Biplane fighter aces


Lieutenant Colonel Tateo Kato

28 September 1903 - 22 May 1942

Tateo Kato was born on 28 September 1903 in Hokkaido. His father Sergeant Tetsuzo Kato was killed in the Russo-Japanese War.

He graduated from Asahikawa Middle School and as his father he started a military career. He passed out of the Sendai Junior Army Academy before being graduated in the 37th Class of the Army Military Academy in July 1925 and commissioned in the infantry. He soon transferred from the infantry to the Army Air Force and joined the flight course at Tokorozawa Flying School in June 1926 with the 23rd flying cadet intake.

In May 1927 he was posted to the 6th Hiko Rentai (flight regiment) in Pyongyang, Korea. His flying skill with the Kawasaki Ko-4 biplane fighter (a licence-built Nieuport-Delage NiD 29) was shown to be so outstanding that he was awarded a gift by his superior, and allowed to perform a demonstration at graduation which left the audience enthralled.
Prior to overseas duty Lieutenant Kato worked as a flight instructor at the Tokorozawa and Akeno Flying Schools, and by February 1936, he had been promoted to lead a chutai within the 5th Hiko Rentai.

In July 1937 the Sino-Japanese War began, and Captain Kato led the 1st chutai (including First Lieutenant Mitsugu Sawada, First Lieutenant Kosuke Kawahara and Sergeant Major Hiroshi Sekiguchi) of the 2nd Hiko Daitai (flight battalion), which was transferred to the northern China. The unit was equipped with Kawasaki Ki-10 Type 95 'Perry' biplane fighters. The Ki-10 quickly demonstrated their superiority over the Chines Polikarpov I-152s, and the aggressive Japanese pilots dominated the skies.

The 1st chutai of the 2nd Daitai (Ki-10s) took part in the first combat over Luoyang on 30 January 1938 when eight of the unit’s fighters escorted 6th Daitai bombers over Luoyang. The fighters were engaged in combat with I-15bis and returned claiming 13 shot down for the loss of Sergeant Toshio Kawai (Sho-1), who was shot down and killed. Kato claimed two victories while First Lieutenant Kosuke Kawahara, who led the third element of the 1st chutai fought for 15 minutes against intercepting I-15bis, claiming three shot down. First Lieutenant Mitsugu Sawada claimed an additional three victories.

On 8 March 1938, the 2nd Daitai (Ki-10s) took off from Yuncheng for a bomber escort mission to Sian. Over Sian, eight Ki-10s of the 2nd chutai claimed three Gladiators and three Polikarpov I-15s shoot down. The three Gladiators were claimed by Captain Juichi Morimoto, Warrant Officer Umekawa and Sergeant Major Hatanaka. One of the I-15s was claimed by Lieutenant Yonesuke Fukuyama, who pursued an I-15 into a valley near Sian at low altitude and shot it down for his first victory. A second I-15 was claimed by Sergeant Tokuya Sudo while flying as third pilot in First Lieutenant Iori Sakai’s section. The third I-15 was claimed by Segeant Majors Suzuki and Aito Kikuchi, who had turned back when their shotai mate, Tokuya Sudo’s aircraft had developed engine trouble.
Only five Chinese aircraft were able to take off to intercept the Japanese raid on Sian airfield but none of them were shot down. However, one SB and one I-15 under repair and another I-15 were hit on the ground.
While returning from Sian, the 1st chutai encountered four Chinese I-152s. Captain Tateo Kato claimed one and First Lieutenant Kosuke Kawahara claimed one while the chutai finished off the rest.
During the day, a combined group of twelve I-15bis from the 17th and 25th PS flew from Sian to attack Fenglingdu. After dropping 25kg bombs, they ran into Japanese fighters. They lost four I-15bis when the pilots Rong Guang-Cheng and Lo Chun-Tun were shot down and killed, Liu Jin-Guang and Liu Yi-Ji were wounded and Zhou Zin-Gyan parachuted. It is possible that these are fighters that run into to the 2nd Daitai.
Kawahara’s claim made him the Japanese Army Air Force’s first ace (in the Western tradition with five victories).

On 25 March 1938 the 1st chutai of the 2nd Daitai (Ki-10s), commanded by Captain Kato fought with Chinese I-152s over Guide. Although outnumbered 5 to 18 the Japanese pilots took a heavy tool of the Chinese aircraft. Captain Kato shot down four I-152s, Flight Sergeant Tanaka shot down two and Sergeant Major Hiroshi Sekiguchi shot down one. First Lieutenant Kosuke Kawahara (leading the second element) was seen to shoot down two and pursue a third to the ground, when his aircraft was hit from behind and burst into flames. He waved to his wingman, Sekiguchi, before diving into the ground. First Lieutenant Mitsugu Sawada shared in the destruction of a large aircraft. Also in this combat was Tanaka forced to make an emergency landing and Sekiguchi was badly wounded in the thigh but managed to land and being transported to hospital.
The 2nd chutai of the 2nd Daitai also took part in this combat claiming 9 more victories, one of these being claimed by Yonesuke Fukuyama. Totally the 2nd Daitai’s 16 fighters claimed 19 victories for the loss of Kawahara.
According to Chinese records it seems that at least the 3rd PG took part in this combat. They lost six I-15bis and got three pilots killed when they where attacked by 19 Kawasaki Type 95 (Ki-10) biplane fighters of the 2nd Daitai near Kwei-teh airfield (Koi-toh in Japanese).
On return Kato could not believe that such a brilliant pilot as First Lieutenant Kawahara had been lost, and waited at the airfield until sunset in the hope of his late return. Next day as a sign of mourning, he shaved off a much beloved moustache.

Tateo Kato in front of a Ki-10 in the spring of 1938.

On 3 April 1938 the unit re-equipped with Nakajima Ki-27 'Nates'.

