Ki-100 VS. HELLCAT – THE DOGFIGHT ROUT THAT NEVER HAPPENED

By Henry Sakaida

“Of the many fantastic stories told about the Ki-100 Goshikisen, a group of 8 once fought a formation of Hellcats over Japan and shot down 22 without a loss.” This short history was found in a plastic model kit which I bought as a kid back in 1964. Was this just a story, or was there an element of truth to it? I had to know!



Ki-100

I bought this model airplane kit as a boy and learned about the fighting history of the Ki-100.

Twenty-seven years later, this war story was still on my mind! By then, I had become an aviation writer, could read and write a little Japanese, and had developed my network of information sources in Japan.  I found that there was only one major combat over Japan involving a group of Ki-100s and Hellcats, and it occurred on 25 July 1945 over Yokkaichi, a large coastal town southwest of Nagoya in Mie Prefecture. It involved aircraft from the Japanese Army’s 244 Sentai and  Hellcats from VF-31 off the carrier Belleau Wood.

The pilots of the 244th were led by charismatic Capt Teruhiko Kobayashi. At the age of 24, Kobayashi became the  youngest air group commander in the JAAF, and made a name for himself and his unit in the home defense. In attacks against B-29s, he bailed out 3 times, force landed once, and rammed once. He damaged several Superfortresses, but it is unknown how many fell. Shooting down a B-29 required team effort. Damaged and forced to leave the formation, the lone bomber would be set upon by a wolfpack of hungry fighters. Unless a pilot intentionally rammed, it was almost impossible for a lone fighter to bring down a B-29.

Ki-100

Maj Teruhiko Kobayashi in his Ki-61. Note the 6 B-29 kill markings. The last one, crossed by a silhouette of his Ki-61, indicates his ramming  of 27 January 1945. None of his claims could be verified.

With the fall of Okinawa in late June 1945, the 244th relocated to Yokkaichi. It was armed with the Ki-61 Hien (Allied code name: Tony) and the Ki-100 Goshikisen. Basically, the Ki-100 was a Ki-61 aircraft with a powerful radial engine. The result was a superb fighter which could hold its own against any American fighter.

On 25 July 1945, Yokkaichi Airfield was notified that a group of Grumman Hellcats were shooting up Hikone and heading towards their base. Major Kobayashi was ordered to ignore the fighters and wait for incoming B-29s. He immediately scrambled 18 Ki-61s and Goshikisens to do battle. It was the mother of all dogfights in the waning days of WWII.

The information contained in the plastic airplane kit was wrong! In the tough combat, the score was 2 for 2. It was 18 Japanese fighters vs 13 Hellcats. Lt(jg) Cornelius Nooy claimed 4 shot down and a probable. Ens Edward White collided with Capt Tsutae Obara and both were killed. The 244th lost  Warrant Officer Shin Ikuta.  Ens Herbert L. Law was shot down and captured (he survived the war).



Ki-100

Capt Tsutae Obara paints a victory marking on his Ki-61. Pilots flew planes on an availability basis and victories were assigned to the plane, not the pilot. The claims were never verified; they were accepted on face value and not reliable.

“Ikuta was one of my men,” remembered former Capt Goro Takeda, of the 244th. “He was full of fighting spirit and cheerfulness and sometimes made us laugh with his humor.  I heard that when he shot down the U.S.aircraft and saw the pilot trying to run away after emergency landing at the Japanese shore, he contributed to get the POW in the way of forcing him to the shore with the aircraft gun.”

The 25 July 1945 dogfight was the last big battle of the JAAF. Maj Kobayashi was charged with disobeying orders. Fortunately, the Emperor heard of Kobayashi’s bold initiative and voiced his Imperial approval. Kobayashi’s court martial was quickly quashed. And three weeks later, the war ended.

Ki-100

Ki-100

Ki-100

Ki-100

Ki-100

Ki-100

Ki-100

Ki-100

Ki-100

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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