Photo/IllutrationAn aerial photo of Kashiwa airfield taken on April 15, 1945, which was stored in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, and recently obtained by Ryoju Sakurai, a professor at Reitaku University (Provided by Ryoju Sakurai)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KASHIWA, Chiba Prefecture--U.S. forces gained the entire picture of the Imperial Japanese Army’s airfields and munition plants in and around this city during the final stages of World War II, according to new research.

Ryoju Sakurai, 61, a professor of modern Japanese political and diplomatic history at Reitaku University’s department of foreign languages, who carried out the research, said, “The U.S. forces researched what was going on in Kashiwa and surrounding areas within a very short period of time, and found out everything. The facilities were all completely exposed.”

Before the air raids on Tokyo became severe, U.S. forces reconnoitered the Kashiwa airfield and military facilities nearby that would protect the capital.

The facts were described in materials stored in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The municipal government asked Sakurai to conduct the research and he studied 119 NARA documents including reports, maps and aerial photos that were created or taken from 1944 to 1945.

The materials built a picture of the Kashiwa military airfield, Fujigaya airfield and the munition plant of Hitachi Ltd. in the city.

The approximately 264-hectare premises of the former Kashiwa military airfield is currently used as a park and for other facilities, after having also been used as a communication station for U.S. military forces during the Korean War.

The former Fujigaya airfield site is now used as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Shimofusa Air Base.

The discovery brought to light little-known information on the facilities, as few materials documenting their existence have ever been kept in Japan, according to Sakurai.

U.S. reconnaissance aircraft were flying over Kashiwa before Nov. 24, 1944, when air raids against Tokyo using B-29s were stepped up.

The oldest photo of the views of Kashiwa was taken on Nov. 7, 1944. One of the pictures also showed the Matsudo military airfield, while another showed Kashiwa airfield as it was in April 1945. The lengths of its two runways were written down, and a fuel storage for the “Shusui” rocket-powered interceptor aircraft, which was under development, was also captured.

Furthermore, Sakurai found a detailed document titled, “map of anti-aircraft artillery and targets,” which was created based on photographs of Kashiwa airfield and surrounding military facilities taken from April to June 1945.

The document was created for the purpose of bombarding the ground facilities that were ready to launch attacks on U.S. military aircraft. The information written on it is extensive enough to include the numbers of pieces of heavy and medium anti-aircraft artillery, as well as anti-aircraft machine guns. The locations of an army hospital, munition plant, utility poles and electric wires nearby are also included.

The “map of Kashiwa airfield” dated June 30, 1945, includes the numbers and positions of pieces of combat aircraft, aircraft parking spaces, and bunkers to hide battle aircraft and weapons.

Several reports on Kashiwa airfield indicate the numbers and locations of stores and plants, as well as the number of Hayabusa type one fighters, and Shoki type two fighters, both of which were deployed.

Detailed records of bombing strikes were also found. On July 10, 1945, 14 U.S. fighters attacked Kashiwa, Matsudo, and Fujigaya airfields, as well as Inba airfield, which was located in Inzai in the prefecture.

On Aug. 13, 1945, U.S. forces attacked Kashiwa airfield with four bombs, and bombarded it with 24 strikes of rocket ammunition, causing significant damage to its buildings, according to the records.

A series of documents indicate how well-developed the U.S. forces’ investigative abilities were.

“They knew the situation of Kashiwa to that extent. That suggests that U.S. forces probably knew other important facilities even more,” said Sakurai.

Sakurai’s findings were included in an internal report by Kashiwa municipal government on basic research on modern historical heritage.

Sakurai talked in Kashiwa on Aug. 12 about the discovery during a history lecture for citizens, titled “Airfields in Kashiwa and surrounding areas during and after the war” with the secondary title of “Kashiwa airfield from the perspective of U.S. materials.”

The lecture was hosted by the citizens’ group Kashiwa history club.