HIJI, Oita Prefecture--A replica of a human-piloted suicide torpedo was unveiled here as part of plans by the Hiji municipal government to construct a memorial park at the former site of the World War II torpedo training base.
"I hope that children will come to see the replica so they do not forget the horrors of war and hold feelings for peace," Hiji Mayor Yoshimi Kudo said at the ceremony on April 3 to unveil the life-size replica of the "kaiten" torpedo.
The full-scale model was installed in the Oga district of Hiji. The town government has budgeted about 35 million yen ($340,000) in the current fiscal year for the construction of the memorial park.
During the final year of the war, there were three bases in Yamaguchi Prefecture for the training of kaiten torpedo pilots. In April 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, the Oga base was opened in Hiji, as Japan turned to desperate measures such as kamikaze aircraft and the kaiten to stem the tide of war.
The Oga base comprised about 25 hectares and had about 2,000 military personnel stationed there.
Sixteen kaiten torpedoes were used for training in Beppu Bay, but the war ended before one could be deployed in battle.
The kaiten was a one-man torpedo measuring 14.75 meters in length and one meter in diameter.
Explosives were packed into the nose of the torpedo, which was designed to be rammed by the sole passenger into enemy ships on suicide missions.
The full-scale model is made of copper and weighs about four tons.
Because there are no existing blueprints of the kaiten, one of the most difficult tasks of creating the replica was forming the nose portion.
The cost of about 6.3 million yen to create the reproduction was almost completely covered through donations from individuals and companies. The replica was produced by Matsumoto Shouten Co., a metal processing company based in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, which conducted intensive studies on the kaiten.
The Oga site still contains a storage bunker as well as a facility to produce compressed oxygen used as fuel.
The Kaitenjinja shrine, which was previously on the base premises, was moved close to the site of nearby Sumiyoshijinja shrine. An engine component from a kaiten, which became entangled in fishing nets off Oita Airport, is enshrined at the Kaitenjinja shrine.
The Hiji municipal government plans to construct the memorial park on a site measuring about 1,700 square meters. The site formerly contained a pool to check for leaks in the kaiten. After the municipal government purchases the land, it plans to construct a parking lot, rest area and toilet facilities.
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