Northwest Thailand during World War II

Details of Aircraft Losses by Date
13 Apr 1943: IJAAF Warplane at Mae La Luang

Route 108
Station 240


Text Notes

13 Apr 1943.

Crash siteOn this date,[1] at Mae La Luang in Thailand,[2] a flight of three IJAAF aircraft appeared, flying abreast, with the two outer aircraft supporting the center one by their wingtips. The center one seemed to be having engine trouble, with a trail of smoke following it. After circling the area, the three separated and the center one, engine having apparently failed, glided in to a landing on a bank of the Mae La Luang river. The sequence was followed by both townspeople plus children peering out from their classroom near the river. As the plane came to a halt along the river's edge, people on the ground rushed to get a closer look, halting from some distance from the plane as the pilot got out waving a Japanese flag. That obviously not impressing the local people, the pilot returned to his plane to bring out a Thai flag which gained the sympathy of observers who took the pilot and what they perceived as a passenger to the local clinic for treatment of minor injuries.

How a Japanese warplane came to make an emergency landing in a relatively remote section of Thailand is not clear. As noted, eye witnesses recalled seeing smoke coming from the plane. The plane's engine may simply have failed. Or the plane might have been damaged in an encounter with an enemy (Allied) aircraft. The plane might have been hit far distance from Mae La Luang and the pilot was able to nurse his ailing plane only as far as that area before having to land. Or perhaps he had to land as quickly as possible after being hit. A larger scale map gives a better idea of the choices that the Japanese pilots apparently had, on the latter basis, for a landing site, with nearby air facilities circled:[6]

Closer view

Conditions at those facilities varied, but in an emergency, such would have been of secondary concern. In Burma, airfields at Taungoo, Nyangbintha, and Nyaunglebin[6a] fall within a radius of 150 km of the crash landing. In Thailand, Chiang Mai is 110 km distant with Mae Hong Son at 85 km while Khun Yuam and Mae Sariang are roughly within 40 km. In the case that the plane had been fatally hit or simply lost power suddenly, that both Khun Yuam and Mae Sariang had airstrips implies that the distance from where the plane became disabled and crash landed was less than 40 km. It is also possible that the pilots, relocated from Sumatra to Burma just a month before, were not familiar with the alternative landing sites available.

Note that there is a possibility that if an intercept with an enemy aircraft had occurred, it could have been over Thai territory. Thailand was not being targeted by the Allies at this particular time.[6β] As Thailand was an ally of Japan, Japanese aircraft should have had free access to any air space over Thailand. Conversely, the Allies presumably saw Burma and Thailand as essentially one and felt no need to avoid Thai air space while attacking Burmese targets.

As shown on the map, support after the crash landing came from the closest major IJAAF air facility, Chiang Mai, 110 km distant. A decision to provide ground assistance from Mae Sariang would have been based on the existence of a biweekly air service which had been running between Mae Sariang and Chiang Mai town since at least Jun 1940, well before the war started:[6b]


An intelligence report on the Mae Sariang airstrip describes roads providing access to the airstrip as "Road N to KHUNYUAM and S to MESARIENG, thence tracks to outlying villages."[6c]


In other words, the precursor to the section of Thai Route 108 that today connects Mae Sariang east to Hot (then north to Chiang Mai) did not then exist in a condition apparently judged suitable for military use.

The two crewmembers were not seriously injured (if at all) in the crash landing, but damage to the aircraft was beyond repair and the crew remained there overseeing disposition of the wreckage for about two months. Food and other essentials were periodically airdropped to the crew by IJAAF aircraft coming from the direction of Chiang Mai. Some of the wreckage was salvaged by a Japanese army unit from Mae Sariang while the remainder was largely destroyed. After the war, one piece of aluminum reputably from the aircraft firewall was hung in the local police station and used to ring on the hour for years. Other pieces, unidentified, were put on display at a local "cultural center". Villagers salvaged pieces of aluminum to make spoons.

The above details are undisputed. Unfortunately, they cannot readily be related to existing records of the IJAAF, the Allies, or the Royal Thai Air Force. Nonetheless, a tenuous connection based on circumstantial evidence is developed from IJAAF records as presented by Umemoto coupled with interviews with eye witnesses by Cherdchay Chantawan[6d] and information from Shores. It is emphasized that the scenario which follows is highly speculative.


References (in chronological order)

Umemoto, 2002[7]

Umemoto's seminal work in Japanese tallying events in the air war in Burma does not mention an event at Mae La Luang, nor the more likely, its province, Mae Hong Son. This might be explained by the event occurring in Thailand rather than Burma; but numerous other IJAAF events in northern Thailand are covered --- as examples, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Nakhon Sawan, Uttaradit. However, one IJAAF casualty, whose details admittedly puzzled Umemoto --- when coupled with leads from other sources --- could be "forced-fitted" to the event recorded by eye witnesses on the ground at Mae La Luang.

Interviews with witnesses of the crash landing in the town were conducted by Cherdchay Chantawan, one of which was recorded around 2008, and were incorporated into a Japanese language webpage about the event in 2012. Included in the webpage was a photo of an IJAAF Ki-45 fighter. There was no basis in the interviews for picturing that particular model of aircraft; however its two man crew is consistent with eye-witness accounts of a two man crew; there is also a date range given for the event, March plus June-July 1943, though dates recalled in rural Thailand have proven extremely unreliable. However, with that information, I consulted Christopher Shores' Air War for Burma,[8] which provided shortcuts in searching Umemoto's list of events.

