Remains of WWII Japanese plane, crew might lie under Hawaii golf course


HONOLULU (MCT) — Out at the Hoakalei Country Club in Ewa Beach, near the 18-hole golf course’s clubhouse, may be something that definitely doesn’t belong: the hastily buried remains of a Japanese aircrew whose dive bomber went down Dec. 7, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor.


The Aichi D3A “Val,” piloted by Petty Officer 2nd Class Koreyoshi Toyama and with Flier 1st Class Hajime Murao aboard, either crashed in midair with a U.S. Navy plane or was shot down and, amazingly, ended up in the same spot as the downed Navy plane, according to varying accounts.


The 20-year-old Toyama (also known as Sotoyama) attacked the USS Pennsylvania in Drydock 1. His bomb missed and hit the dock itself, said Pearl Harbor historian David Aiken.


Following his unit, Toyama flew to Ewa Mooring Mast Field, where he was shot down by famed Pearl Harbor defender Ken Taylor in a P-40 fighter, Aiken maintains.


The two U.S. Navy men, Ensign John H.L. Vogt and Petty Officer 3rd Class Sidney Pierce, a radioman-gunner, bailed out, but at an altitude too low to survive.


An ambulance came to recover the Navy aviators.


What happened to the Japanese air crew 73 years ago has remained a topic of interest for historians and, more recently, their families back in Japan.


Ewa Beach historian John Bond said he believes he has zeroed in on the crash and likely grave site, and wants developer Haseko (Hawaii) Inc. to allow a professional search for the bodies and placement of a marker memorializing the aircrew’s loss.


The state of Hawaii should exercise some resolve, he said.


“It’s a crash site, and there are foreign nationals buried there,” he said.


Sharene Saito Tam, a Haseko representative, said in an email that “extensive” archaeological surveys throughout the property in the 1990s and ongoing archaeological monitoring of construction activities “have not uncovered any evidence of burials of any air crews on the site.”


However, she added, “We’re reviewing the original (historical) documents so we can verify their authenticity and substantiate the location before considering a marker emplacement.”


Haseko Hawaii recently sold Hoakalei Country Club to Hirakawa Shoji Group of Japan, and the new company is expected to begin operating the golf course in December.


Tom Dye, who did archaeological work for Haseko, said coordinates for the site of the crashed Japanese and American planes provided by the U.S. military in 1942 do fall within Haseko property.


More specifically, that location is now a water feature for the golf course, Dye said.


Haseko also developed the adjoining Ocean Pointe community.


Bond suspects the Japanese aircrew, burned in the crash, were buried close to the aircraft in a karst coral sinkhole as a matter of expediency.


The crash site — and the smoke plume rising above it — likely was photographed by Staff Sgt. Lee Embree on Dec. 7, 1941, from a B-17 bomber that arrived over Oahu during the attack.


Accounts from the time also suggest the Japanese crew was buried nearby.


In a Dec. 9, 1941, report, Capt. Lester Milz with the 251st Coast Artillery said he arrived Dec. 7 and saw two parachutes in trees and the dead American aviators, Vogt and Pierce.


“Two Japanese pilots, both badly burned, were also in the wreck,” Milz wrote. “My men disposed of the remains of the Japanese, and found that both had been killed with .50 caliber through the body.”


Pvt. Clement Hauger Jr. with the 251st said he and another soldier walked a “city block” from their gun emplacement and found the Japanese plane burning, according to a report provided by Aiken.


“Holes in the coral were located and the bodies were put in,” Hauger said.


Capt. Anthony Long, also with the 251st, wrote in his diary on Dec. 11, 1941, that at Milz’s battery he “looked & checked both Jap & U.S. plane that landed at his position. He buried both Japs in a coral grave. Jap planes made or assembled with many American parts — what a situation.”


Bond said it was often standard practice to bury aircrew casualties next to a crash site so mortuary affairs could find the bodies later.


During and after the Dec. 7 attacks, Japanese casualties were not a priority, however, historians admit.


In fact, 33 Japanese airmen and sailors remain unaccounted for at sea and on land around Hawaii from the attacks, officials have said.


Dye, the archaeologist, said it’s not known where the Japanese aircrew is buried.


Another Japanese “Val” crashed offshore Dec. 7, and pilot Gen Goto brought his mortally wounded radioman, Michiji Utsugi, to shore, where it’s said Goto engaged in a gunfight with the 55th Coast Artillery Corps until he was killed.


Dye said a Dec. 19, 1941, Honolulu Star-Bulletin story reported the bodies were taken to Camp Malakole and then back to the beach, where they were buried.


Dye’s point was that the bodies were transported before they were buried.


“There might be as many as four different (Japanese) bodies actually buried there that nobody has accounted for, ever dug up, and quickly forgot,” said military historian Jim Lansdale, who lives in Florida.


The problem is locating the specific spot where the bodies are buried, he said.


Dye said the area identified by military coordinates as the crash site was cultivated with sugar cane from the 1950s through the 1970s.


Developer bulldozers “have destroyed any clues” to the location of the co-located crashes, but the karst sinkhole burial depth may have kept it intact, said Aiken, the historian.


Bond would like to see a memorial marker, but he also advocates a search for the grave, noting that the coordinates given by the military in 1942 are not exact.


“It is possible to find remains because the technology is there,” he said. “The site has the potential of revealing sinkholes underground. Of course it would be a long shot, but it’s possible.”


Aiken said contact has been made with families of the Japanese aircrew. Murao has an older sister, but she is too aged to participate in any marker dedication, he said.


The Toyama family has a member interested in coming to Hawaii, Aiken said. He also said he has reached out to the family of Vogt, one of the U.S. Navy airmen whose plane crashed in the same spot.


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Source Article from http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/remains-of-wwii-japanese-plane-crew-might-lie-under-hawaii-golf-course-1.311537
Remains of WWII Japanese plane, crew might lie under Hawaii golf course
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