On 10 April there was a second air combat in the Hsuchow area. In this Second Battle of Kuei teh, the Chinese sent 18 I-15bis from the 3rd and 4th PG to again attack Japanese Army field headquarters at the elementary school in the town of Chao Chuang.
Zhu Jia-Xun was flying one of the seven 3rd PG I-15bis led by Major Lin Tsuo. Of the remaining I-15bis five were from the 22nd PS, 4th PG and six from the 23rd PS, 4th PG. The Chinese planes bombed and strafed their target to great effect, setting many fires in the school compound and scattering many Japanese Army horses. On their return journey, the 3rd PG took the high cover position at 4,500m, 500m above the 4th PG aircraft. Near Ma Mu Chi, the lower formation of Chinese aircraft was attacked by three Ki-27s (Nakajima Type 97 monoplane fighters; this was the combat debut of this type) from the 1st chutai, 2nd Daitai, flown by Captain Kato, Warrant Officer Morita and Sergeant Major Risaburo Saito and 12 Ki-10s (Kawasaki Type 95 fighters) of the 2nd Daitai (HQ flight) led by Major Tamiya Teranishi.
The 3rd PG I-15bis were in a perfect position to "bounce" the Japanese fighters. Zhu Jia-Xun caught the Ki-27 of Sergeant Major Saito (NCO50) as it was diving on a 23rd PS I-15bis. Zhu Jia-Xun apparently hit the Japanese pilot with his fire and Saito crashed his plane into that of Lieutenant Chen Hui-Min. Chen managed to bail out with a wounded leg but Saito was killed. Afterwards, Zhu Jia-Xun was surrounded by a number of IJAAF fighters and his I-15bis was damaged. His engine cowling was shot away but Zhu Jia-Xun managed to land his I-15bis safety in a wheat field. Most of the Chinese fighters were already short of fuel when the fighting started, nevertheless, they gave a good account of themselves. In the melee, two other 4th PG I-15bis were shot down, one pilot bailed out and the other was lost. Three other 4th PG aircraft force landed due to damage and fuel starvation but they were recovered. The 3rd PG lost one I-15bis and its pilot. Two, including Zhu Jia-Xun, force-landed due to damage or fuel starvation but both aircraft were recovered. Two other 3rd PG pilots were slightly injured by Japanese gunfire but returned to base safely.
As for the IJAAF, in addition to Sergeant Major Saito, one other pilot, Lieutenant Yonesuke Fukuyama died of his wounds. Fukuyama, flying a Ki-10 and despite repeated gun stoppages, managed to claim three Chinese fighters shot down when being heavily engaged together with Sergeant Major Shimokata before being hit and severely wounded in the right arm and left leg. Fukuyama flew part of the way back to Ching Chow airfield while holding the stick with his mouth! He managed to crash-land his plane at the airfield after covering the 200-kilometre flight in 50 minutes. He was immediately removed to hospital but died of his wounds four days later. Two other damaged IJAAF fighters crash-landed back at Ching Chow airfield and two crashed landed at the battlefield. Of the latter, one of the IJAAF pilots was picked up by his wingman who landed in no-man's land between the Chinese and Japanese Armies.
Tokuya Sudo from the 2nd chutai of the 2nd Daitai claimed two I-15bis in this combat while Iori Sakai from the same chutai claimed three victories. Captain Kato’s 1st chutai of the 2nd Daitai (Ki-27s) fought against eight I-15bis and Kato personally claimed two of the Chinese fighters while Warrant Officer Morita claimed two more.
According to Japanese records fifteen Japanese fighters took part in this combat over Guide claiming 24 victories from 30 encountered while losing two fighters.

During the combats on 30 January, 8 March, 25 March and 10 April, the chutai totally claimed 39 victories, for the loss of three pilots and Ki-27s, and it was to receive two unit citations. Of these claims Kato himself claimed nine making him the top-scoring Army pilot in China during the period 1937-41.

Kato returned to Japan in May 1938 and Mitsugu Sawada took command of the 1st chutai in his place.

Back in Japan he entered the Army University and worked on the staff at headquarters. He also visited Europe on assignment together with General Terauchi, and inspected the Luftwaffe in Germany. During this period he was also promoted to Major.

In April 1941 he was appointed as commander of the 64th Sentai, which was at Canton with Ki-27s.
The unit received the new Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa ('Oscar') and he trained his unit on them prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War.

In May 1941, he claimed one fighter over Hoizhou while flying Ki-27s of 64th Sentai.

When the Pacific War started his group escorted naval vessels to Malaya when at the start of December 1941 the 64th Sentai was sent to Duong Dong airfield on Phu Quoc Island to provide cover for the Japanese invasion fleet bound for Malaya during the latter part of its journey.
The 64th Sentai became very active in this theatre, and under Kato's command they recorded over 260 aerial victories. He disallowed individual victory credits for the sake of teamwork, and led his men by example in the air. This was quite rare for an officer of his rank to fly routine combat missions.

On the final fighter patrol before dark on 7 December took off from Phu Quoc at 17:30 to relieve Lieutenant Tadao Takayama's 2nd chutai, and comprised half a dozen Ki-43s led by Kato. Due to bad weather conditions and impending darkness, a bomber accompanied them to act as guide on the return flight, but in poor visibility they did not find Takayama's chutai until 19:10. Kato's flight had to terminate its patrol within the hour due to fuel shortage, and set course for home.
Fog, cloud and darkness made it impossible to maintain formation, and three pilots failed to locate the airfield, disappearing without trace into the murky sea.

On 8 December he led the 1st chutai on a low-level strafing attack on Butterworth airfield and the civil airfield at Bayan Lebas on the Island of Penang.
Four Blenheims of 34 Squadron, in the process of being refuelled at Butterworth in preparation for the return flight to Tengah, were damaged and rendered unserviceable. The airfield's defences consisted of just two Lewis machine guns.

