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1941 Japanese Plane Crash on Niihau

In 1941, Japanese fighter pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi crash-landed on the Hawaiian island of Niihau while he was trying to fly back to his aircraft carrier after the December 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Here are two books about that little-known incident in Hawaiian and World War II history.

22-year-old Airman 1st Class Shigenori Nishikaichi flew escort for a flight of bombers from the Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku during the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor,

The fighters strafed the U.S. Naval Air Station on the Mokapu Peninsula and then hit Bellows Army Airfield, 10 miles to the south. In both attacks, bombing followed the strafing. The fighters then made another pass to hit additional targets of opportunity.

Nishikaichi and seven other fighter pilots from the carrier Hiryu had attacked targets in southeastern Oahu. (see above)

Nishikaichi's fighter plan was hit but at first the damage seemed only superficial. But later he notice he was consuming fueld at an increased rate. then he realized one of the hits punctured his fuel tank. The engine began running rough and he fell behind the others.

During morning riefing on the Hiryu the pilots had been told if they sustained crippling damage they shyoud try to make an emergency landing on Niihau (westernmost island) and wait on the coast for a Japanese navy sunmarine to arfive and rescue them. the japanese assumed Niihau wa uninhabited.

His Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter was in serious trouble by mid-morning hwe decided to try to reach niihau about 130 miles to the west of where he was experiencing trouble. He and anoyher damaged zero headed to the island. they passed over kauai and reached Niihau. when they circleed they realized the island was inhabied.

He decided to land on niihau anyway the other pilot (probably purposly) dove into the sea.

His fuel tank was almost empty

He eased himself down using a shallow approach and braced for a hard landing

Native Hawaiian Howard Kaleohano watched the Japanese plane's arrival (he was born and educated on the big island, permitted by Aylmer Robinson to visit his sister onn Niihau in 1930; stayed and married, one of the few on the island fluent in English)

After clipping a fence, Nishikaichi and his Zero came to rest in a farmer’s field where the pilot made an attempt to burn out the remains of his fighter.

Kaleohano rushed to the crashed Zero, hauled the groggy pilot out of the wreckage and took away his sidearm and what looked like official papers. Speaking in schoolboy English, Nishikaichi asked Kaleohano if he was Japanese. ‘I am Hawaiian,’ Kaleohano told him. He then took the pilot into his house, where his wife served the visitor breakfast.

Japanese-born Ishimatsu Shintani, a 60-year-old beekeeper, was summoned to help. When he arrived, the beekeeper was not at all happy about being asked to translate for the Japanese pilot.

Next summoned to the scene were the Haradas, who spoke both Japanese and English. Yoshio Harada, 38, had been born to Japanese parents on Kauai in 1903. His birth in Hawaii made him an American citizen, but he had three brothers in Japan, and his wife, Irene, had been born to Japanese parents. Speaking Japanese, Nishikaichi told the Haradas of the attack on Oahu. He also demanded that his pistol and documents be returned. Because the Haradas knew the Niihauans regarded them as more Japanese than Hawaiian, they kept what Nishikaichi had said to themselves. That was the beginning of a sell-out that would cost them–as well as the nation–dearly.


Wikipedia "Niihau Incident" Article
Includes background information, details about the crash landing, the conclusion of the incident, post incident repercussions, and legacy.

Timeline Dot Com "Niihau Incident" Article

PBS History Detectives "Niihau Incident" Article

History Dot Net "Niihau Incident" Article

Turncoats on Niihau Island
This excerpt from Michelle Malkin's book "In Defense of Internment" includes many details about the 1941 "Niihau Incident".

Three Part Article at J-Aircraft Dot Com
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3

Books About the 1941 "Niihau Incident"

The Niihau Incident
AUTHOR: Allan Beekman
PUBLISHER: Heritage Press of the Pacific
DATE PUBLISHED: June 1982 (sixth edition was published in 1995)

East Wind, Rain: A Novel
AUTHOR: Caroline Paul
PUBLISHER: William Morrow
DATE PUBLISHED: April 25, 2006
DESCRIPTION: Fictionalized version of the Niihau Incident story.

Before and Beyond the Niihau Zero
AUTHOR: Syd Jones
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform;
DATE PUBLISHED: July 14, 2014

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