Shores describes only one IJAAF unit, Sentai 21, as having flown Ki-45 fighters in the Burma Theatre, and dates their presence from Mar 1943 to Jan 1944: equipped with the Ki-45 Kai-ko fighters, the sentai moved from Sumatra to Mingaladon (Rangoon) in March 1943, and left in January 1944.[8a] Umemoto lists four Sentai 21 losses within that time period[9] and one of those four involved a two-man crew surviving a crash landing and a riverbank. The coincidence of these details matching the contents of local interviews (conducted perhaps six years later by Cherdchay) suggests that the two sources are dealing with the same event (Umemoto's book is in Japanese, so there is little likelihood that Cherdchay would have been aware of a similarity in details). Further, while acknowledging my dependence upon Google Translate, I believe that the combination of details involving a two-man crew aircraft crashing / crash landing with minor or no injuries on a riverbank is unique amongst Umemoto's listings --- though other details in Umemoto's listing of this particular event as noted below admittedly do not remotely match. Umemoto dates that event as 12 Apr 1943:[10]

Umemoto, v 1, p 490, entry 8
English translation
  12 Apr 1943
  Sentai 21
  Ki-45 Kai-ko
  Lt Yasushi Ushijima
159Sqn • B-24反撃  
  159 Sqn B-24 counterattack
河原 に不時着・負傷
  Left engine hit; crash landed
  by river; injuries


Date: The date is specific and applies to a Sentai 21 mission involving a patrol of Rangoon harbor, but not necessarily to a subsequent crash landing by one of the aircraft in that mission; it falls between the two broadly estimated dates in Cherdchay's interviews of March and June-July 1943. Umemoto's text accompanying the event[11] tells that the sentai sent up a flight of Ki-45s on that date to provide cover for ships coming into Rangoon harbor during an evening. At some point in that evening, the mission was completed and at some later time, whether later that night or the next day is not clear, a Sentai 21 flight encountered and attacked one or more B-24s which Umemoto identifies as from RAF 159 Squadron, though he clearly states this as conjecture since Allied records do not support the encounter. Gunfire from one B-24 damaged a sentai aircraft, which is the subject of this casualty report by Umemoto.

The actual time, ie, the hour, of the attack is contentious. Umemoto implies that the attack and the subsequent crash landing occurred during hours of darkness. If related to 159 Squadron activities, Shores' detail confirms (emphasis mine):

The squadron was posted to India . . . in September 1942 . . . . In August [1943] Liberator IIIs were received, and the unit continued to fly night raids until 1944.[12]

However, Cherdchay's eye witnesses on the ground at Mae La Luang all describe the Ki-45 as having crash landed on an afternoon.

Umemoto would not have had access in 2002 to Cherdchay's interviews since they were conducted six years later, in 2008; so if Umemoto's listing of the crash landing was addressing the Mae La Luang event, he could not have been aware of a conflict of a few hours (with a future source). The conflict affects the date he uses for the event, whether it was included with the harbor patrol, that is, in the evening before midnight, or, sufficiently later after the mission proper to have possibly occurred after midnight, ie, 13 April. The afternoon of the latter is here assumed.

Unit, Casualty: As noted above, Ki-45s were the only twin-engined IJAAF fighters in the Burma Theatre and they were in Sentai 21; but, more to the point, they had two-man crews. Shinpachi[13] points out that there were single-engine Ki-51s with two-man crews operating in the Burmese Theatre; but I found no event listed by Umemoto that could be tied to that at Mae La Luang. As well, there were also single-engine two-man crew Ki-36s in the theatre, but Umemoto did not list any Ki-36 casualties which could be related to Mae La Luang.[13a]

Pilot: In his accompanying narrative, Umemoto describes Lt Yasushi Ushijima as both chutai commander and the pilot who crash landed. Ushijima is confirmed on the Internet as commander of Chutai 2 of Sentai 21 which arrived in Rangoon from Palembang on 08 Mar 1943.[14] Per Umemoto, then, the chutai commander's aircraft was the first casualty in his company, only a month after arriving. Googling in Japanese, I find no mention on the Internet of Ushijima's crash landing, nor if he survived the war.

Location: Rangoon is identified as the location where the plane was hit. That the plane then crash landed 270 km away in Mae La Luang is improbable (note that the 407 kph optimum speed of a Ki-45[14α] is an irrelevant detail since the plane would not have been able to travel at near that speed with only one engine). That the aircraft crash landed so far from where it was recorded as hit (Rangoon) implies that the records that Umemoto consulted were incomplete. But, regardless, it is felt that the clarity of the detail of a two-man IJAAF aircraft crashing / crash landing without fatalities in the Burma Theatre plus its occurrence on a riverbank in Mae La Luang overrides the inconsistency in hit location.

Shooter: Umemoto names 159 Squadron with its B-24 Liberators, which Shores identified as flying only at night, as having shot the Ki-45 which eventually crash landed in Ban Mae La Luang, but in the daylight of afternoon per eye witnesses. In his narrative, as already noted, Umemoto acknowledges that he couldn't confirm 159 Squadron having encountered Ushijima's Ki-45; which is as it should be since 159 flew only at night. Sentai 21 reported one B-24 shot down on the same day, and two more B-24s shot down on the following day, the 13th. But Allied records show no B-24s in the air over Burma on 12 or 13 Apr 1943, much less shot down on either of those dates.

