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Commander Kato's Falcon Corps

Here's a great film clip on YouTube, featuring the group anthem of the 64th Sentai against scenes from a wartime propaganda movie. The segment begins with a Hayabusa taking off and stunting, with the 64th's arrowhead on its tail. The movie title comes on the screen: Aa Hayabusa sentotai cho Kato--"Ah, Commander Kato's Falcon Corps!" It's a magnificently hammy wartime docudrama about the 64th Sentai in Southeast Asia, starring Fujita Susumu of Godzilla fame. To play the video, first hit your Enter key (to activate the software), then click the arrow. Or click the arrow twice, which will take you to YouTube in another window:

We glimpse the young pilots singing to their commander, Major Kato Tateo, most famous of Japanese Army fighter pilots. Then we see Hayabusas flying through flak, presumably over Burma, and Kato diving upon a luckless P-40 which goes down in flames. Kato then paces a grassy airfield, waiting one of his men to come home--which he does, of course ... but not forever. Here are four Hayabusas where there should have been five, then an empty sky and waves dashing upon the shore. Thus ends the feature film with Kato's death, shot down over the Bay of Bengal in May 1942 by a Blenheim gunner named Sergeant McLuckie.

Finally we see a retrospective of Kato as group leader, of Ki-21 heavy bombers destroying colonial empires (including the cranes on the docks at Rangoon), and of the army's successful--and only--parachute drop of the war, which resulted in the capture of the oilfields at Palembang in the Dutch East Indies.

Related videos

You can watch most of the (though without English subtitles) as twelve YouTube videos, posted by a different user. Some of these duplicate what's shown above; some have the Japanese sound track while others rely entirely on musical background. (I haven't been able to open 1/12, but have looked at a bunch of others.)

Miyuki discovers WWII

When I was translating Japanese texts for my history of the AVG, I worked with a young woman named Miyuki Rogers. Like most Japanese of her generation, she knew nothing of World War II and, less surprisingly, nothing about aviation. ("Can he leave the airplane?" she asked me at one point, when a pilot is forced to take to his parachute. "I think he is leaving the airplane!")

Miyuki was fascinated by the stories of the 64th Sentai, and when we corresponded with one of the survivors, she'd enclose private notes to him, thanking him for his service to their country. When she went home for Christmas vacation, she told her mother about the work she'd been doing. To her great astonishment, her mother (who had never in their life together mentioned the war) stood up straight and sang the group's anthem, much as you hear it on this video clip.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford