Northwest Thailand during World War II

Details of Aircraft Losses by Date
25 Dec 1941: Sgt Ono at Omkoi


Text Notes

25 Dec 1941: Sgt Ono flew a Ki-27 fighter (Allied nickname "Nate") in the 2nd Chutai (squadron) of the IJAAF's 77th Sentai.[1],[2] On Christmas Day, the 77th Sentai sent thirty-two Ki-27s, including one piloted by Ono, up from Thailand's Rahaeng (Tak) airstrip to meet and escort eight 62nd Sentai Ki-21 heavy bombers and twenty-seven 31st Sentai Ki-30 light bombers targeting Mingaladon Airport (Rangoon) --- this was part of a larger effort which also involved twenty-five 64th Sentai Ki-43 fighters escorting sixty three 12th and 60th Sentai Ki-21 heavy bombers targeting both Moulmein and Mingaladon.[3] In broad terms, the intended route for the 77th Sentai is shown below:[4]

On that mission, four Ki-27s were lost including that of Sgt Ono. Two pilots were killed in action and one parachuted to ground to be captured by the British.[4a] In the fourth case, that of Ono, at some point in his flight, a fuel tank on his aircraft had been pierced by a shell;[5] while there was no explosion or fire, he was losing fuel as he flew back to Rahaeng. And at some later point during that return flight, it is assumed that he changed course to head for the closest border crossing fearing that he might run out of fuel over Burma, land in enemy territory, and risk execution by vengeful locals. He did in fact run out of fuel, but because of his change in course, it happened over Thailand, and he crashlanded in the Tuen River plain in Omkoi District,[6] about 100 km from Rahaeng:[6a]

What happened then is covered in two accounts by villagers separated by about twenty years. The primary differences are in minor details:

• From David Hardcastle, on his initial discovery, in Year 2000:[7]

[On landing] The pilot got out shouting 'Nipoon, Nipoon! Peun, peun!' ('Japanese! Friend!').

He was in a terrible state, bleeding all over from wounds to his arms and the back of his head. The plane was covered in bullet holes. . . . The pilot was taken to a house where his wounds were attended to, and the village headman sent a messenger on foot - that was the only way in those days - to the nearest town to get help from a government clinic. The journey took about 4 days.

Some days later a party of 5 Japanese soldiers arrived. . . . They took parts off the engine and other pieces of the plane, probably to use on other planes. Then they stuffed the body and the wings with straw and set fire to it. Everything burned except the engine and a few metal parts. After they had gone, together with the pilot who had recovered, the villagers collected small parts and made them into things like knives and weights for fishing nets. The engine was left in the rice paddy.

What Hardcastle found in Year 2000 was this:[8]

Additional items viewed by Hardcastle included a bell fashioned from a Ki-27 propeller tip and a piece of landing gear, both kept in the village wat:[9]

After Hardcastle's discovery in Year 2000, thinking that the engine might be sold to help the village financially, he wrote about it in Good Morning Chiang Mai in that year, asking for offers. One came from Japan, apparently based on the hope that the engine was from a Zero. That was found not to be the case and so the engine remained in the village.[10]

• From Ben Svasti, who learned of Hardcastle's find in April 2018 and quickly followed up on it:[11]

[The plane] crash landed in the paddy fields [adjacent to the Mae Tuen (N17°24.3 E98°27.7)] and the pilot survived and was well cared for . . . . Japanese soldiers from base at Hot arrived and removed the engine and armaments. The machine guns and bullet belts were destroyed. Engine was discarded and buried. Plane was stood on end and cremated in a ceremony with the soldiers standing in a row and saluting. Villagers later collected the melted metals to make fishing net weights and knives. During the ensuing years the river changed its course and eroded the rice fields exposing the engine.

In the nearly twenty years after Hardcastle had photographed the engine next to the Tuen River, Svasti found it had migrated to a pedestal in a school yard:[11a]

Svasti concluded that the engine probably came from a Ki-27 lost during the IJAAF Christmas Raids [1941] on Rangoon.[11b]

In October 2020, Shinpachi of, in reviewing information available, confirmed that the engine in the photo was a Nakajima Ha-1-otsu, probably installed in a Ki-27 fighter,[12] and with that was able to tie the details to official records naming Sgt Ono.[13]


References (listed chronologically):

• Senshi Sosho Burma Strategy (Vol 005), 1967,[14] and Senshi Sosho Vol 034 Southern Army Air Operations, 1970,[15] mention only three fighter aircraft having been lost that day, with little detail.