While there were no B-24s in the air on those dates, there were B-25s recorded as having bombed Magwe (360 km distant at N20°09.18 E94°58.05) on 12 Apr, Myitnge bridge (400 km distant at N21°50.50 E96°04.00) and Monywa Airfield (490 km distant at N22°13.30 #95°05.62) on 13 Apr 1943.[14a] Note that these three locations were substantially farther away from Mae La Luang than Rangoon at 270 km; and therefore even less likely to have been the scene of the encounter that damaged Ushijima's plane. Shores does not mention any B-25 action on 12-13 Apr 1943. No other detail has been found of B-25 encounters with IJAAF aircraft during these attacks.

If, somehow, Ushijima had encountered a B-25, perhaps a typographical error produced a B-24 instead of a B-25. Or perhaps Sentai 21 pilots, being new to the theatre, weren't familiar with the difference between the two at that point.

Details: To repeat, whatever the discrepancies noted above, the unique combination of details involving:

1. a two-man crew aircraft crash landing
2. without fatalities
3. on a riverbank
4. in the Burma Theatre

seems to strongly relate Ushijima's crash landing with the event witnessed at Mae La Luang.


Interviews by Cherdchay Chantawan.[15] Neither product from Cherdchay was formally published:

1. Mr Som Tailom Prathrep, in 2008:[16]

Date of birth: 1933
Address: 160 Moo 1, Tambon Khun Yuam, Amphoe Khun Yuam, Mae Hong Son Province.

. . . on an afternoon in March [year not stated],[16a] my teacher, my friends, and I ran out of the classroom to see three planes flying over. Two of the planes seemed to be trying to support the wings of another plane between them[16b] and were looking for a place to land. The teacher told us to go down to the air raid shelter; but most of us didn’t want to go because we wanted to see what was happening. Finally, the plane was able to land near Huai Pla Fa (Huai Tapapnam).[17] The other two planes didn’t land, but circled above to protect the landed plane. The landed plane's propellers stuck in the soil which kept it from going into a creek.

Later the Japanese pilot got out of the plane with a Japanese flag. A policeman walked to the plane and the pilot went to get a Thai flag to wave. Villagers crowded around the plane. Officers came to help the Japanese crewman. The Japanese were taken to Mae La Luang Health Center. Police Senior Sergeant Major Khun Lerdsi assisted at that time so he was familiar with the event. One of the Japanese from the plane told the villagers to find Tong Tung leaves to make a sign for people in the two planes circling overhead. Later, one dropped a note in English saying "Soldiers would come to help within seven days". The Japanese stayed at the health center for a month or so before moving on to Mae Sariang town. I used to take them for a bath in the river and to go fishing.  Foodstuff wrapped with cloth (but without parachute) was dropped from a plane. For this reason, most stuff was broken. Canned foods, knives, fishhooks and tools for fishing, and goods for outdoor living were provided in the airdrops.

The government sent Mr Samur Kanthatum, a former member of the House of Representatives in Mae Hong Son to be a temporary translator because he knew English.[18] The engines and important instruments were removed and taken to Mae Sariang.

The Health Center where the Japanese stayed is now Wat Si La Pha.[19] No photos were taken at that time. Japanese soldiers from Mae Sariang removed the engines. It took about a week to get the engines ready for transport. Curiously, the soldiers who came in the plane remained here; ie, they didn’t go back with the mechanics. Later, what was left of the plane was destroyed by gunfire. The two pilots cried while the plane was being destroyed (check details with Police Senior Sergeant Major Khun Lerdsi).[20] Two months later, these two pilots went, one by one, to Mae Sariang. The wreckage was cut into pieces; Mae La Luang police officers took the front part to use as a bell or gong and some pieces of plane were eventually displayed in the Cultural Center. Villagers took aluminum pieces to make spoons.

2. Military aircraft that crash landed in the village of Mae La Luang.[20a] Subsequent to his interview with Mr Prathrep, Cherdchay conducted more interviews and assembled a more developed scenario. Again not published, this was translated into Japanese and put on the Internet. The interviews occasionally quote witnesses, only one of whom is identified.

As translated into English:[20b]

Mae La Luang Elementary School[21] was a rest stop for Japanese troops traveling in or through Khun Yuam Province. For example, it was often used when going to Mae Sariang or Chiang Mai or Tak Province, etc. On a day when Japanese troops were scheduled to come, the school would be closed to accommodate the troops.

Sometime in June or July of 1943[22] one afternoon, the students at the school were in class when they heard the roar of an airplane, which became louder and louder. Everyone looked out the window and up into the sky. The students were concerned about a plane coming from Burma.[23] The teacher instructed the students to hurry to hide in the bunker they had dug outside. Everyone was frightened and ran away and hid.

After a while, I looked up at the sky. Three planes of the same type were flying side by side. Black smoke was coming out of the aircraft in the middle. The plane in the middle looked as if it was being supported by the planes on either side.[24]


The sound suddenly stopped, meaning that the engines had stopped. Foiperfer[25] is an area of rice fields near the school, and the plane was about to crash land there. The two planes on either side slowly separated, and the ailing aircraft glided down to land. The aircraft bounced around quite a bit because the ground was uneven. Eventually it stopped in front of the stream. The villagers, the teacher, and the students ran ahead of me and went to see them. There were two in the plane, one in the front and one in the back. At this point, the other two planes were circling overhead. The pilot came out and waved the Japanese flag towards the villagers. It looked like a gesture asking for help. The villagers were scared and just looked away. The pilot returned to the plane and began waving the Thai flag. Now police and villagers immediately rushed to help the pilot.

