Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Man's 63-year-old sketch pinpoints dud WWII bomb

This is quite interesting.

An unexploded World War II bomb found in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu in March turns out to have come from an American B-29 bomber a man drew a sketch of as it fell out of the sky when he was a junior high school student, the Mainichi has learned.

Records show the bomb Self-Defense Force explosive experts will diffuse next weekend came from the plane that plummeted out of the skies after a Japanese pilot rammed into it in his Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien fighter before parachuting to safety.

Keizo Okada, a 77-year-old Chofu resident, witnessed the scene as it occurred on April 7, 1945, and sketched it in a diary he kept at the time, when he was a junior high school student.

"I was amazed at the time that the bomb didn't blow up when the plane crashed," he said.

The Chofu Municipal Government said the unexploded bomb found in March was a 1-ton explosive. It was discovered on March 27 during a pre-construction inspection carried out in advance of work on the Keio Line railroad.

A 1-ton bomb carries incredible power and was intended to demolish military industry targets. Chofu officials, local researcher Kenichi Furuhashi and flight records of the 2nd Lieutenant who piloted the Hien fighter that knocked the B-29 out of the sky showed the American bomber was one of a squadron that carried out a raid on Tokyo on the morning of April 7, 1945. The bomber was probably on its way to bomb the Nakajima Aircraft Co. factory near Chofu.
The Hien that left Chofu Airfield to fight the U.S. attack force flew to a height of about 5,000 meters and headed straight for the enemy aircraft. The Hien slammed into the B-29's engine. The Hien's right wing was damaged in the collision, so the 2nd lieutenant bailed out and parachuted to safety, landing in Setagaya-ku. The B-29 broke apart in the air and plummeted to the ground, crashing in Chofu, with 10 of the 11 crew dying instantly.

At the time the raid was occurring, Okada was on his way to nearby Fuchu from his home in Shimokitazawa. Though a student, Okada had been put to work when all students were mobilized to help Japan's war effort. Okada watched the planes in the skies above him.

"There was a huge flash of light when the planes collided," he said. "I remember the Hien really bursting into flames pretty quickly."

Keizo Okada with the sketch he drew as a U.S. B-29 bomber fell from the skies during a World War II air raid on Tokyo. (Mainichi)

With the scene burned into his mind, Okada sketched it into a diary he kept at the time, marking the entry: "The moment I saw a fighter in a crunching attack." The day after the raid, Okada walked past the scene of the B-29's crash and drew a sketch of its tail, which had landed in a field.

It is estimated the B-29 Okada drew was the same one from which the unexploded bomb came from, judging by the place where the explosive was discovered. Okada is sure that is the case.

"There's no mistake! I'm amazed it's still there," he said.

SDF experts will deal with the bomb on Sunday. Chofu will set up a perimeter of 500-meters around the site of the bomb and bar entry until it is safe. City officials are also urging about 16,000 residents of the area to evacuate until the bomb has been cleared. The Keio Line will halt some services while the bomb disposal unit is at work.

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