Following early morning standing patrols on 22 December, the whole of the reinforced 453 Squadron was ordered off from Kuala Lumpur at 10.00, a dozen Buffaloes taking to the air, led by Flight Lieutenant Vanderfield. These had reached 7,000 feet when six fighters, identified as 'Zeros', were seen and engaged. No sooner had action been joined, than a dozen more of the type appeared, together with others identified as "Messerschmitt 109s". Other Japanese aircraft were reported to have become involved in the big battle, which lasted for over 30 minutes, before the intruders withdrew probably due to fuel shortage.
The main opponents were in fact 18 Ki-43s of the 64th Sentai, led by Kato, which had taken off from Kota Bharu and approached Kuala Lumpur at between 10-13,000 feet. The Buffaloes - estimated at about 15 strong - were initially spotted by Lieutenant Takayama's chutai, which immediately dived to attack. The other chutai followed and in all a total of 11 Buffaloes were claimed shot down, with the other four as probably destroyed! Kato almost certainly claimed one of the Buffaloes. The Japanese unit only lost Lieutenant Takayama (he was credited with three of the claims).
453 Squadron lost three Buffaloes and got four damaged (at least one of them was a write-off) while five returned undamaged.
Sergeant Mac Read in W8209/F was last seen ramming or crashing into an opponent, Sergeant Scrimgeour in W8211 was wounded in a head-on attack and bailed out of his stricken fighter and Sergeant Board in W8216 safely baled out after having been shot down.
Pilot Officer Livesey in AN184 was wounded and Pilot Officer Bob Brury in AN204 was fatally injured when they crash-landed when returning to base. Sergeant Griffith landed a damaged AN175 with a wounded left hand while a wounded Sergeant Collyer landed his damaged AN180 at Sembawang.
The British pilots claimed three destroyed and six probables.

Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon on 25 December 1941. The units of the 7th Hikodan were off first, 27 Ki-21s from the 12th Sentai and 36 more from the 60th Sentai, escorted by 25 Ki-43s from the 64th Sentai. The 10th Hikodan followed with eight Ki-21s from the 62nd Sentai and 27 Ki-30s of the 31st Sentai escorted by 32 Ki-27s of the 77th Sentai. Four Ki-44s of the 47th I F Chutai provided patrols over Don Muang in case of attack during take-off or landing. The commander of the 7th Hikodan, Wing Commander Kenji Yamamoto, flew in the leading aircraft of the 12th Sentai together with the 12th Sentai commander, Colonel Kumao Kitajima.
Before takeoff from Don Muang, the CO of 64th Sentai, Major Kato, told his pilots:

"We must drive away the enemy fighters from our bombers like a paper fan against flies."
On the way the leading Ki-21 of the 12th Sentai with Yamamoto and Kitajima, suffered an engine failure and turned back. The other bombers followed, but realized something was wrong, resumed their original course and proceeded separately from the main force, but still escorted by some of the Ki-43s (from 64th Sentai).
Due to the lack of a proper Operations Room at Mingaladon following the damage suffered after the attack on 23 December, no adequate warning was given to the Allied fighters and most were scrambled rather late. However, three P-40s of the 3rd Sq., AVG, were already up on patrol and these reported a huge bomber formation on the way. Three more went up, meeting the raiders ten miles from Mingaladon, where the Japanese force split into two, half heading for the airfield and half for the city. The AVG went off after the latter and Flight Leaders Haywood and Older (P-8157) each claimed two of these shot down, whilst Flight Leaders Hedman and McMillan claimed three apiece. Return fire hit the latter’s aircraft, shattering the windscreen and damaging the engine, obliging him to carry out a forced-landing near Thongwa, south-east of Rangoon with a flesh wound in his arm. Haywood’s aircraft was also hit, bullets damaging his port wing. Having broken the bombers’ formation, the remaining P-40s – now joined by others – climbed again before diving on scattered pairs and trios. At that point 20 more bombers with eight fighters were seen approaching, and giving up the attack on the first formation, the Americans climbed from below to attack these.
Flight Leader R. T. Smith (in ‘77’) claimed one that “started smoking badly and dove out heading for the ground”, while Hedman, having already claimed three bombers, attacked another three as they were leaving formation and reported that one blew up in mid air. He then chased a fighter, which he identified as a ‘Navy Zero’, for ten miles before claiming this as his fifth victory of the action. With his canopy shot away, he then made a dead-stick landing on the satellite airstrip at Pegu. Overend claimed two bombers, reporting shooting the wing off the second, but he was then attacked by a fighter and had to make a crash-landing in a paddy field with his aircraft shot full of holes. Smith meanwhile engaged a ‘Type 0’ fighter head-on until “he was in flames and went down in the Gulf” – and then he reported shooting down another bomber, plus two more damaged off the Gulf of Martaban. Curtis E. Smith (making his first and only operational flight with the AVG) also claimed two bombers damaged.
The pilot of the three patrolling P-40s, which were further out, spotted 27 bombers escorted by fighters identified as ‘Zeros’ (obviously the 64th Sentai’s Ki-43s) at 18,000 feet over Mingaladon. Flight Leader Parker Dupouy and Fred S. Hodges attacked two, Dupouy claiming one shot down, which he believed was a ‘Messerschmitt 109’, and Hodges the other as a probable – claimed as a ‘Model 0’. Having also claimed a ‘Model 0’ shot down, Flight Leader William N. Reed attacked a bomber and believed he had hit the tail gunner, but this aircraft was then attacked by a Buffalo, which set the starboard engine on fire. Reed then had to dive away from the fight to clear his guns after they had jammed. Dupouy and Reed then pursued three fighters out over the Gulf of Martaban, Reed claiming one shot down in flames and Sergeant Major Shigekatsu Wakayam (Sho-4) of the 64th Sentai was killed. Dupouy, whose guns jammed, rammed a second, losing four feet off the port wing of his aircraft (‘72’); he reported that his opponent lost its complete starboard wing and was seen to spin down and crash. This was 23-year-old First Lieutenant Hiroshi Okuyama (Class 52) of the 64th Sentai, who was killed. William Reed described the combat in his diary:
"I saw another P-40 who was also leaving the scrap. By now we were 140-150 miles across the gulf from Rangoon. I joined the other ship and saw that it was Dupouy. We started back across the gulf at 17,000ft, and had only gone about 30 miles out off the shore of Moulmein when we spotted three Model Os in a V-formation below us, apparently heading home. We dropped down on their tails and surprised them. Dupouy was following me as I picked out the right-hand wingman. I fired from about 50 yards, and Dupouy fired behind me. The Jap exploded right in front of my face. I pulled sharply up to the right to avoid hitting him, and Dupouy pulled up to the left. In doing so, his right wing clipped the other Jap wingman's ship right in the wing root, and the Jap spun into the gulf, too."
It seems that Reed and Dupouy had scored the first two P-40 victories over the Ki-43.
Soon after the action had begun, two pilots of Dupouy’s flight – Bob Brouk and Lewis Bishop – heard over the R/T an order to “pancake immediately”. Believing this to be an order from Dupouy to return to Mingaladon, they had just lowered their wheels to land when six Ki-27s appeared over the airfield and attacked. Although both P-40s were hit, they were able to get away. Bishop subsequently claiming a bomber probable and two damaged. As the Japanese force departed, Brouk claimed a Ki-27 ten miles east of Rangoon, while a few minutes later Flight Leader Ken Jernstedt claimed a ‘Zero’ east of Kyaikto, and Older claimed another – for his third victory – over the Gulf of Martaban, to bring AVG claims to a highly optimistic 24 destroyed, two probables and seven damaged!
The Buffaloes of 67 Squadron had also seen heavy action. Two formations were ordered to patrol in the vicinity of Mingaladon – Flight Lieutenant J. Brandt (W8213) leading six aircraft of ‘B’ Flight in two vics of three (Blue and Green Sections) at 12,000 feet, while Flight Lieutenant Colin Pinckney (W8144/C) patrolled ten miles east of Rangoon with six aircraft of ‘A’ Flight in line abreast at 17,000 feet. Two other Buffaloes flown by Flying Officer Bingham-Wallis (W8146/D) and Sergeant Gordon Williams (W8228) flew top cover to this formation, 3,000 feet higher.
Two formations of enemy bombers were spotted and the top cover attacked the first formation. Bingham-Wallis and Williams together claimed one bomber, which reportedly crashed into the sea. Bingham-Wallis then claimed one of the escorts (reported as a ‘Type 0’; obviously one of the Ki-43s from the 64th Sentai) as a probable while Williams claimed one fighter as a probable. The main formation from 67 Squadron also attacked but 25-year-old Sergeant John Macpherson (RNZAF no. 41486) (AN216) was shot down by the escorting Japanese fighters and he was killed. The remaining aircraft from ‘A’ Flight engaged the fighters, mainly identified as ‘Type 96s’. Sergeant Charles 'Ketchil' Bargh hit one during a 20 minute dogfight, and saw it trail smoke. He was then chased down to ground level by a Ki-43, which he eventually managed to evade. Three more Ki-43s bounced Sergeant K. A. Rutherford as he was attacking a bomber, but he returned safely to Mingaladon. Pilot Officer G. S. Sharp and Sergeant E. E. Pedersen dogfought a number of the Ki-27s for 15 minutes, Sharp claiming one probable before his own aircraft was hit; he force-landed at Mingaladon with some controls and electric cables cut and bullet holes in the ammunition tank. The recently fitted armour plate behind his seat had saved him from injury. Sergeant Pedersen returned safely claiming to have damaged two ‘Type 96’ fighters. Flight Lieutenant Pinckney also claimed a damaged enemy fighter.
The Blue Section of ‘B’ Flight was also engaged with the fighters and Flight Lieutenant Brandt claimed one of them. Brandt’s Buffalo suffered some damage during the action when bullets pierced the petrol tank and aileron; other struck the armour plating behind his back. One of the fighters that attacked Brandt was claimed shot down by Sergeant E. H. Beable. He then made several more attacks and claimed a second fighter as a damaged. His own aircraft also suffered bullets through the airscrew, R/T, fuel tank and wing, though he was able to return to base safely. Sergeant J. G. Finn (W8240) claimed one fighter shot down in flames. His Buffalo received bullet holes in the tail and lower fuselage.
The green Section of ‘B’ Flight, however, suffered heavily. The leader 23-year-old Flight Lieutenant John Lambert (RAF no. 40924) (W8220/U) crashed near Rangoon; he had been shot in the back and had bled to death. The other two aircraft of the section was also shot down and 19-year-old Sergeant Edward ‘Ted’ Hewitt (RNZAF no. 405269) (W8248) and 19-year-old Sergeant Ronald ‘Ron’ McNabb (RNZAF no. 404393) (W8206) were both killed.
Totally the 67 Squadron claimed one bomber and three fighters destroyed, four fighters probably destroyed and three more damaged. Together with the AVG claims this brought the total to 16 bombers and 12 fighters destroyed, 1 bomber and 4 fighters probably destroyed, 7 bombers and 3 fighters damaged for the loss of two P-40s and four Buffaloes; four RAF pilots were killed.
The separate 12th Sentai suffered most heavily, losing three Ki-21s over the target area, while a fourth was badly hit and later force-landed. Most others in the formation were hit, and two or three crewmen were killed in these. The following 60th Sentai was also attacked, and reported that several of its bombers were damaged, but none actually lost. The bombers of the 10th Hikodan didn’t suffer any losses. The escorting fighters were involved in numerous dogfights; the 64th Sentai became broken up and lost two Ki-43s to the opposing fighters (Okuyama and Wakayama), and only the commanding officer, Major Kato, was able to stay with the bombers during the return journey. The 77th Sentai lost two Ki-27s in the fight when First Lieutenant Masashi Someya (Class 52) was killed and Sergeant Major Kontetu Ri (Sho-2) was shot down and taken POW. A third damaged aircraft later force-landed.
The Japanese also heavily overclaimed. Kato and his pilots of the 64th Sentai claimed ten Allied fighters shot down (two by Kato; one possibly Edmund Overend and one Buffalo by Lieutenant Yohei Hinoki), while the 77th Sentai claimed seven more and four probables. Claiming pilots of the 77th Sentai were Lieutenant Kisaji Beppu, Sergeant Major Matsunaga, Sergeant Niino, Lieutenant Yoshihide Matsuo, Sergeant Major Akamatsu (and one probable), Sergeant Ono (who force-landed on return) and Lieutenant Tsuguo Kojima. The last three probables were claimed by Captain Mitsuhiro Matsuda, Captain Toyoki Eto and Warrant Officer Kitasaka. The gunners of the 12th Sentai claimed no less than 19 fighters shot down!
Mingaladon was heavily bombed. Three Buffaloes at dispersal were destroyed or damaged beyond repair and five more, which were awaiting final assemble, were lost in one of the bombed hangars. The runways were pitted with craters and practically unserviceable, returning fighters landing with difficulty – but fortunately without accident. In Rangoon, civilian casualties were estimated to 5000 killed.