Neither of the two in the plane was seriously injured. I couldn't understand their language at all. The pilot took the leaves from the roof of the resting hut in the rice field and lined them up to write large letters on the ground. He seemed to make a message for his companions flying above. The two planes flew away in the direction of Chiang Mai. The villagers then took them to the Ban Mae La Luang clinic. The clinic is near what is now Wat Si La Pha.[25a]

About 10am the next day, a Japanese aircraft, coming from the direction of Chiang Mai, dropped supplies to them. The next day, Khun Yuam District Police Officer Jan Chao Prayun, and former lawyer and prefectural assemblyman from Mae Hong Son, Sanoon Gantatan, met the pilot at the scene. Mr. Sanoon spoke to the pilot in English.[26] The aircraft had been severely damaged and could not take off again. Support eventually came from the Japanese military base in Mae Sariang: important parts from the fuselage were removed and taken there. The next day, the same unit came and removed the engines, disassembled the fuselage, and carried parts of it to the Mae Sariang base.

Thais were hired to assist in this. It took seven or eight days to reach Mae Sariang. Pieces of the fuselage carried to Mae Sariang Base were carefully disposed of. Soldiers prayed for the aircraft. Finally, a flamethrower was used to burn what remained of the aircraft. After the war, the villagers took away aluminum pieces.[27]

Ki-45 newsphoto

During an interview, the author [presumably Cherdchay] took an aluminum plate, which was a part of this aircraft, from a police officer of Mae La Luang. It made a very pleasant sound when hit, so the Khun Yuam police had used it instead of a chime. It was a material that does not rust. When I asked an expert to check this, it was identified as part of the fire wall. It was designed to block the heat from the engine. The propeller was still there at the time of this interview, but it subsequently disappeared.

The two pilots were in the village of Mae La Luang for about two months, living on goods airdropped several times during their stay.

Sonsan Tyrone Patty, now 70 years old, was an elementary school student at the time and recalled:

I made friends with these two pilots. They had various necessities and medicine, canned goods, clothing, candy. They divided the candy amongst the children. The most important things they had were fishing rods and bait. The bait was fake. Seeing all this, the villagers were impressed that the Japanese had made such great preparations.

There was no problem with this exchange between the Japanese soldiers and villagers. They played well with the children. They taught swimming and how to catch fish. They cooked the fish and shared it. They offered the medicine they had when villagers and children became ill. They taught Japanese and learned Thai. The two pilots became popular in the village.

Farewell day: the pilots gave everything they had to the villagers and children. Many old people in the village still remember. The remaining wreckage has sunk into the soil, no longer to be seen, but the crash landing of this Japanese military aircraft and the momentary interaction with its pilots remain as nostalgic memories for the villagers.


Shores, 2005

Of Sentai 21, Shores wrote:

To Gelumbang, Sumatra, in December 1942, equipped with Ki 45kai twin-engined fighters. Moved to Mingaladon in March 1943 and remained there until January 1944, with a detachment at Tavoy. Withdrew to East Indies bases until January 1945, when posted to Palembang, Sumatra, where the unit remained until June 1945.[27a]

Shores has no entry for Monday, 12 April 1943, the date that Umemoto gives for the crash landing. Shore's entry for Tuesday, 13 April 1943, is only about a Blenheim V5445 of 60 Squadron shot down by anti-aircraft fire, apparently around Adwinbyin (which cannot be located on any currently available map).[27b]


Eye witness to the crash (current)

At Ban Mae La Luang's Village 7, the local puyaiban (village headman), Udom Suja, introduced his neighbor across the soi, 85-year-old Gaun Sutinna.[28]

Headman Udom Suja with eye witness Gaun Sutinna

Mr Udom Suja, local headman
40 Moo 7
Tambon Mae La Luang
Amphoe Mae La Noi
Mae Hong Son Province

กำนัน อุดม สุจา
40 หมู่ 7 ตำบลแม่ลาหลวง

Mr. Gaun Sutinna, eye witness
126 Moo 1
Tambon Mae La Luang
Amphoe Mae La Noi
Mae Hong Son Province

นายก้อน สุทินนะ
126  หมู่ 1 ตำบลแม่ลาหลวง

Guan confirmed that he had seen the group of three planes, the outer ones apparently supporting the middle one. He said he was too young to recall if the planes had more than one engine. He led us to a bluff overlooking the Nam Mae La Luang / Nam Pho (river),[30] and pointed to a large distinctive stand of dark leafed bushes on the opposite bank at the river's edge as where the aircraft had come to a stop. The view from the bluff is recorded in this Dioptra view:[31]

Diaptra view

The aircraft was located in the grove of palms which is circled: it is estimated to be about 150m distant from the camera.[32]

A larger scale map of Mae La Luang shows the crash landing site:[33]

Site location

I did not consider bushwhacking my way to the exact site for lack of time, as well as the marsh-like conditions adjacent to a rain-swollen waterway. Getting to the site should be a dry season operation and with the assistance of locals who are familiar with the ground.


