Sgt. Satoru Anaubuki downs three B-24s and a P-38

Satoru Anabuki served mostly with the 50th Sentai and is the top IJAAF ace of WWII. He fought in the Burma Indochina theater until he was injured on October 8, 1943. After being transferred to Japan in 1944, he also fought the mainland defense campaign, and ended the war with 36-54 kills. Anabuki became the first living soldier in the history of IJA to be awarded a personal certificate of merit.

On October 8 1943, Sgt. Satoru Anabuki took off from Mingaladon at 1215 to intercept a formation of B-24s heading towards Rangoon. His takeoff was delayed by about five minutes due to a fouled spark plug and he was trying hard to catch up with the three other Hayabusas of his chutai that took off before him.The sky was hazy that day, and when Anabuki caught a glimpse of the other Hayabusas, they disappeared into the haze. Searching for friendly planes, he suddenly came across the B-24 formation he was ordered to intercept.

The B-24s were apparently taking evasive action after having bombed the convoy in Rangoon harbor. For a moment, Anabuki was disappointed that he could not stop their bombing, but another thought came to his mind. Eight Hayabusas were supposed to be flying cover over the convoy. The three others that took off before him were also supposed to be over the target. Why are they not attacking the B-24s? And it was strange that all the B-24s seemed intact after encountering some eleven fighters?@He guessed that none of the Hayabusas ever found the enemy due to the haze, but even as he thought, he was approaching the enemy quickly. If he was the only one to find them, he had to do it alone.

Anabuki jettisoned his drop tanks, and radioed five times that he found the enemy, but as usual, the radio wasn't working, and he just heard a lot of noise coming back. He was flying at 5500 meters,and the enemy as about 500 meters below him. Eleven B-24s, in groups of five, three and three. Anabuki searched for escorts, and there they were, two P-38s, right over the bombers. Anabuki felt that the P-38s were totally off guard, as they were cruising along in a straight line. No Hayabusas were forthcoming, but Anabuki, finding himself in a great position for attack, put his plane (named "Kimikaze" after his wife Kimiko) in a dive towards the enemy.

The P-38s were continuing to keep a straight line. A surprise attack! He fired a burst and he saw incendiaries explode around the cockpit of one of the P-38s. He kept charging and firing until he was almost colliding with the P-38, and dove away to the rear of the enemy. Looking back, he saw the P-38 trailing gas. The P-38 pulled up as if to start a loop, but stalled at the peak and started falling towards the ground. Repositioning himself to the rear of the remaining P-38, Anabuki fired a burst, but the pilot on this P-38 was a veteran. He rolled violently and dove straight down. Anabuki knew that his Hayabusa had no way of catching a diving P-38 so he just had to let go. Anabuki now took a breath and looked around. He saw the first P-38 continuing his dive trailing smoke, and it crashed onto a holm of Yangon river.

Anabuki then started to climb back to the B-24s, still searching for other escorts. Apparently, the two P-38s were the only escorts, and he was now free to attack the bombers. He knew from experience that to shoot down the big B-24s with the meager armament of his Hayabusa, he had to position himself up and away from the target and make a long dive, firing all the way until he nearly collided. That way, he could delivering a hundred to hundred twenty rounds of 12.7mm shells into the target. Anabuki positioned himself above and to the right of the enemy, pinned the throttle, and started overtaking the bombers. When the enemy formation was about 1200 meters to the left and below him, Anabuki rolled the "Kimikaze" left into his attack dive. When he was within 700 meters of the target, he started firing short bursts, adjusting his aim as he dove almost vertically. At 400 meters, the B-24 is fully within range of the Ho103 machine guns. Anabuki describes his attack as follows;

"All I could see was the enemy. I'm diving straight down towards the dark jungle. Life or death didn't matter then. If the gods still need me they wouldn't let me die. I see an image of my mother's face. I think I heard her yelling `Go, Satoshi,go!`. I think of what a strong woman my mother is. I think to myself I must be as strong. Distance closes further. 300, 200, I see my bullets get sucked into the gigantic B-24. Getting closer. 150, 100. I start firing my final burst.

The enemy's defensive fire is fierce. Their formation is trailing a lot of gun smoke, raining bullets in successive bursts, but I know as long as I'm at this angle, they can't hit me. My target starts smoking from the wing root. Even as I'm firing, the white smoke is getting bigger and bigger. I'm near collision and I break off to the left and to the rear of the enemy, diving vertically. Fifty some enemy machine guns are firing at me, but not a single bullet hit me as I speeded away out of their range. "

As Anabuki raced against the B-24s again to reposition himself for the second pass, he saw the B-24 he just attacked trailing black smoke and side slipping. He saw the crew jump from the burning plane before it started going down in a spin. Just as he was about to start his second dive, he saw tracers skimming past his port wing. "P-38!" . Anabuki realized that the P-38 that dove away was back to get him. Anabuki evaded the first burst by throwing his plane into a sharp starboard turn, but the next moment, a tremendous bang almost threw him into the instrument panel. He was unable to breath from the shock, and knew that he was hit somewhere on his left hand, but he kept turning in tight circles to evade further hits. The P-38, seemingly in a rush to finish the damaged Hayabusa, started turning with the much more maneuverable plane. Anabuki knew that the enemy will realize his mistake soon and break away in a dive the Hayabusa couldn't follow, but he also knew that he could catch the heavy fighter at the moment it was breaking away. Just at the moment Anabuki thought the enemy would break off, he rolled his aircraft and the P-38 shot ahead of him. The "Kimikaze" was now about 30 meters behind the P-38. A short burst caused the starboard boom of the P-38 to smoking, but oil spilling from the P-38 splattered over Anabuki's windshield and blocked his sight. When Anabuki found the P-38 again, it was diving away and there was no way the Hayabusa could catch him.

