Intermission Story (4) – A Japanese Ace

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa

“In the ocean of the military, reflective of all distinguished pilots, an honored Buddhist person.”  So translates the name awarded to Japanese pilot Hiroyoshi Nishizawa following his death in 1944.  In life, however, he earned himself a very different title.

The Devil of Rabaul, they called him, and not without good reason.

Rabaul 1943

Rabaul 1943

Skilled pilots on both sides fought terrifying aerial battles, carried out daring raids against the enemy and engaged with combatants in the air, on the land and on the sea. Yet even amongst the many outstanding Japanese aces, there was no one quite like Nishizawa.

The outrageous aerobatics, performed in the early summer of 1942, could easily have cost him his life. Instead, the soldiers on the ground held their fire, and by the time Nishizawa returned to his own base, a letter had already arrived congratulating him on his maneuvers – and inviting him back for the “all-out welcome” he deserved.  The Devil of Rabaul chose to decline that particular invitation, of course.

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa

In fact, even amongst his own comrades he seemed like a figure out of legend. Nishizawa was known as a strange and solitary character, for he seemed ever more content with the status of an outsider as his celebrated status increased. Tall, thin and strikingly pale, Nishizawa was far from forthcoming, and even once his name became synonymous with acts of courage and valor, he kept to himself.

Even in death, elements of mystery still cling to the man who seemed to stray so close to myth. Nishizawa had already been present at some of the key battles fought in that geographical theatre of the war, and October 1944 found him escorting the first of Japan’s major kamikaze attacks against the Allies. He himself was only present to back up the five bombers, but as the attack unfolded, something extraordinary occurred.

The young pilot watched his comrades hurtling to certain death, their planes ripping into the US warships below. Led by Lieutenant Yukio Seki, the explosions caused by four of the five planes triggered chain reactions throughout the vessels. In the sky overhead, Nishizawa was also engaged in combat, successfully bringing down two F6F Hellcats and raising the total number of his confirmed kills to 88. It was a clear victory for the Japanese fighters, but even as he fought, Nishizawa had a striking vision.

Nishizawa in his Mitsubishi Zero A6M3, 1943

Nishizawa in his Mitsubishi Zero A6M3, 1943

While the carnage unfolded before his eyes, he saw another event take place –his own death. Though accounts vary as to the exact nature of the fate he envisioned for himself, he returned from the mission without a shadow of a doubt in his mind. To the Devil of Rabaul, it seemed his end was close at hand.

Once again, he held true to his courageous nature. While another man might have tried to run from his fate, the Devil of Rabaul wasted no time in facing his destiny head on. The very next day, with his premonition still at the forefront of his mind, he himself requested a position on the next suicide squad kamikaze mission. If he had to die, Hiroyoshi Nishizawa was going to do it in style.

Of course, his request was refused.  By denying his wish, Nishizawa’s superiors sealed the fate of their finest pilot.

He was assigned to a different mission in the end, and the following morning set out as a passenger on a transport aircraft, setting off from Mabalacat. The weather was fine, with clear skies and low winds – the region had always been known for its gentler climate.

High in the clear October skies over Mindoro Island, two planes appeared in the distance. They were far behind, but rapidly closing the distance. The US fighters, a pair of F6F Hellcats, were now in hot pursuit, though even they had no idea just who they were bearing down upon.

As the three planes flew above the town of Calapan, American pilot Lt. Harold P. Newell sent the lumbering transport plane before him down in flames.

At the age of 24, just days after he predicted his own end, the Devil of Rabaul was dead.

In his short career, the Japanese Ace of Aces had earned the respect of his enemies and his comrades alike. He had become a nationally recognised symbol of bravery, patriotism and fearlessness in the face of death. Hiroyoshi Nishizawa walks to this day a unique line between a man and a myth, with a story rivalled by few others in its mysterious and evocative nature.

Like all the great figures of legend, the legacy of the man now known as Bukai-in Kohan Giko Kyoshi lives on, even after death. In the ocean of the military, Nishizawa is remembered as an honored Buddhist person, the Devil of Rabaul and the Ace of Aces.