Eye witness to the bell/gong described in Cherdchay's interviews

Gong copPol Sub Lt Boongird Kome-yod,[34] currently an officer in his 50s at the Ban Mae La Luang Police Station,[35] recalled the bell or gong as a piece of aluminum from the fuselage of the aircraft: he said that, early in his career, it had been his duty to ring the gong every hour so local people could know the time (so judging just from his career, the gong had been rung since at least the mid-1980s). He said it had been hung by the rail of the second-floor balcony, and that Cherchay had eventually taken it to display at the Thai-Japanese Friendship Memorial Hall in Khun Yuam.[36]

He sketched the gong and sized it at 30cm diameter and one centimeter thick. The circles just inside the perimeter are drilled holes, one of which was used to hang the gong at the station:


This is the gong identified by Cherdchay as having come from the firewall of the aircraft.[36a]

A subsequent visit to the memorial hall found no gong on display, nor was the long-time attendant even aware of it, but he explained that there were numerous artifacts not yet on display for lack of space and that a major expansion of the hall was planned in the near future. During that process, the gong might be (re)discovered.[36b]



The scenario above is the result of joining information from two separate, unrelated sources: Umemoto's Japanese war records and Cherdchay's interviews with local eye witnesses. As noted above, their connection relies on what is believed to be a unique combination of these common elements:

1. a two-man crew aircraft crash landing
2. without fatalities
3. on a riverbank
4. in the Burma Theatre

But there are major undefined and critical details centering on the circumstances that led to the plane coming down in Thailand, comparatively far from active combat areas in Burma.

The only potential concrete lead at this time depends on identifying the aluminum disk that is reputed to have been a firewall on the aircraft. And, unfortunately, the disk is, effectively, lost, but hopefully still in possession of the Thai-Japanese Friendship Memorial Hall in Khun Yuam. Without that piece of evidence, the above scenario is simply speculative, based on coincidence.



Cherdchay Chamtawat

CherdchayCherdchay Chamtawat is the source here of two documents recording numerous interviews with local Thais about the Mae La Luang crash.

As a Police Lt Colonel, he was stationed at Khun Yuam as Deputy Superintendent to the Chief of Amphoe Khun Yuam Police from 1995 to his retirement (sometime after 2004). He took it upon himself to record reminiscences of local Thai residents about events in Khun Yuam during World War II and to collect artifacts of the period from various sources. These formed the nucleus for what eventually became the Thai-Japan Friendship Memorial Hall in Khun Yuam. He was instrumental in getting interested Japanese to provide financial support for the project and made at least one trip to Japan in that effort. In the process, he became a close friend of Inoue Motoyoshi, an IJA veterinarian who had passed through Khun Yuam near the end of the war, and who hosted Cherdchay's visit to Japan.[37]


Cherdchay Chantawan, Interview with Mr Som Tailom Prathrep (2008) in Thai language. Since the interview has not been formally published, it is included here for reference (two pages).[38]

CC intervw 1-1

CC intervw 1-2


Cherdchay Chantawan, Japanese military aircraft that crash landed in the village of Mae La Luang (based on numerous interviews) in original Japanese language (English language translation above).[39]

See page 2


Umemoto's listing of Sentai 21 casualties in Burma Theatre.[40] Umemoto lists four crashes of Sentai 21 aircraft in the Burma Theatre. Three of the four involved the deaths of crews. But, the earliest involved no fatalities, and also uniquely describes the location of the crash as a river. The text narrative specifies a riverbank. (see copy of page in the narrative which follows this listing).

Umemoto, v 1, p 490, entry 8
English translation
  12 Apr 1943
  Sentai 21
  Ki-45 Kai-ko
  Lt Yasushi Ushijima
  Rangoon - shot
159Sqn • B-24反撃  
  159 Sqn B-24 counterattack
河原 に不時着・負傷
  Left engine hit; crash landed
  on river; injuries


Umemoto, v 1, p 501, entry 21
English translation
  25 Nov 1943
  Sentai 21
  Ki-45 Kai
  Cpl Takanori
311FBG • P-51A
  311th Fighter Bomber Group
  • P-51A (Lt James England)
載死 (同乗者不明)
  Death (passenger unknown)


Umemoto, v 1, p 502, entry 11
English translation
  27 Nov 1943
  Sentai 21
  Ki-45 Kai
  Ensign Yamazaki
(卜一マス• R •ウィルスン少尉)  
  P-51A (Ensign R Wilson)
載死 (同乗者不明)
  Death (passenger unknown)


Umemoto, v 2, p 491, entry 2
English translation
  15 Jan 1944
  Sentai 21
  Ki-45 Kai
  Master Sgt Miura Shoun
  Killed in action



Umemoto narrative providing more detail on the Mae La Luang crash: pages 317 and 318:[41]


U narrative 318

This translates roughly as:[41a]

On the evening of 12 April, five Ki-45 heavy fighter aircraft under the command of Lieutenant Yasushi Ushijima, commander of Chutai 2 of Sentai 21 of the Rangoon Air Defense Squadron, patrolled at an altitude of 4,000 meters to protect a convoy as it entered the port of Rangoon. After sunset, two pilots with little experience in night-flying landed; the remaining aircraft continued patrol. Lieutenant Ushijima made an upward attack on an incoming B-24 which returned fire, hitting his Ki-45 in the left engine. He crash-landed on a riverbank, and was injured.