Convinced that he drove the P-38 away, he took a deep breath, and analyzed the damages. Anabuki's left hand had been hit. It was bleeding and swollen badly. He also realized he was trailing gasoline vapor, and the fume of the gas filled the cockpit. He tied his arm with his muffler to stop the bleeding, but he felt faint from the gasoline and the the bleeding. Nevertheless, he started his second dive toward the bombers. In this attack, Anabuki succeeded in making another B-24 pour smoke from an engine. It eventually started burning and started slipping away, but Anabuki saw that the pilot in the burning B-24 put it back to level flight for a moment so the crew could bail out. In the event, however, only two parachutes were seen before the bomber started a long dive from which it never recovered.

During the second attack, Anabuki realized that his engine was also hit, because at full throttle, the engine showed signs of airlocking. He breathed a lot of gas and the pain from the injured hand was mounting. However, Anabuki started another pass at the bombers. Anabuki explains why;

"At this point, the overwhelming thought in my mind was that today's combat was over. I was about to turn back to base, and threw a final glance at the B-24s, which I presumed were by now too far away to follow. But alas! The bombers had apparently slowed down to cover their damaged comrade during my attack and was still within my attack range!

Looking back, it was a foolish thing to do, but I started to position myself for another attack despite my injury and the plane's damages. The pain and the gas kept me hardly conscious, and my sight had deteriorated badly. My arm was hurting badly as the tightly wound muffler blocked blood circulation. But there was a thought that dominated my fading consciousness; if the enemy is within range, it was a fighter pilot's duty to attack. To do otherwise would disgrace my family blood. My mother's face flashes back. To go into combat now may mean my demise. Mother forgive me! But then I thought I heard her say 'Charge, Satoshi, and the way will open.'. I had no regrets. The enemy was there. I will just charge.

I was slowly gaining altitude to attack position for the third time. I was hardly conscious. All I could think about was 'Charge, charge!' Call me a foolish rustic warrior, I couldn't have cared less. I was fighting to keep my consciousness and charging at the enemy at full throttle. The pain of my left hand was getting unbearable. I untied the muffler from my arm. As the blood started flowing, the pain went way, but the hand started bleeding like a dam burst open. "

Anabuki started his charge, firing from a distance to adjust his aim as usual, but when he got into close range, he was out of ammunition. He dove away, and zoomed up to the B-24 altitude again.

"If I was my normal self, I would have banked my wings at the enemy and wished them luck and break away, but my mind was just obsessed with getting the enemy. My consciousness was nearly fading from the gasoline and the injury, my hand kept on bleeding, and I was out of ammunition. All these negative factors were piling up on me, but all I had in my mind was the existence of the powerful enemy in front of me. I was completely taken over by one of the fighter pilots' instincts; the fighting spirit.

At that moment I was, by chance, right above the enemy. Although I was out of ammo, reflexes got the better of me and I instinctively put my plane in a dive. However, to start your dive from directly above the enemy means that by the time you are actually shooting, your attack will be at a shallow angle, presenting an ideal target for the enemy's rear gunner. Just as the enemy started firing away, I maneuvered my plane to present the smallest possible target for the enemy, and charged on. Just as I expected, I found myself facing a wall of fire, and my plane shook as their bullets hit her. To makes matters worse, my engine output went down, and my angle was now so shallow that I was in their propeller wake and being thrown around wildly.

I was totally obsessed with getting the enemy. I decided to ram the bomber. 'Take this! Yankee!' I pulled up, but perhaps my action was too acute, and the next moment, my plane careened into the middle of the fuselage of the third plane of the left formation.

Although I had intended to ram her, I instinctively yanked my stick to evade the crash. The next moment a tremendous shock hit me with a thunderous roar and I just sat there dumbfounded watching my propeller eating away at the enemy's starboard rudder at full 1130HP. There was nothing I could do now. It was as if the plane was being controlled by some gigantic force from outside. And all the while, I just sat there with the throttle pinned open.

The next thing I knew, the port wing of the "Kimikaze"hit the enemy's elevator. With a great shock, the enemy's elevator broke upwards, and my plane was thrown around about 45 degrees to the left, bouncing on the stabilizer and crash -landed on the enemy's fuselage.

I would guess that the enemy was surprised, but so was I. In spite of my surprise, my plane proceeded to eat away at the fuselage of the B-24 and stopped at around the US insignia. I think it was just for a moment, but it felt like a long time, sitting on top of the enemy like that. While I was on top of the enemy, they didn't shoot at me. I saw them staring at this rude intruder from their turrets and windows. They were probably not firing because I was too close, but I also had a strange worry in myself. I was seriously worrying about being carried to their base like this!"

In spite of Anabuki's worries, the "Kimikaze" slid off from the bomber, and started falling. Although Anabuki thought he was going to die, the plane recovered to level glide, and he was able to restart the engine. He controlled the wildly vibrating aircraft towards the beach line and crash landed. In spite of his injuries, he was rescued and was back at the base five days later.

Anabuki's feat was covered by the Yomiuri newspaperman Eiji Suzuki and Anabuki's name became widely known. He was, in fact, credited with the second P-38 as well, although it is obvious from his writing that he himself does not consider it a kill. The high command issued orders to keep him alive at all costs, and he was immediately grounded until he was sent back to Japan to teach at Akeno fighter pilot training school.


Copyright (c) Hiroyuki Takeuchi 2000