Komachi aboard the carrier Shōkaku in early 1942.
|Born||18 April 1920|
Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
|Died||15 July 2012(aged 92)|
|Allegiance||Empire of Japan|
|Service/||Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJN)|
Ōmura Air Group
204th Air Group
253rd Air Group
Yokosuka Air Group
|Battles/wars||World War II:|
Attack on Pearl Harbor
Indian Ocean raid
Battle of the Coral Sea
Battle of the Eastern Solomons
Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
Solomon Islands Campaign
Battle of the Philippine Sea
Sadamu Komachi (小町 定, Komachi Sadamu, 18 April 1920 – 15 July 2012) was an ace fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. Participating in many of the Pacific War battles and campaigns as a member of several units, Komachi was officially credited with destroying 18 enemy aircraft.
Sadamu Komachi was born in 1920 in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. He was the third son of a part-farming, part-merchant family. He joined the training program for naval marines at Kure naval base in 1938. He was briefly stationed on a battleship Fuso. He applied for and was accepted to a naval pilot training program and graduated from the 49th class in June 1940. After the graduation he was assigned to a fighter squadron based at Ōmura Naval Air Station in Nagasaki Prefecture on Kyushu. He first flew A6M Zero fighter in the autumn of 1940.
He was reassigned to the aircraft carrier Akagi in October 1940 for carrier-based fighter specialization. In May 1941 he was assigned to the fighter squadron of the newly built aircraft carrier Shōkaku and in the autumn of the same year took part in naval exercises around Kyushu in preparation for the Attack on Pearl Harbor.
World War II
During the Attack on Pearl Harbor he was assigned to cover the carrier fleet as part of combat air patrol (CAP) and therefore did not see any combat. During the Indian Ocean Raid, he was again assigned to cover the carrier fleet. There he saw air combat for the first time and had a dogfight with a British Hurricane fighter. While he managed to hit the enemy fighter, which started to emit smoke, he could not confirm the crash and was therefore not officially credited with the kill.
In May 1942 Petty Officer Third Class Komachi participated in Operation MO that resulted in Battle of Coral Sea. While being part of CAP that was protecting the IJN carrier fleet, he was credited with shooting down one SBD Dauntless dive bomber and one F4F Wildcat fighter. Additionally, he was credited with 4 shared kills. Since the flight deck of his carrier Shōkaku was damaged in the battle, he was forced to land on Zuikaku instead. After the battle, Shōkaku was sent to be repaired and therefore IJN 5th Carrier Division did not participate in the subsequent Battle of Midway.
In late August of 1942 IJN sent a carrier fleet to Solomon Islands in response to the landing of US marines on Guadalcanal earlier that month. United States Navy (USN) anticipated the counter-offensive and sent its own carrier fleet to the area. During the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, Petty Officer Komachi was assigned to cover the strike force that attacked US carriers. While engaged in a lengthy dogfight over the US fleet, Petty Officer Komachi hit a couple of Wildcats, however he did not have the time to confirm their crashes. At one point he countered a surprise attack by a Wildcat by dropping his Zero into an intentional spin, from which he recovered at low altitude. Komachi survived the dogfight and proceeded to the meeting point where the dive and torpedo bombers would wait for the fighters in order to lead them back to the friendly carriers. However, when he arrived at the meeting point, the strike force had already left and he was forced to navigate to the carriers on his own during the late afternoon. While it was getting dark, he could not manage to find the carriers, and was forced to make an emergency landing on water. He was later picked up by one of the destroyers.
In late October of 1942 IJN fleet was again sent to Solomon Islands to support the Imperial Japanese Army ground assault on Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. The USN again responded by sending its own fleet to the area. In the following Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Petty Officer Komachi was involved in fighting US aircraft during CAP, while the Japanese strike force eventually sank USN carrier Hornet and badly damaged carrier Enterprise. He and other CAP Zeros attacked the USN strike group led by Lieutenant Commander Gus Widhelm that was approaching IJN carriers. They managed to shoot down or damage several SBD Dauntless dive bombers (including that of Widhelm), however the rest passed through CAP and attacked Shōkaku; causing severe damage to the carrier.
In autumn of 1942 he returned to Ōmura airbase on Kyushu and served as an instructor for fighter pilot specialization. There he married Katsumi Furuta; a woman he met during his training at naval marines. In August 1943 he was transferred to Rabaul airbase in the South Pacific, where he saw extensive air combat for several months. He was first assigned to the 204th Air Group and then in December he was transferred to the 253rd Air Group.
In February 1944 he was moved to Truk. He left Truk in June 1944 in order to participate in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. While he was about to land on an airfield on Guam, his fighter was shot down by USN F6F Hellcat fighters. He made an emergency landing on the coast and was afterwards evacuated to Japan as he sustained severe burn injury.
Komachi participated in the last Air engagement of World War II 18 August 1945, when he attacked two B-32 Dominators on a photo-reconnaissance mission over Tokyo. One bomber received damage and suffered one crew fatality, but both aircraft returned to Yontan Airfield, Okinawa.
Komachi died of natural causes on 15 July 2012. He was 92.
- "The Last to Die | Military Aviation | Air & Space Magazine". Airspacemag.com. Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- 訃報 [Obituary]. Sankei Shimbun (in Japanese). July 18, 2012. 社会面 [society and local news].
- 川崎, 浹 (2003). ある零戦パイロットの軌跡 (in Japanese). トランスビュー. ISBN 4901510177.
- Hata, Ikuhiko; Yasuho Izawa (1989) . Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II. Translated by Don Cyril Gorham. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-315-6.
- Sakaida, Henry (2002). Aces of the Rising Sun, 1937–1945. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-618-6.
- Lundstrom, John B. (2005). The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway (New ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-471-X.
- Lundstrom, John B. (2005). First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942 (New ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-472-8.