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Yontan Airfield
Yontan Air Base
Yontan Auxiliary Airfield
Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, Japan
Yontan-airfield-1945.jpg
A view of Yontan Air Field looking northwest in 1945 with the East China Sea in the background
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 26°23′36.83″N 127°44′48.12″E / 26.3935639°N 127.7467°E / 26.3935639; 127.7467
Built Prior to 1941
In use 1945–1972
Controlled by United States Air Force

Yontan Airfield (also known as Yontan Airport) is a former military airfield on Okinawa, located near the village of Sobe on the Okinawa western coast. It was closed and turned over to the Japanese government in 1972. Today it is abandoned with a series of roads overlaid over the former airfield runways.

Contents

History

Prior to World War II, Yontan was a civilian airport on Okinawa, and was taken over by the Japanese military during the war. During the Battle of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, United States Marine Corps and United States Army forces seized the airfield on the first day of the landing. It was quickly repaired and became the first airfield on Okinawa to be used by the American forces. Later, it was developed into a major American base for Army, Marine and Navy aircraft.

It was at Yontan that the American forces first found copies of the Yokosuka MXY-7 "Ohka" rocket-propelled kamikaze aircraft. It was a manned flying bomb that was usually carried underneath a Mitsubishi G4M "Betty", Yokosuka P1Y Ginga "Frances" (guided Type 22) or planned Heavy Nakajima G8N Renzan "Rita" (transport type 43A/B) bomber to within range of its target; on release, the pilot would first glide toward the target and when close enough he would fire the Ohka's rocket engine and guide the missile towards the ship that he intended to destroy. The final approach was almost unstoppable (especially for Type 11) because the aircraft gained tremendous speed. Seven US ships were damaged or sunk by Ohkas throughout the war.

Major USAAF units assigned to Yontan

B-25 Mitchell, June 7 – December 13, 1945
47th Bombardment Squadron, June 7 – December 13, 1945
48th Bombardment Squadron, June 7 – December 13, 1945
396th Bombardment Squadron, June 7 – December 13, 1945
820th Bombardment Squadron, June 7 – December 13, 1945
B-24 Liberator, June 24 – December 8, 1945
373d Bombardment Squadron, July 21 – December 15, 1945
864th Bombardment Squadron, June 24 – December 13, 1945
865th Bombardment Squadron, June 24 – December 13, 1945
866th Bombardment Squadron, June 24 – December 13, 1945
867th Bombardment Squadron, June 24 – December 13, 1945
P-51 Mustang, June 28 – October 1945
39th Fighter Squadron, June 30 – October 10, 1945
40th Fighter Squadron, June 30 – October 10, 1945
41st Fighter Squadron, June 30 – October 10, 1945
A-20 Havoc August 13 – December 13, 1945
386th Bombardment Squadron, August 13 – November 28, 1945 (B-32 Dominator)
387th Bombardment Squadron, August 13 – December 13, 1945
388th Bombardment Squadron, September – December 13, 1945
389th Bombardment Squadron, September – December 9, 1945
P-47 Thunderbolt January 29 – October 1946
1st Fighter Squadron, January 29 – October 15, 1946
21st Fighter Squadron, January 29 – October 15, 1946
34th Fighter Squadron, January 29 – October 15, 1946
P-47 Thunderbolt, January 29 – May 27, 1946
463d Fighter Squadron, January 29 – May 27, 1946
464th Fighter Squadron, January 29 – May 27, 1946
465th Fighter Squadron, January 29 – May 27, 1946
P-47 Thunderbolt, October 15, 1946 – May 22, 1947
16th Fighter Squadron, 15 Oct 1946-22 May 1947
25th Fighter Squadron, 15 Oct 1946-22 May 1947
26th Fighter Squadron, 15 Oct 1946-22 May 1947
USMC Corsairs of VMF-311 at Yontan Airfield during Battle of Okinawa

In addition to the USAAF units, Yontan Airfield hosted several Naval and Marine Corps air squadrons equipped with F4U Corsairs, PBY Catalinas and F6F Hellcats.

B-32 Dominator

The 312th Bomb Group, 386th Bomb Squadron was the sole USAAF squadron that flew the Consolidated B-32 Dominator in combat. Following the dropping of the atomic bombs, in August 1945, the squadron was ordered to move to Okinawa from the Philippines where the squadron flew several combat missions over Japan. These combat missions were flown in spite of a de-facto cease-fire that had been called following the bombing of Nagasaki. During this time, the B-32s flew mainly photographic reconnaissance missions, most of which were unopposed. However, on August 17 a group of 4 B-32s flying over Tokyo were fired on by radar-directed flak and were attacked by Japanese fighters. The American aircraft escaped with only minor damage, claiming one confirmed fighter kill and two probables. During a reconnaissance mission over Tokyo on August 18, serials 42-108532 and 42-108578 were attacked by Japanese fighters. The American gunners claimed two kills and one probable, but 578 was badly shot up and one of her crew was killed with two being injured. This was to prove to be the last combat action of World War II.

The last Dominator mission of the war was flown by four B-32s on August 28 in a reconnaissance mission to Tokyo. The mission was a disaster, although not because of any enemy action. 42-108544 lost an engine on takeoff and skidded off the runway. All 13 men aboard perished when the aircraft exploded and burned. On the way back from the target, 42-108528 lost power on two of its four engines. The plane's pilot ordered the crew to bail out, but two men were killed.

Postwar Use

After 1947 there were no permanently assigned units to Yontan, and the base was used as auxiliary for Kadena Air Base until the mid-1950s. Afterward it was placed in auxiliary reserve status. Yontan was returned to Japanese control in 1972.

See also

References

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • www.pacificwrecks.com
  • Harding, Stephen, (1993), Flying Terminated Inventory, Wings Magazine, April 1993 edition

External links

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