Japanese Ace, Kunio Iwashita Size;12×18″
There are 600 limited edition prints in this series.
Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and by the Ace. $75.00
All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.
Poster prints are autographed by the artist only.
Iwashita was born on the Island of Japan on March 1, 1921. After finishing his schooling he wanted to join the prestigious Naval Academy where he would further his education and if his dream came true, then he will also become a fighter pilot for his country. He joined the Naval Academy in 1938. After finishing all courses and receiving his wings he graduated in 1941. The men who went to the academy were Japan’s elite. They underwent difficult training which included intense physical exercises along with class work such as foreign language study and physics. After successfully graduating as an aviator, Iwashita received a ceremonial silver watch from the Emperor, which was a great honor.
As Iwashita was graduating a World War had started. Iwashita had a brother who had entered the Academy several years before him. His brother had already received his wings and was already being sent to the first great sea battles. The American Fleet had begun hit and run attacks on the Japanese assets. The American Fleet which was only made up of four carriers at any one time had split into two groups that sought out the Japanese Fleet and the enemy’s new bases on the many Islands through out the Pacific. Unfortunately Iwashita’s brother, who was a pilot on the carrier Zuikaku, was killed in 1942 during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Today, he still mourns the loss of his respected older brother.
In March 1943, he was assigned as a flight instructor. Iwashita taught several classes of students during his flight instructing duties. Later in November of that same year he was sent to the war front and became Division Leader of the 301st Air Group. Based on Iwo Jima Island, this Air Group fought the massive American aerial armadas. At this time of the war the American Fleet had increased to over twenty of all sizes. When the American Fleet launched its airplanes the numbers were in the hundreds. The Japanese who were terribly out numbered suffered heavy casualties. It was during this time when he experienced his first combat melee with an F6F Hellcat. Iwashita had many hundreds of hours in the cockpit and flew into combat unafraid. He flew into the swarm of American navy blue fighter’s of Hellcats and Corsairs. Iwashita was able to lock onto the rear of one of the many Hellcats’. To this day, Iwashita vividly remembers the young American pilot with his white muffler going down in flames. He also recalls the help of veteran Zero pilot Iyozoh Fujita, who always protected him during these brutal air battles. An American fighter was creeping up on Iwashita when Fujita came to the rescue downing the American fighter.
In July 1944, Iwashita transferred from the 301st Air Group and became the Squadron Commander of the 701st Air Group. After a short stint with the 701st, in November 1944 he transferred to the 401st Air Group, which was based at Clark Airbase in the Philippines. Iwashita and his men flew the New Shiden fighter. The allied code name for this new fighter was the “George.”
The George was a great fighter airplane. It was fast and still nimble considering that protection for the pilot and the fuel tanks had been forced onto the Japanese aircraft manufacturing. It cost too much and took too long to train a new pilot so they needed to ensure their pilots lived through their aerial encounters even if they fail. The George also had a good punch with several cannon in each wing. Even though the Hellcat and Corsair were well made airplanes with 20mm cannon in the right places will find the flaws in any aircraft. Unfortunately a lack of spare parts caused frequent mechanical failures for the George fighters. During the defense of the Philippine Islands Iwashita and his men encountered a number of different American fighters and bombers including the P-38, P-40, B-24, B-25 the Corsair and the F6F Hellcat.
The Americans pounded Clark Airbase with large-scale attacks and eventually captured the Island facilities back from the Japanese. According to Iwashita, many of his men escaped to the mountains west of the airbase after the American invasion. They could not fly so they fled to fly and fight another day. Sadly the majority of his squadron members died due to illness and hunger. At the last moment Iwashita was one of the lucky aviators to escape via a transport plane.
Iwashita’s next assignment was with the elite Yokosuka Air Group who were flying home defense missions against marauding American carrier fighters and the legendary B-29 Superfortress. When the Battle of Okinawa broke out, he and a group of pilots were sent to southern Kyushu. Their job was to protect the special Kamikaze attack aircraft on their flights to Okinawa.
To read more about Iwashita please consider one of our prints or one of our upcoming books. Thank you.
A picture of a very confident warrior.
A more relaxed looking Iwashita at one of the many airfields he flew from.
Iwashita signs the prints.