Warrant Officer Umekawa
In March 1938 Umekawa served in the 2nd chutai of the 2nd Daitai. This unit was at the time equipped with Kawasaki Ki-10s.
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 11 March 13 Ki-10s, led by the new 2nd Daitai commander, Major Tamiya Teranishi, escorted bombers to Sian. Lieutenant Yonesuke Fukuyama’s shotai of three Ki-10s encountered nine Chinese fighters and engaged them in a dogfight at 18,000 ft. Fukuyama engaged the leader (reportedly a Soviet volunteer) for ten minutes before finally shooting him down with eight bursts at 2,000 ft (according to some sources the enemy aircraft was a Gladiator). He then shared an I-15 with Sergeant Yohei Machiba. Sergeant Major Matsui claimed two more I-15s while Warrant Officer Umekawa claimed a forth I-15.
Umekawa ended the war with 2 biplane victories.
|Kill no.||Date||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|1||08/03/38||1||Gladiator (a)||Destroyed||Ki-10||Sian area||2nd Daitai|
|2||11/03/38||1||I-15||Destroyed||Ki-10||Sian area||2nd Daitai|
Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed.
(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.
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
Soviet Fighters in the sky of China, Part II - Anatolii Demin, 2000 Aviatsiia Kosmonavtika 10 (translated by George M. Mellinger)
Additional information kindly provided by Edward Chan and Nick Millman.