CHIKUJO, Fukuoka -- Dogfight footage of the downing of a Kawanishi Shiden-Kai fighter plane -- one of Imperial Japan's last combat aircraft models -- in the dying days of World War II will be shown at a study center here on May 26.
The 14 seconds of color film taken in 1945 by a U.S. P-51 Mustang fighter gun camera was unearthed in the U.S. National Archives by Toyo no Kuni Usa-shi Juku, a citizens group in southwestern Japan's Usa, Oita Prefecture, that collects and analyzes images of U.S. air attacks in World War II.
The group will make the film available from 2 to 4 p.m. on May 26 at the study center in Funasako Kamaato Park in Chikujo, Fukuoka Prefecture, also in southwestern Japan.
According to historical documents, 24 N1K2-J Shiden-Kai fighters took off from an Imperial Japanese Navy base in Omura, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Aug. 8, 1945, to intercept hundreds of U.S. aircraft attacking parts of Kyushu. Ten of the Japanese planes were shot down in an intense onslaught by American fighters.
One of these was downed by the Mustang at about 10:15 a.m. as the U.S. plane was on its way to attack Tsuiki air field. The Shiden-Kai plunged into a mountainside in Omura's Obara district, and a resident who recalls the crash said, "I heard such a loud blast. I was petrified."
A propeller blade believed to have belonged to the Shiden-Kai and preserved at a local community hall will also be on display at the study center from May 21 to June 16. There is a bullet hole in the 1.6-meter blade, damage apparently inflicted during the dogfight.
About 400 Shiden-Kai interceptors were produced in 1944 and 1945 as part of attempts to regain air superiority over the Japanese home islands as the war situation grew steadily worse.
(Japanese original by Naoyuki Yabuta, Hozen Resident Bureau)