During the mid-morning on 20 January 1942, the 64th Sentai escorted Ki-21s from the 12th and 60th Sentais, which were out to raid Seletar.
Twelve Hurricanes from 232 Squadron scrambled from the field at 07:00. They reached 28,0000ft and were ordered by Ground Control to attack the +80 bombers that were some 8,000ft below them. The escorting Japanese fighters, which were at 22,000ft, saw the Hurricanes diving after the bombers and climbed to intercept them. They wasn’t seen by the by the leader, Squadron Leader Leslie N. Landels (RAF no. 84695) and he was shot down and killed by a Ki-43 flown by First Lieutenant Yonesaku Hatta (Class 53). Landels’ Hurricane (BM906) struck the mast of a Chinese fishing vessel before crashing into the sea. Hatta’s triumph was however short-lived since he was immediately attacked by Landel’s no.2 ‘A’ Flight’s Pilot Officer 'Jimmy' Parker who shot him down, killing him in when his fighter crashed vertically into the sea.
Flight Lieutenant Murray Taylor’s section swept down on a formation of 27 Ki-21s flying in their usual three vics of nine; they claimed eight of these shot down, plus three more probably destroyed. Taylor personally claimed two, as did Sergeants Geoff Hardie (BG810), 'Sam' Hackforth (BG720) and 'Joe' Leetham (BE579), the three Sergeants also claiming probables. Despite the assault, the bombers continued to their target – Seletar – but failed to cause much material damage on this occasion.
Following the attack on the bombers, the Hurricanes tangled with the 64th Sentai in numerous dogfights, during which two of the latter were claimed shot down by Sergeants Henry Nicholls and 'Ron' Dovell. However, two more of the Hurricanes were lost. 25-year-old Pilot Officer Alphonso C. ‘Tex’ Marchbanks (RAF no. 100523) (an American), was seen to chase after the departing bombers but he was shot down in flames and killed, his aircraft (BG848) crashing some 20 miles north of Kuala Lumpur. The second Hurricane (BG818 also fell in flames, crashing into the sea after Pilot Officer Norman Williams had baled out, severely burned. He was pulled out of the water by native fishermen, who took him to a nearby island and sent a message to Singapore, following which an ASR launch picked him up and returned him to the Island. He was then transferred to hospital for urgent treatment to his injury.
Lieutenant Takeshi Endo was the first to fire at a Hurricane, but he missed in his excitement. He then spotted another formation just below him. Endo watched as a Ki-43 turned towards the RAF fighters, waggling its wings as its pilot signalled an attack. It dived on one of the Hurricanes, and after a six-second burst of cannon fire, the RAF machine belched flame. Endo then saw a white parachute canopy. He also noticed the slanting white line on the wings of the attacking Ki-43, indicating that it was Major Kato's aircraft. The 64th Sentai totally claimed five Hurricanes shot down during this fight, one of these being credited to Major Tateo and one to the killed Hatta. Apart of the loss of the latter, two other Ki-43s failed to return and both First Lieutenant Takashi Takeyama (Class 52) and Sergeant Major Junki Saito (NCO81) were reported missing.
This was the first clash between Hurricanes and Ki-43s and it ended in a draw – no bombers seems to have been lost on this occasion.

Following the collapse of the British defence on Malaya and in preparations for the invasion of Sumatra in mid February 1942, the 64th Sentai started to operate against this island.

At first light on 6 February, Japanese aircraft were out to raid Palembang airfield. Due to low cloud ceiling only the 64th Sentai were able to penetrate the cloud. The Japanese pilots didn't achieve much on this occasion, claiming only one aircraft burned, five probably destroyed and five damaged all on the ground before they were forced to break off the attack due to cloud. Kato reported:

"Steering to the north below cloud layers, I spotted a runway. Started firing at once. Although there were many planes on the ground, I could not pierce through the clouds, which were hanging low. Accordingly, after smashing two enemy planes, I decided to return."