Sentai 21 reported one B-24 shot down that same day, with two more B-24s shot down on the following day, the 13th. The incoming aircraft are believed to have belonged to the Royal Air Force's 159 Squadron, which at the time specialized in night air raids and was the only Liberator-equipped unit at the time.[41b] However, there is no record of 159 Squadron losing aircraft during this period. Brigadier Toshio Mizuki, who commanded Chutai 2 at the time [during Ushijima's absence?], recalled that for about five months from 09 March to 05 August 1943, Chutai 2 did not shoot down a single aircraft.[41c]

Burma Theatre in April 1943 showing Allied bases and Allied targets in Burma[42]

Burma theatre

Allied air units with activities over Burma in 1943[43]

 RAF  159 Squadron  RAF Salbani  N22°36.74 E87°17.88
 USAAF  10th Air Force Bombardment Squadrons
   7th Bomb Group [Heavy (B-24s)]
   9th  Pandaveswar  N23°38.50 E87°20.60
   436th  Bishnupur  N22°59.36 E87°17.98
   492nd  Bishnupur  N22°59.36 E87°17.98
   493rd  Pandaveswar  N23°38.50 E87°20.60
   341st Bomb Group [Medium (B-25s)]
   22nd  Chakulia  N22°27.90 E86°42.28
   490th  Aandal  N23°37.27 E87°14.60
   491st  Chakulia  N22°27.90 E86°42.28


Extract from USAAF CHRONO showing Allied targets in Burma Theatre during the period April 01 to 15 1943 (with emphasis mine).[44]

     THURSDAY, 1 APRIL 1943

CBI - INDIA-BURMA THEATER (10AF): CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 16 B-25s bomb the Maymyo railroad sheds. Eight others hit the railroad yards at Ywatsung [in Mandalay area].

CBI - THEATER OF OPERATIONS - CHINA (14AF): In China, a Japanese force of 9 fighters is intercepted in the Lingling area by P-40s. We claim 7 fighters shot down; we lose [one] P-40.

     FRIDAY, 2 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 8 B-25s hit the Thazi railroad junction [near Meiktila].

A detachment of the 25FS, 51FG with P-40s which has been operating from Sadiya, India since Nov 42 transfers to Jorhat, India.

     SATURDAY, 3 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 17 B-25s, operating in 2 forces, bomb the Myitnge bridge [in Mandalay area], scoring hits on both approaches.

     SUNDAY, 4 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 8 B-25s hit the Maymyo engine sheds. Nine others bomb the Pyawbwe railroad yards. Seven B-24s heavily damage the Thilawa oil refinery.

     MONDAY, 5 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 17 B-25s bomb railroad targets at Mandalay; 2 others hit Ngamya [in Mandalay area]. Three B-24s bomb the Prome railroad yards; 5 hit the Mahlwagon yards and roundhouse [in Rangoon area]. 12 P-40s and a B-25 support ground forces in N Burma.

CBI - THEATER OF OPERATIONS - CHINA (14AF): In Burma, P-40s on armored reconnaissance strafe 15 horse-drawn wagons at Wanling.

     TUESDAY, 6 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 6 B-24s attack Pazundaung bridge, damaging the S approach.

     WEDNESDAY, 7 APRIL 1943

CBI - INDIA-BURMA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 2 B-25s temporarily knock out a bridge on the Ye-u railroad branch, crossing the Mu River between Ywataung and Monywa. Eighteen B-25s, in 2 forces, bomb the Ywataung Marshalling Yard [in Mandalay area]. P-40s support ground forces N of Shingbwiyang. Six B-24s bomb Japanese HQ at Toungoo.

     THURSDAY, 8 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 9 B-25s bomb Meiktila Airfield; 6 B-24s attack the airfield at Heho; and Ft Bayard Airfield is strafed by 9 P-40s. Enemy stores at Ningam are hit by 4 P-40s and a B-25.

     MONDAY, 12 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 9 B-25s hit the airfield at Magwe. P-40s bomb and strafe the ammunition and supply dump at Walawbum.

CBI - THEATER OF OPERATIONS - CHINA (14AF): In Burma, P-40s strafe more than 20 vehicles 25 mi (40 km) E of Loiwing.

     TUESDAY, 13 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 9 B-25s bomb the Myitnge bridge without inflicting further damage to the structure. Nine others hit Monywa Airfield. Six P-40s knock out a bridge at Shaduzup.

     WEDNESDAY, 14 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, P-40s dropping 1,000 pound (454 kg) bombs, hit airfields at Myitkyina and Manywet, rendering the runways at both unusable.

CBI - THEATER OF OPERATIONS - CHINA (14AF): In China, P-40s strafe pack horses S of Tengchung, barracks and warehouses in Lungling, and cattle and trucks N of Lungling.

     THURSDAY, 15 APRIL 1943

CBI - BURMA-INDIA THEATER (10AF): In Burma, 10 B-25s bomb the Mandalay Marshaling Yard; 9 more bomb the marshaling yard at Ywataung [in Mandalay area]. Eight B-24s hit the Thilawa oil refinery while 7 others hit Prome.

Contemporary map of area around Mae La Luang: excerpted from map titled "Estimated Operational Capabilities of Japanese Airfields Nov 1943", attachment to Airfield Report No 16 (Chief Intelligence Officer, HQ Southeast Asia Air Command, Nov 1943) (map: USAF Archive Reel A8055 p 0235).


Royal Thai Air Force Records

No information has been found relating to the event at Ban Mae La Luang. This is possible because it did not involve RTAF personnel or aircraft. On the other hand, Mae Hong Son personnel did visit the site and provide translations between Thais and Japanese (via the intermediary of the English language), so it would be reasonable to assume that provincial officials had notified the RTAF.


Revision List
2022 Sep 20
Published on Internet
2022 Oct 10
Major revisions; refs added




References are provided in this column for the convenience of the reader. Please advise author of any errors.