• Ford, 1991:[16]

. . . Christmas Day . . . . The 77th Sentai lost four Nates . . . . A fourth pilot crash-landed in Thailand.

• Shores, et al, 1992:[17]

The 77th Sentai lost two Ki-27s in the fight, and a third damaged aircraft later forcelanded.

• Umemoto, 2002:[18]

Entry for Sgt Ono (Umemoto, v 1, p 450)
English translation
  25 Dec 1941
  77th Sentai
  Type 97 (Ki-27)
曹 小野軍
  Sgt Ono
67 Sqn
  67 Sqn
  Crash landing ・ Survived

Umemoto comment (translated):[19]

Sergeant Ono of the 2nd Chutai (squadron) was shot in a fuel tank and later crash landed near the border, but he survived.

Umemoto, writing in 2002, acknowledged the difference in the Senshi Sosho count and other details from thirty years before and wondered if they were due to simple error or a misreading of historical materials.[20]

The reason for Shores, et al, divergence is not clear.


Revision List
2020 Oct 23
First published on Internet
2020 Dec 05
Minor grammatical, format changes
2022 Aug 10
Add copy para, change title, footer



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1.^ Credit for identifying the crashsite at Omkoi as that of Sgt Ono and his Ki-27 belongs to Shinpachi of

2.^ 梅本弘 [Umemoto, Hiroshi], ビルマ航空戦・上
[Air War in Burma, Vol 1] (Tokyo: Dai Nippon, 2002)], pp 41, 450.

3.^ Ford, Dan, Flying Tigers (Washington: Smithsonian, 1991, 2007), pp 127-134.

Shores, Christopher and Brian Cull with Yasuho Izawa, Bloody Shambles, Vol One (London: Grub Street, 1992), p 246.

4.^ From "JAAF deployments", Dec 1941-Mar 1942: December 23, 1941, in 防衛庁防衛研修所戦史室 [National Institute for Defense Studies War History Room],戦史叢書  進南 攻方  陸軍航空作戦 [Senshi Sosho Vol 034 Southern Army Air Operations] (Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1970), p 338, as annotated by Kameta Junichi and Jeffrey Stickley). Enlargement annotated by author using Microsoft Publisher.

4a.^ Ford, ibid,
pp 133-134.

5.^ Umemoto, ibid, p 41.

6.^ Svasti, Ben, "Report on expedition to crash sites of Japanese Army Air Force WWII planes in Om Koi, Chiang Mai and Tha Song Yang, Tak", transmitted by Svasti email 11:00:56 of 04 Sep 2020.

6a.^ Excerpt from Google Maps; annotated with Microsoft Publisher by author.




7.^ Hardcastle, David, "THERE'S ZERO INTEREST IN THIS VILLAGE!", Chiangmai Mail, May 2000, pp 12-15.










8.^ Photo: Hardcastle, Ibid, p 13.









9.^ Photos included in Ben Svasti "Report . . .", ibid.








10.^ "FIGHTER ENGINE FETCHES US$6,100", Chiangmai Mail, September 2000, no page number on-line.

David Hardcastle in email 19:32:18 of 22 Dec 2008 explained that only one complete "Zero" engine is known to have survived the war, and the prospective buyer lost interest in the unit at Omkoi when he found the engine not to be that of a Zero.

11.^ Svasti, "Report . . .", ibid.

11a.^Photo included in Svasti "Report . . .".









11b.^ Svasti "Report . . .", ibid.

12.^ "Data Base: Japanese Aircraft Engines": Shinpachi, with MiTasol of that forum then listing aircraft which had used the engine. From that list, the Ki-27 seemed to be the most likely installation.

13.^ Data Base: Japanese Aircraft Engines: Shinpachi.

14.^ 防衛庁防衛研修所戦史室 [National Institute for Defense Studies War History Room], 戦史叢書 ビルマ攻略作戦 [Senshi Sosho Burma Strategy] (Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1967), p 150.

15.^ Senshi Sosho Vol 034 Southern Army Air Operations, ibid, p 344.

16.^ Ford, ibid, pp 133-134.

17.^ Shores, ibid, p 251.

18.^ Umemoto, ibid, p 450, line item 15.




19.^ Ibid, p 41.




20.^Ibid, pp 41 - 42 .