CS - Yoshihisa Kitazono: IJA Pilot

Name: Yoshihisa Kitazono (北園 義久)

Date of Birth: April 24, 1917

Biography: Yoshihisa Kitazono was born on 24 November, 1917, in the Juzen Hospital in Yokohama, Japan. His childhood home was located near the Tokorozawa Army Air Base, which also served as the Tokorozawa Army Flying School. Growing up in such close proximity to this hub of aviation activity, Yoshihisa's fascination with aircraft began at an early age. He spent countless hours watching planes take off and land, dreaming of the day he could soar through the skies.

Yoshihisa's father was a mechanic at the air base, which allowed young Yoshihisa to gain a hands-on appreciation for the machines that fueled his dreams, learning about the intricacies of aircraft and developing a deep respect for the men who flew them, as a child he would sometimes sneak into the airbase for fun and get closer look at the aircraft, much to the amusement of the base personnel. In 1926, he made a brief acquaintance with Kato Tateo, pilot cadet at Tokorozawa at that time and later an ace pilot made famed by the 1944 movie "Kato Hayabusa sento-tai".

In 1931, when Yoshihisa was 14, Mukden Incident broke out and the subsequent invasion of Manchuria marked the beginning of Japan's aggressive military actions in Asia. Yoshihisa, influenced by the nationalistic fervor and his own personal experiences, he felt a strong sense of duty to serve his country, so he enlisted to the army in 1934.

In Feburary 1935, Yoshihisa was accepted into the Tokorozawa Army Flying School when he was 18 as an Army Junior Pilot Cadet (陸軍少年飛行兵, a flying course for enlisted NCO in the IJA). The class moved to the newly established Kumagaya Army Flying School in October 1935, and he graduated there in November 1936, before entering fighter pilot school at Akeno Army Flying School northeast of Ise, Mie.

Upon earning his wings, Yoshihisa was assigned to the 1st Hiko Sentai (Flying Regiment) stationed in Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture, before the total outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Personnel chosen from the 1st Sentai, including Yoshihisa, were tranferred to Manchuria where they would formed the new 59th Hiko Sentai in 1938. Yoshihisa saw his first aerial engagement over Hankow Airfield in China, during his time in China he shot down 2 I-16 aircraft of the ROC air force.

After the outbreak of the Pacific War, the 59th Sentai was assembled at Kampong Trach, French Cambodia, to support the Japanese forces landing in Malaya, Yoshihisa would once again meet Kato Tateo, by then already a Major and commander of the 64th Sentai, which also took part in the operation, during the time both the 59th and 64th falls under Major Kato's command.

Participated in the Singapore offensive, the Palembang invasion and the Java offensive, shooting down dozens of Allied aircraft, the subsequent Allied counter-offensive proved to be an extremely hard-fought battle in the New Guinea front, almost all of the 59th Sentai's strength was depleted, the regiment was withdrawn to Japan in February 1944 for regrouping and was assigned homeland air defence duties. After years of fighting overseas, Yoshihisa was finally able to come home again, just as the war continued to turn against Japan's favour. In April 1944, he was reassigned from 59th Sentai to be a flight instructor at the Kodama Airbase, where a branch school of the Kumagaya Army Flying School was located. He would also fly in the defense of Tokyo.
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0 | Jun 10th 2024 20:11