On 14 February, the 64th Sentai provided escort for the paratroops landing at Palembang and in the ensuing combat with scrambling British fighters the Japanese pilot first shot down a lone Hurricane from 258 Squadron flown by Flying Officer 'Ting' Macnamara, who survived an forced landing with his badly damaged fighter. He was claimed as a shared by three pilots.
Then the Japanese pilots attacked ten Hurricanes and two of these were claimed shot down. Kato claimed one of these.
It seems that RAF actually lost four Hurricanes in this combat when Pilot Officer 'Bill' McCulloch of 232 Squadron and Sergeant Art Sheerin of 258 Squadron were shot down while Flight Lieutenant John Hutcheson and Pilot Officer Noel Sharp both of 488 Squadron crash-landed. All four pilots, who all survived, were part of a group of nine Hurricanes ferried up from Batavia, which stumbled into the Japanese aircraft over Palembang.

After successful occupation of Palembang airfield by Japanese paratroopers, the 64th Sentai started to use this airfield.

On 19 February, he led the first raid on Java when Buitenzorg was attacked soon after 09.30 by five Ki-48s from 90th Sentai escorted by 19 Ki-43s from 59th and 64th Sentais.
The Japanese pilots claimed seven destroyed while losing none of their aircraft. Defending Dutch Buffaloes claimed two destroyed 'Zeros' while losing four aircraft and getting one damaged.

On the same day (19 February 1942), Kato was promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel.

On 21 February, he was to lead Ki-43s from the 64th and 59th Sentais together with light bombers from 90th Sentai on Batavia but learning that the weather around this area was likely to be bad, he instead led them towards Kilidjati. On approaching the target area, he left the 59th and 90th Sentais to head for the airfield, leading the 64th towards cloud-covered Bandoeng instead. Arriving there soon after midday, at about 20,000 feet, they spotted seven fighters identified as P-43s, which attacked from above but were evaded. Four were then seen below and were ‘bounced’. Kato and his wingman, Lieutenant Yohei Hinoki, claiming one probably shot down, although one of the unit’s Ki-43s failed to return. It seems very likely that their opponents were Brewsters from 3-VIG-V.
The Dutch pilots and AA claimed four shot down and five damaged while they got one Buffalo badly damaged when the unit commander Lieutenant Tideman’s aircraft was hit. He was however able to land his damaged aircraft.

On 3 March, Japanese A6Ms from the 3rd Kokutai attacked him near Bandoeng. His aircraft was badly damaged and he was obliged to force-land at Kalidjati.

In March 1942, he was promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel.

On 10 April 1942, he led his Hayabusas from Chiang Mai on early morning strike on the Loiwing airfield, the base of the AVG's 2nd and 3rd Squadrons and a RAF Squadron. Of the eleven Hayabusas that were prepared to take three were disabled when their pilots taxied into one another in the darkness while preparing to take-off. That left eight fighters to lift off at 03.45 and three of those turned back with engine trouble.
At 06.10 the five fighters arrived over the enemy field where 23 P-40s were counted, parked side by side, prior to the attack. Kato waggled his wings, turned of his navigation lights, and dove to the attack. The attack was a complete surprise and the 64th Sentai pilots actually saw the enemy airmen running across the field. The Hayabusas strafed the field repeatedly, but they failed to set any of the fighters alight. Finally Kato turned on his navigation lights and waggled his wings for the flight home. To the astonishment of his pilots, he then fired a burst from his machine guns. Back at Chiang Mai, Lieutenant Hinou asked Kato about this unusual signal, and the Colonel admitted that he had strafed Loiwing with dead guns. Reaching to turn off his navigation light, Kato had hit the main switch instead, and did not realize the error until he tried to turn the lights on again; he had fired his guns to convince himself that he had really done this stupid thing.
Kato's pilots were convinced that they had torn a great swath through the enemy air force, though they were puzzled why the planes did not burn. (They finally decided that the Americans had drained the gasoline from their planes overnight.) 64th Sentai claimed at least 15 of the American fighters destroyed on the ground but in fact, the damage at Loiwing was trivial. Of twenty-three fighters on the field that morning - thirteen Tomahawks, seven Kittyhawks, and three Hurricanes - fewer than half were hit, and only one was so badly damaged that it could not be put back into commission.
With just one hour's delay, the AVG fighters were up showing the twelve-pointed CAF star over the Chinese lines.
When he returned to Chiang Mai he decided to make another raid on Loiwing during the afternoon. This raid consisted of nine Hayabusas. The AVG warning net picked them up at 14.30 near Lashio and the alarm sounded at Loiwing at 14.45. Seven Tomahawks took off, but one returned back with a loose oil cap; the others climbed through the clouds to 25,000 feet. They patrolled for half an hour, and then got word that the Japanese fighters were over the field. Four RAF Hurricanes from 17 Squadron were also up on patrol but it has not been possible to verify from which base they operated. The Allied fighters intercepted the lower flying Ki-43s.
In the ensuing clash 'Bob' Brouk of the AVG probably shot down Sergeant Major Eikichi Misago (NCO82), Lieutenant Hinoki was almost certainly wounded by Robert T. Smith (AVG) and his aircraft was seriously damaged although he managed to return to Chiang Mai.
Kato and Sergeant Yoshito Yasuda claimed one Tomahawk each but since none were lost it seems that they were two Hurricanes, which in fact were lost. Second Lieutenant Gordon Peter, SAAF, saw Sergeant Barrick shoot down one Ki-43, after which the South African dived on two others, which were trying to get on the tail of Barrick's aircraft. Before he could open fire however, he was attacked by another Ki-43, which thoroughly shot-up his Hurricane. Badly wounded, Peter was able to bale out of the stricken BH121 and, as soon as he was located, was rushed to Nalmkalm Hospital. Meanwhile Barrick, having watched his victim crash, was jumped by two others (as witnessed by Peter). He managed to get some strikes on one of these before his own aircraft (BG824) was hit in the engine, which stopped. Hot oil from the damaged engine spurted into the cockpit, burning his face, chest and arms, while shrapnel splinters inflicted minor wounds. Almost blinded by oil, and without the aid of flaps, Barrick managed to force-land the Hurricane on the side of a hill, but struck his head on the gunsight in the process. Despite the pain of his injuries he was aware of a native shouting to him and pointing skywards. He was able to scramble from the cockpit and dive for cover just as his victor came down to strafe the Hurricane.
The other two Hurricane pilots, Pilot Officer Earnshaw and Sergeant Gibson claimed one destroyed and one damaged respectively one damaged.
As soon as he was able Kato broke of the engagement and headed for home. Knowing that the Japanese pilots tended to relax when the heat was off, they were followed by the American pilots. Chuck Older and Duke Hedman intercepted the Ki-43 flown by Sergeant Yasuda and damaged it but the pilot was able to limped back home with his stricken fighter. Smith shot down Sergeant Major Tsutomu Goto (NCO77).
Totally in this combat the 64th Sentai claimed two aircraft and lost two aircraft and got two damaged. 17 Squadron claimed two and one damaged while losing two Hurricanes. The AVG claimed three and didn't sustain any losses.