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These pages were composed to be viewed best with Google Chrome.

This webpage is longer than most in this series on WW2 aircraft losses because references are not readily available to the general reader and are therefore presented in total.

1.^ This date is one day later than specified by Umemoto. The reason for the difference is explained in discussion later on this page.

(梅本弘 [Umemoto, Hiroshi], ビルマ航空戦・上 [Burma Air Warfare] 第1巻 [Volume 1] (Tokyo: Dai Nippon, 2002)], p 490, entry 8)

2.^ Ban Mae La Luang: N18°31.6 E97°56.0

Map: Extract from Google Maps, annotated by author using Microsoft Publisher.

3.^ (deleted)

4.^ (deleted)

5.^ (deleted)

6.^  Extract from Google Maps, annotated by author using Microsoft Publisher.






6a.^ Taken from map titled "Estimated Operational Capabilities of Japanese Airfields Nov 1943", attachment to Airfield Report No 16 (Chief Intelligence Officer, HQ Southeast Asia Air Command, Nov 1943) (map: USAF Archive Reel A8055 p 0235). See excerpt in Appendices.

6β.^ See extract from USAAF CHRONO below.

6b.^ Named as Mesarieng (Hminelongyi). A Survey of Thailand (Siam) (Washington: War Department, 15 Mar 1941), p 28, and Appendix, p 89 (USAF Archive Reel B-1750, pp 1748 & 1811, respectively).

Boonserm Satrabhaya, in his Chiang Mai and the Air War
remarked on the significance of the airstrip, as translated (emphasis mine):

When the road from Chiang Mai to Hot, Mae Sariang, and Mae Hong Son was improved, people traveled primarily by bus and Mae Sariang Airport was no longer necessary.

The road improved was future Thai Route 108 between Hot and Mae Hong Son, but the improvement occurred only long after the war was over.

Boonserm Satrabhaya, Chiang Mai and the Air War (Bangkok: Winyuchon, 2003)
(บุญเสิม สาตราภัย, 
(กรุงเทพฯ: วิญฌูชน
, 2003),
p 132).

6c.^ "Mesariang (Hmainlongyi; Hminelongyi) Emergency Landing Ground", dated 31 Dec 1944 (USAF Archive Reel A1285 p 1243).


6d.^ See first Appendices for brief summary of Cherdchay's activities.






7.^ Umemoto, ibid.












8.^ Christopher Shores, Air War for Burma (London: Grubb Street, 2005).

8a.^ ibid, p 425.

9.^ See list below extracted from Umemoto, ibid, at Sentai 21 casualties.




10.^ As noted, Umemoto, ibid, vol 1, p 490, entry 8.











11.^ Umemoto, ibid, vol 1, p 317; copy of pages from book included in Umemoto's narrative below.






12.^ Shores, ibid, p 408.









13.^  Shinpachi is an established contributor to the Forum; his comment starts, My first impression.

13a.^ Author's response, starting, Okay, I appreciate.

14.^ 二式複座戦闘機・屠龍 (キー45改) [Type 2 double-seat fighter, dragon slayer (Ki 45)]




14α.^ Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu.











14a.^ The Official Chronology of the U.S. Army Airforce in World War II. and see summary of Allied events in Appendix, Burma Theatre in April 1943 showing Allied bases and targets in Burma.











15.^ See first of Appendices for brief summary of Cherdchay's activities.

16.^ From: Cherdchay, Pol Lt Col Chomtawat, IJA soldiers traveling thru Khun Yuam (15 interviews) [not formally published]; พันตำรวจโท  เชิดชาย ชมธวัช, บ้อมูลเส้นทาง  เดินทัพทหารญี่ปุ่น  ในอำเภอขุนยวม   สงครามมหาเอเชียบูรพา (สงครามโลกครั้งที2), [unpaginated]. Document held in library of Chiang Mai National Museum.

Thai translated by Chanagun Chitmanat, Maejo University, 03 Jun 2012. Copies of original pages in document are included in the Appendices. A translation of a broader scenario based on several more interviews, again not published, but presented originally in Japanese on the Internet, immediately follows this interview.

16a.^ One of two different time periods stated by witnesses; this being "March" without year and the other being "June-July" in 1943.

16b.^ The detail appears in both interviews. Asked about the plausibility of such a maneuver, Shinpachi, the correspondent in the Forum, responded that it was possible "because pilots tried to help / rescue friends even at the risk of their own lives." (Old Thailand Aircrash #53). The same technique was reported by witnesses to Sgt Ono's crash landing in Omkoi on 25 Dec 1941. The feats are more plausible when one considers the pilots involved in both events were veterans well seasoned from other battle theatres.

17.^ Location not found. On 1992 RTSD map 4546II BAN MAE LA LUANG, the watercourse through Ban Mae La Luang is called "Nam Mae La Luang" while on current Google Earth / Maps, it is titled "Mae Tho". The source for the location of the aircraft's resting place, Mr. Gon Sutinna (discussed later), placed it along the river, Nam Mae La Luang / Mae Tho.

18.^ Both interviews note the use of English; and one version mentions a note dropped from a Ki-45 to the crew on the ground as being in English.

19.^ Note that there are two locations designated "Wat Si La Pha" on Google Earth. One with structures visible is at N18°31.97 E97°56.02. The other, with no ground features to be seen in the satellite view is about 600m north at N18°32.30 E97°55.95. The first has an identifying sign on the ground; at the time of our visit, we weren't aware of the second site, so we didn't check it.

