|Born||15 Jun 1916|
|Died||20 May 1955|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Tetsuzo Iwamoto was born in Karafuto Prefecture, Japan (now southern Sakhalin Island). He grew up in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan after his father was appointed the chief of police of that city. In 1929, his father retired, and the whole family moved to his father's home town, Masuda, Shimane Prefecture, Japan, where he studied at the Masuda Agricultural and Forestry High School. In 1934, upon graduating high school, he was sent to a large city to take the college entrance exams, but instead he applied for and passed the exam for the air arm of the Japanese navy. In 1936, he served aboard carrier Ryujo with the rating of mechanic 2nd class. He began flight training on 28 Apr 1936. On 1 Nov 1936, he was promoted to the rating of mechanic 1st class. On 26 Dec, he graduated from the program and was promoted to airman 1st class. He was assigned to the Saeki Air Group for six months of advanced training, and then was transferred to the Omura Naval Air Group on 16 Jul 1937.
On 10 Feb 1938, Iwamoto was transferred to the front lines as he flew from Omura Airfield near Nagasaki, Japan to Nanjing, China, thus beginning his career in WW2. With the 13th Flying Group's fighter squadron in China, his first combat mission took place on 25 Feb over Nanchang, China as he escorted Type 96 attack aircraft. The flight was attacked by 16 Chinese fighters. During the dogfight, Iwamoto claimed 3 confirmed and 1 probable kills, but was scolded after he returned for his overly-aggressive actions. On 22 Mar 1938, the 13th Flying Group's fighter squadron was merged with the 12th Fighter Squadron. On 29 Apr 1938, he fought Chinese Air Force fighters and scored several victories, and was later awarded a citation by Commander Tsukahara. He was ordered back to Japan in Sep 1938; at this point, he had 14 kills on his records and was one of the aces among Japanese airmen in China.
Back in Japan, Iwamoto served as a member of the Saiki Air Group as a trainer. In 1940, he was awarded the Order of the Golden Kite 5th Class. During the Pacific War, he was initially a pilot with the carrier Zuikaku from Dec 1941 to May 1942, during which time he participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea. In late 1943, he was sent to Rabaul, New Britain. In 1944, he was successively transferred to Truk Atoll in the Caroline Islands and then the Philippine Islands. In Oct 1944, he was promoted to the rank of ensign. During the Okinawa Campaign, he participated in Operation Kikusui. His own diary claimed that he had downed 202 aircraft during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War while sharing credit with others for another 26 kills; this translated to somewhere between 80 and 90 kills based on the scoring system used by American airmen during WW2.
After the war, Iwamoto was summoned for several interviews and interrogations by the Allied administration. Although he was eventually cleared and thus not declared a war criminal, he was still unable to get a job due to potential employers wishing to please the occupation administration. In 1952, the Allied occupation gave control of Japan back to the Japanese people, and he was finally able to get a job at a local spinning mill. In the summer of 1953, he underwent a series of surgeries for enteritis (mis-diagnosed) and appendicitis (actual cause of stomach pains). Shortly after, he complained of back pains and received another surgery. He passed away in his home town of Masuda after getting septicemia after the final surgery. According to his wife, his last words were "[w]hen I get well, I want to fly again".
Tetsuzo Iwamoto Timeline
|15 Jun 1916||Tetsuzo Iwamoto was born in Karafuto, Japan.|
|28 Apr 1936||Tetsuzo Iwamoto began receiving flight training by the Japanese Navy.|
|1 Nov 1936||Tetsuzo Iwamoto promoted to the rating of mechanic 1st class.|
|26 Dec 1936||Tetsuzo Iwamoto graduated from flight training and was promoted to the rating of airman 1st class.|
|10 Feb 1938||Tetsuzo Iwamoto was transferred to Nanjing, China.|
|25 Feb 1938||Over Nanchang, China, Tetsuzo Iwamoto saw combat for the first time, claiming 3 confirmed and 1 probable kills.|
|29 Apr 1938||Tetsuzo Iwamoto shot down several Chinese fighters in combat.|
|20 May 1955||Tetsuzo Iwamoto passed away in Shimane, Japan from complications after surgery for appendicitis.|
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