He led a seven of 64th Sentai's Ki-43 to Akyab on 21 May. From this airfield they flew a sweep to attack Chittagong airfield. No British aircraft was however seen on the airfield but Warrant Officer Takeshi Shimizu (NCO9) (9 victories) pursued a Blenheim when he suffered an engine failure and baled out.
Deeply concerned for one of his most outstanding pilots, Kato decided to remain at Akyab to the next day in hope that Shimizu would be picked up by friendly forces and consequently he was still here at the Blenheim raid the following day.
Shimizu was found unconscious by British troops and was held in captivity until the end of the war, when he returned to Japan.

From Asansol nine Blenheims of 60 Squadron flew to Dum Dum on 22 May in preparation for an attack on Akyab airfield. Initially it was planned that six bombers would fly up-river to attack targets there, while three others would attack the airfield. In the event, only the latter three finally prepared for take-off, but one suffered engine trouble and did not get away, while a second returned early with other technical problems. Only Blenheim Mk.IV Z9808 of 60 Squadron flown by Warrant Officer Martin Huggard managed to reach the target. The Blenheim dropped its bomb from low-level and sped off out over the Bay of Bengal at wave-top height.
Despite their element of surprise the Blenheim crew had spotted a number of 64th Sentai Ki-43s scrambling after them as they flew over Akyab. First off in pursuit of the enemy bomber was 10-victory ace Sergeant Yoshito Yasuda, who soon caught up with the Blenheim and dived in to attack. Fortunately for the three-man Blenheim crew, their turret gunner Flight Sergeant 'Jock' McLuckie proved to be a crack shot, despite having never before fired his guns in anger (the third member of the crew was the navigator Sergeant Jack Howitt). McLuckie hit Yasuda's Ki-43 in its first pass, and the Japanese pilot was forced to return to Akyab.
Captain Masuzo Otani then took up the attack, but he too fell victim to a well-aimed burst from the gunner and had to retire back to Burma. Finally, after almost 30 minutes of constant attack, three Ki-43-I-Heis appeared on the scene, with Lieutenant Colonel Kato in the lead fighter. However when Kato pulled up after making his first diving pass on the Blenheim, McLuckie raked the fighter's exposed belly with a long burst and the Ki-43 started to burn. Realising that he would never make it back to Akyab, Kato half-looped his stricken fighter and purposely dove into the sea to perish with it. He had advised his pilots on numerous occasions in the past to perform just such a manoeuvre if hit badly over the water. The remaining two Japanese pilots immediately returned to Akyab to report the terrible news (they also reported that Kato has shot down the bomber, which obviously wasn't true).
The Blenheim returned to India unscathed by the Japanese attacks, and once British Intelligence had ascertained just who was flying the Ki-43 downed by McLuckie, 60 Squadron received the following signal from Air Officer Commanding Burma, Air Vice-Marshal D. F. Stevenson, on 2 August 1942:

"Please convey my congratulations toward Warrant Officer Huggards, Sergeant Howitt and Sergeant McLuckie on the successful action they fought against four enemy fighters which took place over Akyab on 22 May, and which resulted in Lt Colonel T. A. Keo Kato [sic], leader of the Japanese fighter force being shot down.'
In recognition of his distinguished service, Kato was elevated two ranks posthumously to Major General.
Even today his memory is kept alive by the popular song 'Kato Hayabusa Sentoki Tai' (Fighter Air Group Kato).

