Salvaged and restored: The story of the Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden 紫電 probably flown by Kaneyoshi Muto 武藤 金義

By Pierre Kosmidis

On November 18, 1978, Japanese scuba divers discovered approximately 200 meters from the shore in Jyoen Hisayoshi Bay, Japan, a nearly intact Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden 紫電 probably flown by ace pilot Kaneyoshi Muto, although no concrete evidence is available.

kaneyoshi muto

Japanese Ace Kaneyoshi Muto

After close examination and a detailed salvage operation, the aircraft wreck was lifted from the seabed and saw again the sun on July 14, 1979, 34 years after it was shot down and ditched at sea. This Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden 紫電,   is the only existing in Japan and is currently exhibited at the at Nanreku Misho Koen, Ehime Prefecture, Japan. After the aircraft was damaged in battle, its pilot landed on July 24, 1945 in the waters of the Bungo Channel, but he was never found.

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The crashed Shiden (codenamed George by the Allies) being pulled out of the water in 1978.

By the time of the aircraft’s recovery from the seabed in the 1970s, he could be identified only as one of six pilots from the 343 squadron who disappeared that day. Photographs of the six—including Takashi Oshibuchi, commander of the 701 Hikōtai, and Kaneyoshi Muto—are displayed under the aircraft engine. On 24 July 1945, over the Bungo Channel, Muto and other pilots scrambled to attack a larger group of American fighters which turned out to be VF-49 Hellcats, part of Task Force 38 supporting the bombing of Kure.

The wrecked aircraft showed no bullet holes and provided no other clue as to what caused it to ditch. It was restored for display and placed in an exhibit at a nearby museum in Shikoku. No evidence is available to identify which 343rd Air Group pilot flew the fighter, so the museum honors all six of the Shiden pilots who lost their lives that day, including Muto and Oshibuchi.

The restored Shiden-Kai on Display at Nanreku Misho Koen, Ehime Prefecture, Japan:




kaneyoshi muto shiden-kai-george-n1k1

For More on Japanese Aces of WWII Check Out:

Genda’s Blade: Japan’s Squadron of Aces: 343 Kokutai

Aces of the Rising Sun 1937–1945

B-29 Hunters of the JAAF

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