By Malcolm Higgins (@Mhiggins95)

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – from the Kunihiko Hisa cartoon album – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Helen Dellinger – Lincoln County, NC; Civil Air Patrol, WWII

William Emnott – Oshkosh, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Edward Fanning – Englewood, FL; Merchant Marines, WWII

Jack Heyn – W.Des Moines, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 3rd Bombardment Group/5th Air Force, photographer

Francis Higgiins – Salem MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Jack Kronenberger – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Ora “O.P.” Miller – Anderson, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Air Transport Unit, pilot

Irena Nowakowska – Warsaw, POL; Polish Underground Army (Armia Krajowa), WWII

Richard Powell – OH; US Navy, WWII, ETO

Leslie Scace – London, ENG; Royal Navy, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 29, 2017, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 95 Comments.

  1. This is an amazing story that everyone should hear.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As I have commented at least one time previously, I really like the fact that you include posts about the war from the Japanese perspective. This adds depth and color to the portrait of the war you are painting here. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yet another account of a hero that only you could write about with so few words that made him come alive. I am in awe of your work, so impressed. I had not been aware of Hiroyoshi Nishizawa before reading your post. Please keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carol Schlaepfer

    Hey dear friend, It’s me, Carol using a friends computer at the moment, here in Ocala. Mine is finally hooked up, but no service yet. Hopefully sometime this week. Having daily thunder, lightening and heavy rains and i’m loving it.
    Your room is ready when you are, as I’ve told you. Looking forward to our visit. I have set your website up here for my girlfriends husband,so he can check it out and hopefully join in with the chats and comments.
    Note: I do NOT like the hat part…..yuk and double yuk.
    We’ll talk soon, Love you, Carol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just started writing a note out for you last night. So, as great as I am in correspondence – you’ll probably get it after your computer is up. 🙂 Thank you for snagging me another reader, I hope your friend’s husband enjoys the site. After 4 years in CA’s drought, I’m sure you are enjoying the rain and summers usually supply plenty! Have a terrific Fourth!!
      GP Cox

      Like

  5. So much that is heroic is in the eye of the beholder, and history is the judge.

    Like

  6. Another wonderful piece! As many others have commented…truly fascinating! Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Obviously had the courage and fearlessness of the ancient Samurai, it sounds as if he was an honorable man, not a fanatic, even though he volunteered for kamikaze duty.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When it comes to pride in one’s duty and patriotism, the actions of these men can often be difficult to understand – no matter what country. Thanks for commenting, Beari.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. It’s hard to honor the enemy. Even when worthy. But most of these guys had little choice in their fate I suppose.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Fascinating story, G. A man who was obviously brave and incredibly talented. And then prepared to throw it all away. I can only think terrible waste, for himself, for his family, for his country, and for the rest of us. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Legendary indeed. GP that is a truly amazing story. Well told. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a story. He was so young.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Fascinating story GP. Once again you mesmerize with your stories. I don’t know where you find all of these great ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too many places to count! I keep trying to update my bibliography for this blog, but it grows more difficult every day. I appreciate you dropping by.

      Like

  13. The story of Nishizawa. is fabulous.A man with a fantastic courage called the devil of Rabaul must have our respect also when he was the ennemi.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. This is probably going to sound bad, but I’m glad that this idiot was killed. Specially if it was by the Americans.

    Like

    • I can understand your point of view, Charly. You have confronted an enemy yourself and the object in war is the eliminate the enemy. Perhaps to some it sounds bad, but I know where you’re coming from.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. That’s Palody,every time ,so unique:D
    And, If ,this parody was reality, I think that all many young lives were not lost.
    Every year ,in Japan, tourists come from many countries.
    Of course, even from America!
    We welcome people who come to sightseeing from many countries and love Japanese culture and scenery.
    If such interaction increases, citizens will have no border, enemies(nation) will become friends,I think … 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, the learning of another culture is not only interesting but proves to aid in understanding and bonding. The only thing that prevents me from visiting is that old-age problem of money!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I didnot know about Nishizawa Hiroyoshi.
    I searched about him and read in Japanese.
    He is introduced in Smithonian Museum ,don’t you?
    Japan lost the WW2, so we brought up with “all negation”about the ppl who fought in War(Strategy of the Victorious Nation).
    However, I think that we Japanese must respect toward the Soul of All Fighter for our Japan.
    Thank you for teach me existence of Nishizawa.
    In addition, It was informative 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Although he was the enemy, he was well-respected for his expertise. You have many in your history to be proud of. One of my heroes was in the Vietnam War – and we didn’t exactly win that one. That fact doesn’t alter the actions of the man.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Mr,GP Cox.
        My Late father was Japanese soldier.
        After the war ,I also went to the United States, I grew up with the American army.
        Although Japan lost the war, I went to travel abroad, including the United States, and I like people in various countries.
        Everyone suffered during the war.
        The United States is still suffering in the battlefield.
        Actually,Japan ‘s SDF is dead,too.
        I hope that everyone will become a world that does not have to throw away their own country.
        So citizens should become Friends each other.