At the time of his death Kato was credited with 7 biplane victories and a total of 18.
During December 1941 – May 1942 the 64th Sentai totally claimed 200 enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 30/01/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Ki-10   Luoyang area 2nd Hiko Daitai
2 30/01/38   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Ki-10   Luoyang area 2nd Hiko Daitai
3 08/03/38   1 I-152 (a) Destroyed Ki-10   Sian area 2nd Hiko Daitai
4 25/03/38   1 I-152 (b) Destroyed Ki-10   Guide area 2nd Hiko Daitai
5 25/03/38   1 I-152 (b) Destroyed Ki-10   Guide area 2nd Hiko Daitai
6 25/03/38   1 I-152 (b) Destroyed Ki-10   Guide area 2nd Hiko Daitai
7 25/03/38   1 I-152 (b) Destroyed Ki-10   Guide area 2nd Hiko Daitai
8 10/04/38   1 I-15bis (c) Destroyed Ki-27   Guide 2nd Hiko Daitai
9 10/04/38   1 I-15bis (c) Destroyed Ki-27   Guide 2nd Hiko Daitai
10 ??/05/41   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Ki-27   Hoizhou 64th Sentai
11 22/12/41   1 Buffalo (d) Destroyed Ki-43   Kuala Lumpur area 64th Sentai
12 25/12/41   1 P-40 (e) Destroyed Ki-43   Rangoon area 64th Sentai
13 25/12/41   1 P-40 (e) Destroyed Ki-43   Rangoon area 64th Sentai
14 20/01/42 mid-morning 1 Hurricane (f) Destroyed Ki-43   Seletar area 64th Sentai
  06/02/42   1 Hurricane Probably destroyed on the ground Ki-43   Palembang 64th Sentai
  06/02/42   1 Hurricane Probably destroyed on the ground Ki-43   Palembang 64th Sentai
15 14/02/42   1 Hurricane (g) Destroyed Ki-43   Palembang 64th Sentai
16 19/02/42   1 Buffalo (h) Destroyed Ki-43   Bandoeng area 64th Sentai
  21/02/42 midday 1/2 Buffalo (i) Shared probably destroyed Ki-43   Bandoeng area 64th Sentai
17 10/04/42   1 P-40 (j) Destroyed Ki-43   Loiwing area 64th Sentai
18 22/05/42   1 Blenheim (k) Destroyed Ki-43   Bay of Bengal 64th Sentai

Biplane victories: 7 destroyed.
TOTAL: 18 and 1 shared destroyed, 1 shared probably destroyed, 2 probably destroyed on the ground.
(a) It is possible that these were claimed in combat with a combined group of I-15bis from the 17th and 25th PS, which lost at least three aircraft when the pilots Song Gua-Cheng and Lo Chun-Tun were shot down, Liu Jin-Guang and Liu Yi-Ji were wounded and Zhou Zin-Gyan parachuted. 2nd Daitai claimed seven Polikarpovs and three Gladiators over Sian during a mission on this day.
(b) In this combat the 2nd Daitai totally claimed 19 victories for the loss of 1st Lieutenant Kawahara.
(c) Claimed in combat with 18 I-15bis from 3rd PG and 22nd PS and 23rd PS of 4th PG. According to Japanese records fifteen Japanese fighters took part in this combat claiming 24 victories while losing two fighters (Sergeant Major Risaburo Saito and Lieutenant Yonesuke Fukuyama) and four crash-landed. The Chinese fighters claimed two victories while losing three aircraft and five force-landed. Two pilots were killed and two pilots wounded.
(d) Claimed in combat with Buffaloes from 453 Squadron, which lost three aircraft and got four damaged while claiming three destroyed and six probables. The 64th Sentai claimed eleven destroyed and four probables while losing one Ki-43.
(e) Claimed in combat with AVG and 67 Squadron. JAAF claimed 36 destroyed and four probables while losing nine aircraft. Allied fighters claimed 28 destroyed, 5 probables and 10 damaged while losing 6 aircraft (two pilots killed) and 2 damaged.
(f) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 232 Squadron, which claimed three fighters and eight and three probable bombers shot down while losing three of their Hurricanes. The 64th Sentai claimed five Hurricanes and lost three Ki-43s. No bombers seem to have been lost.
(g) 64th Sentai claimed two Hurricanes in this combat. Four Hurricanes were actually lost.
(h) Claimed in combat with Buffaloes from 3-VIG-V, which claimed, together with AA, four shot down and five damaged while they got one Buffalo badly damaged (Lieutenant Tideman). 64th Sentai claimed one enemy aircraft and lost one Ki-43.
(i) Probably claimed in combat with Buffaloes from 3-VIG-V, which claimed 4 shot down and 5 damaged while getting 1 Buffalo badly damaged. 64th and 59th Sentais claimed 1 probable ‘P-42’ while losing 1 Ki-43.
(j) Claimed in combat with the AVG and 17 Squadron. Totally in this combat the 64th Sentai claimed two aircraft and lost two aircraft and got two damaged. 17 Squadron claimed two and one damaged while losing two Hurricanes (Second Lieutenant Gordon Peter and Sergeant Barrick; both were wounded). The AVG claimed three and didn't sustain any losses.
(k) Claimed in combat against Blenheim Mk.IV Z9808 of 60 Squadron flown by Warrant Officer Martin Huggard, which safely returned to base.

Bloody Shambles Volume One - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Yasuho Izawa, 1992 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-50-X
Bloody Shambles Volume Two - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Yasuho Izawa, 1993 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-67-4
Esa mezivalecneho obdobi vol.3 - Tomas Polak, 1996 Plastic Kits Revue 45/96, Ostrava, Czech Republic kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.
Flying Tigers - Daniel Ford, 1991 Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, ISBN 1-56098-541-0
Flying Tigers' Duel Over Burma - Dan Ford, 2000 Aviation History
Historie 64.sentaj vol.1 - Jaroslav Novotny Jr, 1993 Plastic Kits Revue 16/93, Ostrava, Czech Republic kindly provided by Ondrej Repka.
Hurricanes over Singapore – Brian Cull with Paul Sortehaug, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-80-6
Japanese Army Air Force Aces 1937-45 - Henry Sakaida, 1997 Osprey Publishing, London, ISBN 1-85532-529-2
Japanese Army Air Force fighter units and their aces 1931-1945 - Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa and Christopher Shores, 2002 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-89-6
Ki-27 'Nate' Aces – Nicholas Millman, 2013 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-662-2
Ki-43 'Oscar' Aces of World War 2 - Hiroshi Ichimura, 2009 Osprey Publishing Limited, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-408-4
P-40 Warhawk vs Ki-43 Oscar: China 1944-45 - Carl Molesworth, 2008 Osprey Publishing Limited, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-295-0
Soviet Fighters in the sky of China, Part II - Anatolii Demin, 2000 Aviatsiia Kosmonavtika 10 (translated by George M. Mellinger)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Nick Millman.

Last modified 16 March 2015