On the first day of the invasion of Okinawa in April 1945, the 6th Marine Division came across four unusual aircraft at the recently captured Yontan Airfield. These strange aircraft were only twenty feet long with a wingspan of less than seventeen feet. The small single-manned aircraft was powered by three rocket motors, carried a 2,600 lb warhead in the nose and had no landing gear.
What the Marines had found were examples of the Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka (or “Cherry Blossom” in Japanese) 11 manned suicide bomb. These aircraft were designed to be dropped from a Mitsubishi G4M bomber “mother ship” and then, using their great speed to avoid interception, target American naval vessels of the Okinawa invasion force. Ohkas did not see wide usage during the war and often their G4M “mother ships” were shot down well short of their targets. However, Ohkas did damage the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43) and sank the destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) near Okinawa.
An American Air Technical Intelligence Unit examined the Ohka 11, number I-13 on Okinawa, before the aircraft was shipped to the United States for further evaluation and study in Philadelphia by a US Navy Air Material Unit. Its examinations finished, the aircraft traveled the States as part of a mobile exhibit of captured enemy weapons.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps's Okha 11 was captured on Okinawa and was transferred to the Museum from the Naval Supply Depot, Norfolk, Virginia in 1968. Unfortunately, by that time all of the original markings had been removed or had completely faded away. With assistance from the Japanese Embassy and an instrument panel from the National Air and Space Museum (NASM), the aircraft underwent an extensive restoration in the early 1980s. At the time, the Museum's staff elected to mark the aircraft as I-13 based on a number of original period images of that particular aircraft. The aircraft was restored for a second time prior to the opening of the NMMC in 2006 and was again marked as I-13. Ongoing research may yet confirm the actual original ship number of the aircraft!
Author: Eric Marr
Eric is the Assistant Aviation Curator at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.