Profile no 37. Mitsubishi A6M3 Model 22 Reisen

White 162, flown by Dai-i Takeyoshi Ohno, 251st Hikotai, Lakunai/New Britain (New Guinea), May 1943
The Japanese Army and Navy agreed to strengthen their air units along the north New Guinea coast, while a delaying operation would be fought in the Solomons. As a consequence, the Army dispatched the 68th and 78th Sentai from 14th Air Brigade, equipped with the Ki-61 Hien, and the Navy sent A6Ms of the 251st Kokutai (formerly the Tainan Ku). The Navy unit was, after they recuperated in Japan, transferred back to their former base at Raubul. On 10 May, 58 Zeros and seven reconnaissance aircraft led by Hikotai leader, Lt. Ichiro Mukai, arrived at Lakunai airfield. However, this force was depleted by previous losses, and only 10 of the pilots were veterans from the former élite Tainan Group. Four days later the unit had its baptism of fire when on the 14th, 32 A6Ms escorted G3Ms to Oro Bay, 500 km south west of Lakunai. During this mission the Zero pilots claimed eight victories with a further five probables for the loss of four G3M bombers. The American records tell another story - the P-38s and P-40s from the 49th FG met the attacking force, claiming 11 G3Ms and 10 A6Ms for the loss of two fighters. Thereafter, Lt. Ohno continued to fly missions from Rabaul with sorties over the Russell Islands on the 7th and 12th of June, with attacks on shipping at Lunga Point on the 16th. Despite his youth he acted as the overall 251st leader in the air and also managed to claim an additional three victories with another two shared. His last mission was on 30 June 1943, when he led a buntai to Rendova Island where the U.S. 43rd Infantry had commenced the invasion of the central Solomon Islands. Over the landing area at least 32 Allied Fighters where airborne at all times, and when the 16 Zeros from the 251st Hikotai arrived over the scene at 1100 hours, they were met by F4Us from VMF-121 which claimed 15 of them shot down. The unit actually lost a total of eight A6Ms during the battle including the Hikotai leader, Lt. Ichiro Mukai and Lt. Takeyoshi Ohno. Ohno had eight victories under his belt by the time of his demise.

Note that this is another of the 130 profiles/captions included in my new Pacific Fighter Book.

© Claes Sundin 2019