        Liked by 2 people

  17. A fascinating yet sad story. I wonder what I would do in my own life is struck by such a strong premonition?

    Like

    • There are still debates on that, Sue. Do these men actually have a premonition or does the high-risk job put that idea in their mind and they inadvertently cause their own death? Either way it is still sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s eerie that he knew his end was coming before it happened. Great to learn about this ace!

    Liked by 2 people

    • There are debates about troops that ‘see’ their own death. Are they actually having a premonition or do they end up causing their own death themselves because of these thoughts preying on their mind?

      Liked by 2 people

  19. It’s always good to hear stories from the other side. Thank you for sharing this, and if you’re planning on covering more Japanese aces, I’d recommend looking at Tetsuzo Iwamoto next.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the lead, I’ll definitely look into that!!
      This is what I love about blogging, people contributing and sharing; talking to each other and making this site their own!! Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Interesting story from a perspective we don’t often hear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe it is the only way to even attempt to get a clear picture of all went on back then. As another reader commented, it wasn’t only one side doing all that fighting.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I do like to read both sides. Which is why I think stuff like the children’s book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes about the bombing of Hiroshima are such important reading. That said, I also like to keep closely in mind how our WWII veterans who saw so much feel about it and to honor our departed WWII veterans.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Great post, my pianist friend Prajna is a Buddhist and believes we met before in another life, it’s a lovely belief system.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. It always (rather stupidly) surprises me to hear a story from the other side of a war – like there was only one side fighting. When I was in Germany I was constantly surprised at the war memorials. I kept thinking “But they lost” – as if they weren’t real people from real families… Thanks for showing another side to the Japanese at war.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Interesting post. It’s easy to admire great skill, even when it’s the enemy.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. A fascinating story, GP, as well as your one on Sakai. Thank you for including both sides of the conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Julia C. Tobey

    Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. It is good to see the perspective you permit here. The persons of war.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel you can not see or understand the full story unless you see all sides. Something Dad instilled in me, no matter what the problem [and WWII was a pretty big problem!]

      Liked by 2 people

      • We so agree. If we don’t see it from all sides we miss out on so much. This fact reminds us of the film “The Enemy Below” based upon the book “Battle of the Atlantic” when at the end the film the American Buckley class destroyer captain played by Mitchum helped rescue the Nazi sub captain. Even though they were serving opposite sides they respected each other for the jobs they had to perform. It showed both sides of the issue and the characters.

        Liked by 2 people

  27. Interesting read and knowing about this Japanese Buddhist ace! Thanks 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Quite a story. And another sad ending.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Nishizawa probably never dreamed his own death would be so anti-climactic.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Pierre Lagacé

    This is kind of a follow-up GP…
    Nishizawa appears on my post.

    https://johnkellynightfighterpilot.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/lieutenant-junior-grade-joseph-r-daly/

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Interesting story. I am also intrigued by the life of Saburo Sakai, another great Japanese ace, who survived the war. He became a devout Buddhist and vowed never to harm another living thing, not even a fly. He kept that vow.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Good to see the other side of the war now and then, though I have more concern for his 88 victims, it must be said.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Thank you very much for helping me to give a clear picture of events back then!

    Like

  1. Pingback: Intermission Story (4) – A Japanese Ace | Pacific Paratrooper | First Night History

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