This was a Japanese air-landing demolition raid by the ‘Kaoru’ Airborne Raiding Detachment on Leyte island of the Philippine islands group (26/27 November 1944).
The ‘Kaoru’ Airborne Raiding Detachment, comprising two companies created in December 1943 originally as part of the Guerrilla Unit, was recruited largely from men of the Takasago ethnic group on Formosa as these were recognised by the Japanese as skilled jungle fighters, though the officers and technical soldiers, such as medical personnel and signallers, were Japanese. Inspired by the success of provisional raider units formed in eastern New Guinea, the Guerrilla Unit was trained by men of the Nakano intelligence school in matters such as guerrilla and infiltration tactics, demolition, camouflage and the use of special weapons and equipment. In May 1944 two companies of the Guerrilla Unit were assigned to General Korechika Anami’s 2nd Area Army, headquartered at Manado and the high-level formation responsible for the Netherlands East Indies. In June of the same year the two companies were transferred to the Philippine islands group, landing at Manila on Luzon island. The 2nd Guerrilla Company moved to Halmahera before being redeployed to Morotai island after the US ‘Tradewind’ landing on that island, but the 1st Guerrilla Company was retained on on Luzon.
When US forces delivered their ‘King II’ landing on Leyte island of the Philippines archipelago on 20 October 1944, Lieutenant General Kyoji Tominaga’s 4th Air Army decided to make use of the 1st Guerrilla Company for an airborne attack on airfields which the US forces had taken. Under the command of Lieutenant Shigeo Naka, the 1st Guerrilla Company was cycled through a crash course on air-landing operations, for which the aircraft would be transport machines additionally fitted with demolition charges for detonation after the aircraft had belly-landed on their target airfields. For this ‘Gi’ (iii) operation, the 1st Guerrilla Company was redesignated as the ‘Kaoru’ Airborne Raiding Detachment.
Four Showa L2D ‘Tabby’ twin-engine light transport aircraft, each carrying 10 men of the ‘Kaoru’ Airborne Raiding Detachment, were to land on the North Burauen and South Burauen airfields within the US beach-head on east central Leyte, and then to attack parked aircraft and installations.
The unit was alerted on 22 November, and on the night of 26 November the aircraft took off from Lipa airfield to the south of Manila and, flying at very low altitude to avoid interception by US fighters, headed for Leyte some 350 miles (565 km) to the south-east. Two hours after take-off the aircraft reported that they were over the target area, and that was the last which was heard from them. Next day no US aircraft appeared over Ormoc Bay on the north-western side of Leyte, where Japanese convoys were landing reinforcements for Lieutenant General Sosaku Suzuki’s 35th Army, so it was assumed that ‘Gi’ (iii) had been successful.
In actuality, it seems from the crashed remains of some aircraft near airfields other than the raid’s target airfields that the pilots went astray.
One transport came down in the sea just offshore near Dulag airfield: when a US patrol approached, the occupants threw a grenade and the men of the patrol returned fire, killing two raiders, but the remainder swam ashore and escaped inland. The second aeroplane landed on Bito beach near Abuyog airfield: US troops killed one raider, and the rest escaped into the jungle. The third aeroplane reached the two Burauen airfields, but was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and all those in the machine were killed. The fourth aeroplane landed near Ormoc, where the raiders linked with Japanese troops. The men of the ‘Kaoru’ Airborne Raiding Detachment who escaped from the crash-landings may have tried to carry out independent guerrilla attacks, but are more likely to have joined Lieutenant General Shiro Makino’s 16th Division fighting the troops of Lieutenant General Walter C. Krueger’s US 6th Army.