Junichi Sasai

Junichi Sasai – LTCDR Imperial Japanese Navy

February 13, 1918 – August 26, 1942

Sasai ww2db.com

Tough admission standards, the Yokaren Program and experience gave Japan fighter pilots good as any and better than most. Long range operations over China, carrier operations and the marvelous Zero – one of the finest carrier borne fighters the world has seen gave Japanese Naval Pilots an edge over opponents in the beginning of the Pacific War.

Their numbers, fortunately for Allied opponents, were small – a few hundred. A war of attrition for which Japan was lamentably ill prepared saw their numbers dwindle until few were left. Demands for fighter pilots could not be met without lowering standards and abbreviated training could not deliver personnel up to the standards of prewar excellence. Quality declined, air superiority was lost; the results are in many history books – known.

Junichi Sasai was an exemplar of Japanese training and a finer graduate than most. His father was a Captain in the Navy: the son followed. Sickly in youth and bullied, judo and strict diet overcame affliction.Graduating from The Imperial Japanese Naval Academy (Etajima)in the 67th Class as an Ensign in 1939. Fighter pilot training was complete in November 1941; posting to Tainan Air Group came that December.“During his days at the academy (Eta Jima) his classmates had referred to him as Shamo(gamecock) because of his dislike of losing and his vigorously combative personality.”**

First kill on February 2, 1942 – a Dutch Brewster Buffalo. The Tainan Air Group transferred to New Guinea in March 1942 and over that huge island Sasai came into his own with the best the Navy could offer: Saburo Sakai – his ‘tutor’, Toshio Ota, Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, Wataru Honda and Tora-Ichi Takatsuka.

Sasai next to a downed P40

A critic of the rigid, stratified system of rank and resultant gulf between officer and enlisted men, Sasai spent time with his enlisted pilots revealing another facet – compassion, but was a strict officer. Saburo Sakai: “Ohta, Nishizawa and I joined our fighters wingtip to wingtip and did three perfect consecutive loops over the field(at Port Moresby) following a dogfight. After we landed we were very proud of ourselves. Then we had a message that the allied commander at Moresby had sent a letter to our commander, Sasai, describing our stunt, and inviting us back. Sasai chewed us out and threatened us with grounding if we ever did that again. He was just following procedure, but we knew he was secretly proud of us.”

Rabaul was different – ‘the fighter pilot’s graveyard’. Disease, a not so dormant volcano bounding the airfield at Vunakanau, and fatiguing long overwater missions to Guadalcanal that stretched the A6M’s range to the limit. For the first time, American pilots were serious opposition – especially using the ‘Thatch Weave’ Sasai was credited with 5 F4F’s on August 7, 1942.

August 26, 1942: the 76th and final sortie with Tainan Group escorting Betty medium bombers with 8 Zeros to bomb Henderson Field at Guadalcanal. Sasai chose an F4F ‘Wildcat’ landing at Henderson.The American fighter headed for its own antiaircraft curtain then turned to give combat. Sasai attacked from overhead and the Grumman pilot, recognized as Marine ace Marion Carl, pulled his nose up and raked the Zero. “it is assumed that he may have been shot down by the US Marine Corps ace Marion Carl of VMF 223 but certainly by a pilot of that unit.”*

Thought to be the last photo taken of Sasai on August 26,1942

“In a letter dispatched shortly before his death, he reported that he had shot down 54 aircraft and implied he would soon exceed the record of 80 set by Richthofen.”*


Hata,Izawa and Shores, Japanese Naval Air Force Fighter Units And Their Aces 1932 – 1945

2011 Grub St. London Publishers


*Hata,Izawa and Shores, Japanese Naval Air Force Fighter Units And Their Aces 1932 – 1945

2011 6995 of 9435

IBID 547 of 797


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: