Ex-Wartime Pilots Saved Airport in Western Japan

Society

Kochi, Aug. 15 (Jiji Press)--Former Japanese wartime pilots used their personal fortune to revive an airport in western Japan, which had served as an air base for the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Navy and was seized by the U.S.-led allied forces after the end of World War II.

With their money, the former pilots established an aviation organization for Kochi Airport, now located in the city of Nankoku in Kochi Prefecture, as the airport faced the possibility of being demolished after the war.

"I want to fly a Zero fighter (of the Imperial Japanese Navy) freely in skies where bullets don't fly," Sadaaki Akamatsu, a key member of the group, who died in 1980 at the age of 69, had said.

After serving in the Sino-Japanese war, Akamatsu fought as an ace pilot for the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War, part of WWII, flying in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

After the end of the war, he returned to the city of Kochi, his hometown, at 35, making his living chiefly by growing sweet potatoes. He faced a turning point in 1952, when the Kochi prefectural assembly adopted a proposal to return the airport, which had been idle since the seizure by the allied forces, to farmland.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press