20.^ This parenthetical note is in the original. We did not query the name.

20a.^ Translated from the original メーラルアン村に不時着した日本軍機, Japanese military aircraft crash landed in Mailaluan village, page 1, page 2.

20b.^ Per Google Translate; smoothed by author.

21.^ Not located.

22.^ To repeat, the other interview dates the crash as in March, with no year given.

23.^ Presumably their concern lay in an enemy, an Allied aircraft, coming from Burma which was under the control of Thailand's ally, Japan.

24.^ Again, both interviews describe this detail.

This sketch appears on the Japanese language webpage.

25.^ Not identified/located.

25a.^ Wat Si La Pha: N18°31.97 E97°56.02.


26.^ As noted above, this detail is common to both interviews.






27.^ This photo appears in the Japanese language webpage.

The webpage does not otherwise mention the aircraft identity. As noted below, this photo provided a shortcut for searching Umemoto's list of air events in the Burma Theatre.

































27a.^ Shores, ibid, p 425.



27b.^  Shores, ibid, p 82




28.^ Photo:
taken at Gon Sutinna's house; he was interviewed by Wiyada Kantarod and author on 12 Jul 2022 on the bluff overlooking the estimated former location of the aircraft.


29.^ (deleted)












30.^ As discussed in Note 9, the name of the river has apparently evolved from Nam Mae la Luang to Nam Pho.


31.^ Dioptra view 6122022135829.jpg, taken 12 Jul 2022, and annotated by author using Microsoft Publisher.











32.^ Note that here How to Estimate Distance Using Just Your Thumb could not be used: there were no standard objects in view with which to calibrate. So, note to file: a rangefinder might be a good addition to a field kit.

33.^ Map extracted from Google Earth Pro and annotated per eye witness information by the author using Microsoft Publisher.





















34.^ Eye witness:
Pol Sublt Boongird Kome-yod
116 Moo 7,
Tambon Mae La Luang
Amphoe Mae La Noi,
Mae Hong Son Province

รตต บุญเกิด คำยอด
116 หมู่ 7 ตำบลแม่ลาหลวง อำเภอแม่ลาน้อย

35.^ Ban Mae La Luang Police Station: N18°31.93 E97°55.98

36.^ Thai-Japanese Friendship Memorial Hall in Khun Yuam: N18°49.84 E97°55.97









36a.^ Shinpachi questioned the size of the "gong" as not having been large enough for a firewall (




36b.^ Recovery of the "gong" might assist in identifying the type of aircraft that crash landed at Mae La Luang.















37.^ Photo source: frame from untitled video from Japanese TV dated 11 Dec 2007

Sources for background on Cherdchay Chamtawat:

1. Khun Yuam booklet (Thai version) per Jack Eisner email of 2258 02 Sep 2008 with translation by class project (ทหารญี่ปุ่น ไนความทรงจ่าบอง ชาวบุนยวม ในสมัย สงครามโลกครั้งที่2 โดย พันตำรวจโท เชิดชาย ชมธวัช Khun Yuam Memories of Japanese Soldiers in WW2 by Cherdchay Chomtawat )

2. Discussions between Cherdchay and author.


38.^ From: Pol Lt Col Cherdchay Chomtawat, IJA soldiers traveling thru Khun Yuam (15 interviews) [not formally published]; ibid.















































39.^ Japanese military aircraft that crash landed in the village of Mae La Luang, メーラルアン村に不時着した日本軍機1 and メーラルアン村に不時着した日本軍機2.


40.^ Umemoto, ibid, each casualty as referenced.

12 Apr 1943: 317-318
25 Nov 1943: U1.406-411
27 Nov 1943: U1.414-421
15 Jan 1944: U2.75






























41.^ Umemoto, ibid, Vol 1, p 317.































































41a.^ Per Google Translate; smoothed by author.

41b.^ 159 Squadron was the only RAF unit flying B-24s at that time; however, the USAAF 10th Air Force was also equipped with B-24s: squadrons included 9th, 436th, 492nd, and 493. As noted elsewhere, the USAAF Chronology lists no B-24 action on 12 or 13 Apr 1943. See Extract from USAAF Chrono.

41c.^ This was confirmed by a review of Umemoto's listings for the period.





42.^  Map extracted from Google Maps; annotated by author using Microsoft Publisher.

Small red 'burst' symbols on map represent areas hit by Allied bombers in central Burma in the first half of April 1943. A chronology of USAAF attacks for that period is included as an appendix for information.

The larger red symbol is as labeled, Mae La Luang, where Ushijima crash landed.






43.^ 159 Squadron is designated by Umemoto.

USAAF assignments are from Shores, ibid, pp 387, 389.

Coordinates sources:
Salbani Air Field
Pandaveswar Airfield
Bishnupur (Piardoba Airfield)
Chakulia Airport
Andal Aerotropolis




44.^ The Official Chronology of the U.S. Army Airforce in World War II.
































General notes.

Sentai 21 Chutai 2 =

Daniel Ford describes a sentai as divided into three companies, or chutai (An Introduction to the Japanese Army Air Force). So Lt Ushijima was commander of Sentai 21 Chutai 2.

Language cross-references:

Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai Type 2 double-seat fighter "Kiryu" =
  川崎 キ45改
    二式複座戦闘機 「屠龍」

Ki-45 = キ45改丙

Type 2 double-seat fighter =

Type 2 double battle =

 Type 2 twin battle =

Kiryu (Toryu) Dragonslayer =