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343rd Kokutai, Imperial Japanese Navy

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History
History of the 343rd Kokutai during World War II

The actual 343rd Kokutai on which our virtual squadron is based was the second formation of the Air Group (the first one was based at Agana, Guam and was decimated), created on Christmas Day 1944 as a special fighter unit combining the best surviving ace IJN fighter pilots with the best available machine, the Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai "George". The Air Group was formed under the command of Captain Minoru Genda, the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack and rival of Saburo Sakai, and was based initially at Matsuyama Air Base on Shikoku Island before transferring to several bases on Kyushu Island.

The squad was initially posted to the 25th Kokusentai (Air Flotilla) of the 3rd Kokukantai (Air Fleet) and trained with the N1K1 Shiden until mid-March, during which time Commander Genda focused the unit's development in 4 directions: 1) advance intelligence via a capable reconnaisance wing; 2) formation combat; 3) improvement of IJN air-to-air radio communications; and 4) fighter tactics that would ensure victory in dogfights. Genda placed heavy emphasis on pilot morale and did everything in his power to provide the best equipment, materials, technicians, living quarters and other facilities to his pilots -- a distinctively "American" approach, and in stark contrast to the lousy conditions under which nearly all other Japanese pilots were forced to live and fight throughout the war.

By mid-March 1945, nearly all the aircraft of the 343rd had been replaced by the new N1K2-J Shiden-kai "George" fighter, and the timing could not have been better for the 170 pilots of the elite Air Group. On March 19th, reconnaissance detected a U.S. Carrier strike force heading north toward the island of Shikoku. The 343rd scrambled 54 Georges to intercept, and shot down 48 Corsairs and Hellcats and 4 SB2Cs while losing only 16 aircraft in the air and 5 on the ground. This was an extraordinary achievement, especially  considering the fact that "success" for Japan's air engagments at that time was defined as equal kill totals.

In April, with the Battle of Okinawa, the 343rd was redeployed to Kanoya base and placed under the command of the 72nd Kokusentai, 5th Kokukantai. From May 12 to June 22, the 343rd flew multiple sorties from Kanoya, Kokubu and Omura bases with a cumulative total of 285 aircraft and lost only 32 (plus more than 7 that were damaged and made emergency landings), while racking up an estimated 118 kills of American aircraft, including 12 B-29s.

In late June and July, however, B-24s based from Okinawa intensified the bombing attacks on Japanese infrastructure, resulting in greater fuel and equipment shortages and large-scale destruction of aircraft on the ground, reducing the 343rd's combat effectiveness to almost nil. According to Hata and Izawa, the 343rd had only around 20 operable aircraft in July. Still, given the incredible odds faced by its pilots, the 343rd managed to accumulate a very impressive battle record for under 150 days of action: 170 kills versus 74 pilots lost.
 
In this spirit, we invite only mature, veteran CFS2 pilots to join the 343rd Kokutai virtual squadron. Our ranking system is based on merit, not longevity with the unit.
 
All pilots begin their careers with similar ranks, and receive promotions based on a scoring schedule for either the fighter wing or bomber wing. Rank is earned in this squadron, not based on seniority or nepotism. The only "set" rank in the squadron is that of the squadron founder, Hiko Daisa Muto. The Daisa is the permanent C.O. of the squad, however his career combat record began at ZERO and is a part of the squadron's public record for comparison with the records of any other pilot in the squad.

301st SQUADRON, 343rd KOKUTAI - MARCH 1945
301st343.jpg
Capt. Genda, 343rd C.O. and mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack, is seated front center (Y Izawa)

Famous aces who flew for the 343rd Kokutai:

CPO Shoichi Sugita - 120+ kills KIA
Ens Saburo Sakai - 60+ kills
Lt Naoshi Kanno - 48 kills KIA
LtCdr Iyozo Fujita - 42 kills
Ens Kaneyoshi Muto - 35 kills KIA
WO Hiroshi Okano - 19 kills
Ens Minoru Honda - 17 kills
Ens Isamu Miyazaki - 13 kills
Lt Chitoshi Isozaki - 12 kills
Ens Masao Sasakibara - 12 kills
WO Mitsuo Hori - 11 kills
Cdr Takahide Aioi - 10 kills
Ens Kazuo Muranaka - 8 kills
LtCdr Yoshio Shiga - 6 kills
Lt Takashi Oshibuchi - 6 kills KIA
Lt Yoshishige Hayashi - 5 kills KIA

Note - kill totals include 'shared' kills

pearlplanning.jpg
PLANNING PEARL HARBOR from the movie "Pearl Harbor" - courtesy Touchstone Pictures