Operation Gi (iii)

This was a Japanese kamikaze air-landing operation designed to destroy the air bases on the west coast of Okinawa which the US air forces were using with great success to intercept kamikaze air raids on the US forces on and around Okinawa in 'Iceberg' (24/25 May 1945).

The force used for 'Gi' (iii) was Lieutenant General Michio Sugahara’s Giretsu Kuteitai, an air-lifted special forces unit of the Imperial Japanese army formed in November 1944 on the basis of army paratroopers as a last-ditch attempt to reduce and delay Allied bombing raids on the Japanese home islands.

After Boeing B-29 Superfortress strategic bombers of the US 20th AAF began to fly attacks on Tokyo from bases in the Mariana islands group after these had been taken in 'Forager', the 1st Raiding Brigade of the Teishin Shudan airborne special forces unit was instructed to create a commando unit for a 'special operations' mission to attack and destroy the bombers on the Aslito airfield on Saipan. The task was entrusted Captain Michiro Okuyama, commander of the brigade’s engineering company and trained in demolition work, and he selected an additional 126 men from his own 1st Teishin-Dan team as the nucleus of the first Giretsu Kuteitai airborne unit. This was established with a command section, five platoons and one independent squad, and also included eight intelligence officers and two radio operators.

Giretsu Kuteitai missions were to be undertaken by night. Preceded by a bombing attack, the commando units was to be delivered straight onto the target airfield by crash-landing transport aircraft. There was no provision for the extraction of the commando units, which were therefore in effect if not in theory kamikaze units.

The attack on Aslito airfield was scheduled for 24 December 1944, but was cancelled after US air raids damaged the airfields on Iwo Jima where the transport aircraft were to have refuelled. After this plans were made to attack the airfields on Iwo Jima taken by the US Marine Corps in 'Detachment' during March, but these too were cancelled when Iwo Jima fell.

US forces landed on Okinawa during 1 April, and soon US fighters based on Okinawa’s west-coast airfields were able to intercept and savage the large forces of kamikaze aircraft on which the Japanese placed great stock for the decimation of the US and allied naval forces supporting 'Iceberg'. In the middle of April, the Japanese army’s 6th Air Army requested the deployment of the Giretsu Kuteitai to neutralise these airfields, and 'Gi' (iii) was authorised on 18 May.

On the night of 24 May, 12 Mitsubishi Ki-21-IIb 'Sally' bombers of the 3rd Dokuritsu Hikotai under the command of Captain Chuichi Suwabe, were despatched on 'Gi' (iii): each bomber carried 14 commandos. Eight and four of the bombers were assigned to attacks on Yontan and Kadena airfields respectively. Four aircraft were compelled to abort the mission with engine problems and three more were shot down, however, but the last five managed to crash-land on Yontan airfield during the confusion resulting from a diversionary attack by some 50 army and navy bombers and fighters.

Only one aeroplane landed successfully, and about 10 surviving raiders, armed with sub-machine guns and explosive charges, then stormed toward the supply dump and parked aircraft, killing two US personnel, destroying 70,000 US gal (264980 litres) of fuel and nine aircraft, and damaging 29 more aircraft before being overrun by the defenders. There was one Japanese survivor, and he reached the headquarters of the 32nd Army on about 12 June.