Taisuke Maruyama, Japanese Torpedo Aviator, Pearl Harbor.
There are 500 limited edition prints in this series. Print Size 12×18″
Limited Edition, Signed by the Aviator. $65.00
All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.
Poster Print $14.95
Poster prints are autographed by the artist only.
The story below is a rough draft. I have finished the final biography where you can find the complete story of Maruyama in my first book covering the first half of the War in the Pacific. As soon as the book is available I will have the information here for you to get your own copy. Thank you. Sir Hamilton.
Taisuke Maruyama was born on November 11, 1922. Maruyama was a normal boy who was fascinated with airplanes. After he finished public school further education was out of his reach so he planned on entering the military. He decided to join the Imperial Japanese Navy to achieve his education advancements. Maruyama joined at age sixteen in 1938 and was assigned to the Yokosuka Naval Air Base. After his basic training was over he applied for flight school. On March 25, 1941 when he was just nineteen years old he completed his flying courses.
Military life in the Japanese Imperial Navy was far more strenuous than any other nation. They worked hard, practiced hard and were lucky if they graduated. Also if your trainer was not impressed with you, you could find yourself punished with a cane poll across your back! In Japan the military was extremely rigorous. Not all are beat; Maruyama never disappointed his commanding officers during training. However there is no doubt that the Japanese Army, Air Force and Navy were some of the best trained services in the war. Maybe a cane across the backs of all recruits would help? It’s just an idea. Maruyama was a torpedo specialist so he was trained in every aspect of the delivery of the new “Long Lance” torpedoes. Maruyama was also trained in navigation and radio operation.
Maruyama’s first assignment was onboard the carrier Hiryu. Maruyama told me that he remembers the strenuous training that was done to prepare him and his comrades for their duties. He also remembered that the War in China was spreading but he was stationed on a carrier manning torpedo-bombers and would never see combat in the Chinese Theatre. Once the Japanese planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, Maruyama and his fellow aviations were sworn to secrecy about the attack that would eventually start a war with America. Training for the attack began.
During training the torpedo-bomber aviators practiced two different tactics to prepare for the attack. First, they practiced low altitude torpedo training over Kinko Bay , which was near the island of Kyushu. Second, the aviators practiced nighttime torpedo training in the Bungo Channel, located between the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku.
The development of special torpedo adaptations and tactics improved the chances for the Japanese success. The harbor at Pearl was shallow. The torpedoes they were presently using would sink deeply into the water before they came back up some before they would level off and start to propel themselves towards their target. If the Japanese had dropped the old type of torpedoes in Pearl Harbor they would have buried themselves into the muddy bottom of the harbor. To counter this problem the Japanese redeveloped the torpedo and added a wooden tail-fin extension.
The torpedo was made just a little longer and the tail fin that guided the missile in the water was reworked. An extension was added that helped reduced the depth the torpedo would sink before it corrected itself. These wooden extensions would come off once dropped in the water and the torpedo motor started. Dropping these new torpedoes was practiced over and over until the proper approach, speed and altitude was perfected. The crews became very confident with their training.
Maruyama did not speak English so I had to work through an interrupter. He did convey to me that when it was time to sail for Pearl Harbor , he as well as everyone else had a knot in their stomachs. However they were also charged with excitement. Maruyama and his squadron had been well trained so no one was unsure of their abilities. The entire Imperial Japanese Fleet was filled with confidence.
The voyage to Hawaii was long. Every sailor on the carriers and support vessels preformed their duties and waited counting the days that passed. Once the fleet was entering the position for the attack everyone on the carrier was up early. Each man prepared himself for battle. It is a glorious ritual that the Japanese pilots performed as they wash themselves, prayed and then dressed for battle. It is hard to explain the rituals of the Japanese Warrior to many people. It is truly spiritual.
Every pilot reported to their ready rooms and listened carefully as an officer at the front explained the conditions for the attack. Behind the speaker was a large map of the American base on the wall. When the intelligence officer finished the squadron commander gave his men a resounding speech. Finally they were ready. Maruyama said that they were filled with supreme confidence.
All aircrews manned their aircraft which were all lined up on the deck of the carrier. The plane handlers had the aircraft engines running and helped the aircrew climb into the cockpits and strapped them in. The deck was filled with dive bombers, bombers and torpedo bombers as well as fighter aircraft. The names of the Japanese airplanes were the Val, Kate and Zero. Those names would become legionary. Some of the Kate’s were carrying torpedoes and some were loaded with armor piercing bombs.
The deck was filled with aircraft with all of their props slowly spinning. The morning sun reflected off the twirling windmills. Deck and airplane crews scrambled to finish readying the aerial warriors for combat. The wind on the deck was multiplied by the aircraft propellers. Those pilots who were wearing their ritual white scarf’s let them blown in the predawn breeze. The signal was given to head the carriers into the wind so the aircraft could lift off better. The deck crew that signaled the aircraft for takeoff took their place on the deck.
The deck crewman preformed his choreographed body motions like a dancer. With a flag held high he brought it down and forward quickly with his disciplined body motions signaling the first aircraft forward. The pilot had been gunning his engine to a roar. The pilot released his brakes and his fighter rolled forward slowly at first gaining speed every foot all the way to the end of the deck. The morning wind caught his fighter and lifted the aircraft up and away like an invisible hand lifted the airplane from the deck into the early morning sky. One by one they all repeated the same ritual until every fighter, dive bomber and torpedo bomber was away. The crew of the carrier lined the flight deck waving their hands and hats at the aviators wishing them well in their endeavors. Remember that the Japanese are a people based on the tradition of honor and pride. The last thing that they wanted was for this moment to arrive. These men did not hate America. However the United Statesgovernment brought this act upon themselves.
How graceful it was to watch each aircraft lift off the deck into the early morning sky. Soon the sun would break the horizon. The aircraft that took off were followed by the eyes and the hearts of the crews on deck. The very first sun rays was rising in the East and moving towards the Japanese fleet as they raced east to meet the Rising Sun.
All four carriers launched their aircraft like bees emerging from their hive. It was now Maruyama and his crews turn. Their Kate rolled from a dead stop faster and faster until the deck disappeared from under them. With the morning breeze flowing over the carrier deck their aircraft rose. Once free of the carrier Maruyama retracted the landing gear.
The Japanese aircraft rose to their prescribed altitude and witnessed the sun first. Like their flag the rays were strong and bold with a crimson red center. The image was a good omen for them. It was holy in the eyes of the aviators as they headed towards the sun and their target. Somewhere during the development of every race we all worshiped the sun as our first deity. Though the Japanese do not worship the sun, they like us all started in the same place spiritually, just different corners of the planet.
It took an hour for all the aircraft to get airborne and grouped together. Once they reached their altitude they settled in for the long flight. Some listened to the American radio station that was playing Jazz music. The Japanese loved our Jazz bands. Maps were checked and radio silence was observed. The Islands slowly came closer and the air groups turned to positioned themselves for the attack. Each flight flew over the beautiful waved washed beaches of the Hawaiian Island . The coast line passed under them to be replaced by the lush green mountains of the land. The sight Maruyama said was beautiful. The Val dive bombers stayed at high altitude along with the Kate’s that were loaded with bombs. The torpedo bombers slowly lost altitude for their attack. Zeros followed both groups.
Maruyama said that flying in between the foliage covered mountains helped hide them from being seen. Of course, no one was looking for them. Maruyama and his group were not the first to attack. By the time their flight was leveling out close to the harbor waters there was already a lot of destruction done. Billowing black and gray smoke was rising from the anchored fleet and airfields. What a sight is must have been when Maruyama and the other Kate’s flew just above the water. They passed by the American submarine base. Sailors who were playing an early few innings of soft ball stopped and watched the airplanes glide past them. The sailors could see the targets the enemy aircraft where heading for as the torpedo bombers spread out to select their targets on battleship row.
Maruyama said that it was just like training, a perfect flight in, correct height off the water, airspeed correct. The crewman who sat behind Maruyama was looking over the pilots shoulder with his hand on the handle that would release their missile. When they were within range of their battleship target with a tug the crewman pulled the lever to release their Long Lance. The Kate lifted from the loss of weight. As the aircraft rose the pilot pulled back on the control stick gently increasing his height flying over the deck of the battleship USS Oklahoma.
Maruyama looked down on the deck as sailors were running around like ants. He then turned and looked over the shoulder of the rear gunner and watched the torpedo streak towards the side of the doomed battleship. The Oklahoma had several torpedo speeding towards the domed battlewagon. When their missile hit the Oklahoma it sent up a geyser of white water higher than the ship. The Oklahoma subsequently capsized.
I can not repeat the entire attack as we all have seen it a hundred times on the many documentaries that have been produced. Maruyama said that it was a celebration on the ship after the attack. Their spirits were high and the trip back to Japan wasn’t fast enough.
To read more about Maruyama please consider one of our prints or one of our upcoming books. Thank you.
Aviator in his flight suit.
Kate in flight
Maruyama stands next to the Oklahoma Memorial. I though it appropriate for him to be photographed next to the memorial of the battleship he sank. Maruyama put the third of three torpedoes into the battleship sealing its fate.