In the Shadow of Leaves

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Japan at War

Major Yohei Hinoki, ace of the 64th Sentai, here with his Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (“Peregrine Falcon”). Over the course of his Army Air Force career, Hinoki flew over Malaya, Singapore, China, Burma, and over the home islands leading up to the end of the war.

He was claimed as a probable kill twice by enemy pilots, first over China where he flew against the 3rd AVG (American Volunteer Group) Squardon, flying P-40 Warhawks. He was wounded in his left arm and buttocks during the fight, and his parachute harness saved him from a .50 caliber round that would have lodged into his back. Despite these injuries, and the extensive damage to his plane, Hinoki managed to make the two hour flight back to an air base in Thailand, his fuel tank empty by the time he arrived. He was hospitalized for a month before returning to combat.

The second time was over Burma, during an intense fight with the US 311th  Fighter-Bomber Group. Hinoki claimed a P-51, P-38, B-24 Liberator, and a second Liberator as probable, but was hit in the leg by a .50 caliber round fired from US ace Robert F. Mulhollem’s P-51. However, Hinoki managed to escape and land successfully, though his leg had to be amputated shortly after and he spent many months at the base hospital healing so that he might survive the trip back to Japan. 

Later he was outfitted with an artificial leg, and became an instructor at the Akeno Fighter School, yet he still remained active in combat, defending mainland Japan from B-29s and their escorts, and during his last major combat mission shot down Captain John W. Benbow and his P-51 over Ise Bay. 

It is estimated that in all, Yohei Hinoki downed twelve or more enemy aircraft, and his experience with the Hayabusa proved that, with skilled pilots, a lightly armed fighter could match the tougher Hurricanes, Lightnings, and Mustangs and bring down the heavy B-24 Liberator bombers. 

He passed away in January, 1991.

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