Biplane fighter aces


Captain Hajime Kawada

At the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War Kawada served in the 8th Daitai. This unit was at the time equipped with Kawasaki Ki-10s.

On 1 October the 8th Daitai together with other units attacked Tai Yuan, where the airfield was strafed.
During this mission the top cover encountered Chinese aircraft. Captain Kawada and Lieutenant Kiyoshi Nishikawa met a Curtiss Hawk, which they jointly claimed to have shot down, while Warrant Officer Masayoshi Ohtsubo claimed a light bomber.

In July 1938 the 8th Daitai became the 77th Sentai.

On 21 August six of the 77th Sentai’s Ki-10s led by Captain Shin-ichi Muraoka, strafed Hankou airfield. Here the top cover, Toyoki Eto and Captain Kawada, engaged I-16s and Avro fighters. Joined by four more of the unit’s aircraft, they claimed eight shot down, two of the by Lieutenant Eto, who was then obliged to force-land on the bank of the Yangzijiang, from where he was rescued by a flyingboat.

From December 1941 he operated over Burma.

Constant patrols were maintained over Mingaladon all through the morning on 25 February, but it was midday when a big Japanese fighter sweep approached, comprising 21 Ki-27s from the 50th Sentai, 23 more from the 77th Sentai and three of the preproduction Ki-44s of the 47th I F Chutai, which had operated earlier over Malaya.
Three P-40s were led off by Squadron Leader Neale, together with six of 17 Squadron's Hurricanes. Sergeant Barrick had seen the oncoming mass of hostile fighters, which he accurately assessed to be 50 strong, and had excitedly yelled "Snapper! Snapper!" over the R/T, forgetting that this was the emergency code word used in the European theatre to indicate that they were being jumped. Consequently Squadron Leader Stone had not reacted, and continued heading south-west, towards the position where the enemy had been reported. “Snapper! Snapper!” was then repeated with even greater urgency, at which Stone led the Hurricanes into a circle, waiting instructions, until Operations ordered them to return, having seen nothing.
Meanwhile Barrick, believing that the rest of the squadron were following him, had sailed into 15 Japanese fighters alone:

“I attacked and shot down one 'Army 97' and was then jumped from above by a ‘Zero’ (presumably one of the Ki-44s). I went into a tight turn which caused one of the gun panels to fly open. This made the aircraft ‘flick’ and probably saved my life, because the ‘Zero’ was in an excellent position behind me. As it was my plane was not hit."
The AVG trio had also become engaged with the Ki-27s, claiming four shot down without loss - two by Neale and one each by Bob Prescott and Bill McGarry. Despite the five claims submitted, the Japanese fighters suffered no losses. However their own claims proved wild in the extreme, amounting to many more Allied fighters than were in the air. The Ki-44 pilots claimed two, whilst the 50th Sentai added three and two probables. No less than 11 and five probables were claimed by the 77th Sentai, one by the Headquarters flight, seven and two probables by the 1st Chutai, one and two probables by the 2nd Chutai and two, one probable and one damaged by the 3rd Chutai. Claiming pilots were: Sergeant Major Matsunaga (two), Lieutenant Captain (one), Captain Toyoki Eto (one and one probable); Lieutenant Matsuo (one), Lieutenant Kawabara (one), Warrant Officer Fujinaga (one and one probable), Warrant Officer Kimura (one), Sergeant Niino (one), Lieutenant Nakajima (one), Lieutenant Tsuguo Kojima and Warrant Officer Honma (one shared), Lieutenant Shinjirou Nagoshi (one probable) and Sergeant Ono (one probable).

Around midday on 26 February a further raid was launched by the Japanese, this time Ki-48s of the 8th Sentai, led by Captain Sueo Yamamoto, attacking Mingaladon, escorted by Ki-27s from both the 50th and 77th Sentais. Here the bomber crews reported two aircraft destroyed and seven others damaged on the ground; apparently eight Blenheims and Lysanders were hit, several subsequently being written off, as they had been damaged beyond repair.
Nine P-40s and several Hurricanes were scrambled, the AVG pilots claiming seven fighters and one bomber shot down without loss: Flight Leader Bond one; Flight Leader Burgard one; Dick Rossi two; Camille Rosbert two, John Blackburn one, while Robert H. Smith claimed a ‘Type 97 bomber’. Squadron Leader Cotton (BD963) of 17 Squadron claimed one bomber before being wounded by fighters.
On this occasion, two of the 8th Sentai bombers failed to return, one being seen to be shot down, while one of the 50th Sentai Ki-27s was also lost when Warrant Officer Atsuo Nagata (Sho-2) was killed. The escort fighters claimed seven and three probables, the 77th claiming three (one apiece being credited to Captain Kawada, Lieutenant Kawabara and Lieutenant Matsuo) and one probable (Lieutenant Shimoda). One of their victories may have been Hurricane BE171/YB-B of 17 Squadron, which Captain A. D. Penton (the Army Liaison Officer attached to the unit, who was also a trained army co-operation pilot) had borrowed to undertake a reconnaissance over the Sittang area. He was intercepted by Japanese aircraft and shot down, though he escaped injury and returned later to Mingaladon in an ox-cart.

The 25 and 26 February had brought some of the greatest over-claiming of the campaign - if not of the whole war - and for very limited actual results. On 25 February the AVG had claimed 26 and one probable, and the RAF four, for one P-40 force-landed; next day the AVG added a further 20 claims in the air and two on the ground, and the RAF six plus one probable on the ground for the loss of two Hurricanes and one P-40, with two more Hurricanes and one P-40 badly damaged. The Japanese had been almost as profligate, claiming 16 and seven probables for the loss of two Ki-27s on 25 February, followed by seven and six probables, plus one by AA gunners, on 26 February when two Ki-51 bombers and two Ki-27s were lost in the air, with one more destroyed, one badly damaged and three damaged in the Moulmein area.
Thus combined total claims by both sides for 80 aircraft shot down, plus 14 probables, had been matched by actual losses of perhaps 10 or 11, and with about seven more damaged.

Kawada continued to serve during the war and between April 1945 and the end of the war he served as Executive Officer/Hikotai leader of the 50th Hiko Sentai, which was based on Formosa.

Kawada ended the war with 1 shared biplane victory and a total of 2.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  01/10/37 ½ Hawk Shared destroyed Ki-10   Tai Yuan area 8th Daitai
1 25/02/42 1 Enemy fighter (a) Destroyed Ki-27   Mingaladon area 77th Sentai
2 26/02/42 1 Enemy fighter (b) Destroyed Ki-27   Mingaladon area 77th Sentai

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 and 1 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with P-40s from the 1st AVG Squadron and Hurricanes from 17 Squadron which claimed 5 fighters shot down without losses. The 50th and 77th Sentais and the 47th I F Chutai claimed 16 destroyed and 7 probables without losses.
(b) Claimed in combat P-40s from the 1st AVG Squadron and Hurricanes from 17 Squadron which claimed 7 fighters and 2 bombers shot down without losses. The 50th and 77th Sentais claimed 7 destroyed and 3 probables for the loss of one Ki-27 from the 50th Sentai and 2 Ki-48s from the 8th Sentai.

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
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

Last modified 17 June 2004