Fusata Iida: WWII's first 'Kamikaza' pilot

7 Dec 2001 | Sgt. Alexis R. Mulero

Ten months after being commissioned, U.S. Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, was one of the first locations on Oahu to be attacked by Japanese forces on Dec. 7, 1941. Minutes prior to its attack on Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Navy bombed NAS Kaneohe Bay. The attack on Kaneohe was designed to disable the military's long-range reconnaissance capabilities by knocking out the PBY Catalina seaplanes stationed here. There were three squadrons of PBY airplanes: VP-11, VP-12 and VP-14. Of the 36 PBY Catalinas here, including four moored in Kaneohe Bay, 27 were destroyed and six others were damaged. Only the three Catalinas that were out on patrol escaped attack that fateful morning. Departing Japanese Zero aircraft attacked those three. One returned with 81 bullet holes in it.The Kaneohe Klipper Monument, located by the base flagpole, is dedicated to the 18 Sailors and one civilian contractor killed Dec. 7, 1941 at NAS Kaneohe Bay. Also included in the casualties was the attack force's highest ranking officer, Lieutenant Fusata Iida, commander of the Japanese 3rd Air Group. As the Japanese aircraft were marshaling to return to their aircraft carrier, 28-year old Iida signaled to his wingman that he had sustained machine gun damage to his wing fuel tanks and was unable to return to the carrier. His intentions were to make a kamikaze run on Hangar 101, the base's primary hangar facility in 1941. But, some say he thought there was a fuel storage under Kansas Tower.Ground fire ripped Iida's plane apart. The plane overshot the hangar and crashed. Iida was buried at the Heleloa burial area, near the mass burial site of the 18 Sailors and one civilian killed in the attack. Their remains were later disinterred and returned to their respective homes in the U.S. and Japan.The Iida marker may be the marker on a U.S. military installation dedicated to an enemy soldier. (The Iida marker is located along Reed Road across the street from the Armed Services YMCA, just down the hill from Kansas Tower.)Every Dec. 7, representatives from the Japanese Shingon Sect Mission, along with other Japanese religious organizations, gather here to pay tribute to Lieutenant Iida with a small, solemn ceremony which is repeated later that afternoon at the Kaneohe Klipper Memorial.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii