The mission was highly successful - a carrier and a cruiser sunk and another cruiser badly damaged. But time had run out for Nishizawa. He was killed the next day when the transport plane in which he was riding was shot down.

Sergeant SATOSHI ANABUKI

The Japanese Army's greatest ace of World War II was Satoshi Anabuki, who gained the first of his 51 victories over the Philippines in the early months of the war. But he won his fame in the fighting in Burma with the 50th Sentai. During the period from December 1942 to May 1943, he downed 35 Allied aircraft.


His best single day of combat came on October 8, 1943. On that day he shot down two P-38 twin-engine fighters and two B-24 bombers. A third B-24, he downed by ramming. Surviving this action, he was honored, as no other living Army pilot had been, with a personal citation.

Returning to Japan, he downed a B-29 and six fighters while serving as a ferry pilot.

Lieutenant (jg) TETSUZO IWAMOTO


Tetsuzo Iwamoto, a Navy pilot who became top scorer in the China war with 14 victories, proved himself again in World War II by competing strongly with Nishizawa for the title of leading ace.

Iwamoto served aboard the carrier Zuikaku until mid-1942, then was land-based at Rabaul, at Truk Island. and in the Philippines. At the end of the war, Iwamoto's score, including victories from China, stood at 80. Twenty of these were gained in one month. Unlike Nishizawa, Iwamoto survived the war to be the highest-scoring living ace of both conflicts.

Lieutenant (jg) SABURO SAKAI

The first American airplane shot down over the Philippines, on December 8, 1941, was credited to Saburo Sakai, a Japanese Navy pilot who scored his first victories over China with the Tainan Fighter Group.

During World War II, he fought in Java and New Guinea and, toward the end of the war, over Iwo Jirna and the home islands. He soon became one of the Navy's leading aces. Just after making his 60th kill in combat over Guadalcanal, he was hit and badly wounded, nearly losing his sight in both eyes. He limped back to Lae, then spent months recovering from the wounds and malaria. In 1944, following this incident, he was "permanently" grounded.

When the U.S. began the Philippine invasion, Sakai demanded to be returned to flight status even though he was still afflicted with malaria and blind in one eye. Japan had a critical need for pilots, so Sakai was granted his request. Before the war ended, he accounted for four more kills. He survived the war as Japan's fourth-ranking ace. His experiences are recounted in his book Samurai.


Warrant Officer Hiroyoshi Nishizawa ……………..
Lieutenant (jg) Tetsuzo Iwamoto ………………….

Petty Officer * 1st Class Shoichi Sugita ………….

Lieutenant (jg) Saburo Sakai ………………………

Petty Officer 1st Class Takeo Okumura ………….

Petty Officer 1st Class Toshio Ohta ………………

Warrant Officer Kazuo Sugino …………………….

Petty Officer 1st Class Shizuo Ishii ……………….

Ensign Kaneyoshi Muto ……………………………

Lieutenant (jg) Junichi Sasai ………………………

Lieutenant (jg) Sadaaki Akamatsu ………………..

Lieutenant Naoshi Kanno ………………………….



Master Sergeant Satoshi Anabuki ………………..

Lieutenant Mitsuyoshi Tarui ……………………….

Warrant Officer Isamu Sasaki …………………….

Lieutenant Moritsugu Kanai ……………………….

Major Yasuhiko Kuroe ……………………………..

Lieutenant Goichi Sumino …………………………

Warrant Officer Rikio Shibuta ……………………..


87

80 (14 in China)

70

64 (2 in China)

54 (4 in China)

34

32

29 (3 in China)

28 (5 in China)

27

27 (11 in China)

25



51

38 (28 in Manchuria)

38

34 (8 in Manchuria)

30 (2 in Manchuria)

27

27 (14 in Manchuria)

The leading Japanese Aces

Mitsubishi Zero - Sen

Robert Cunningham

Navy

Army