Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

Netaji Inquiry Committee: Dissentient Report of Suresh Chandra Bose (1956)

At Tourane

According to the statements of the witnesses, who travelled in that plane, it landed at Tourane between 5 and 7 p.m. and the take off from Saigon and the landing at Tourane were quite normal and the flight enroute was quite smooth.

Col. Rahman stated that after reaching the aerodrome at Tourane, Netaji's and his baggage were placed in a car and in the company of some Japanese Officers, they came to a hotel, where they spent the night and that about sunrise of the next day, they were taken in a Japanese car to the aerodrome, where he found all the passengers waiting for them there. The statements made by Capt. Arai are that all the persons on board the plane put up in the largest hotel there and all of them had dinner together and at the dinner table, Netaji, General Shidei and he took part in a conversation regarding the future of Asia and Europe and that the next day, they proceeded to the plane at about break of dawn. Major Takahashi deposed that though all of them stayed for the night in the hotel, he did not see Netaji there and had dinner separately and that they left the hotel at about 5.30 A.M. the next day for the aerodrome. Col. Nonogaki stated that all of them stayed in the biggest hotel there and had dinner together and that Netaji and General Shidei talked to each other in German, which, however, does not tally with the statement of Capt. Arai. They left early next morning for the aerodrome and having realised there that the plane was overloaded, they took down from the plane all the surplus things, viz., a machine gun, its ammunition and an anti-aircraft gun, which were still fixed to the plane and they then took off from there, when the sun was rising. The Colonel has introduced a new story here, which has not been stated by the other witnesses. Major Kono has given another different version, viz., that as their plane had to traverse the whole length of the runway, about 2,000 metres long at Saigon aerodrome, before it could take off/ he formed the impression that the plane was overloaded and so he made up his mind to reduce the load • on the plane when they reached the next halt and that after they landed at Tourane, Major Takizawa and he, accordingly, stayed behind at the aerodrome and in the same evening, they took down no less than twelve anti-aircraft machine guns and all the ammunition and also some baggage, which they found on the bomb-rack, and thereby reduced the load on the plane by about 600 kgs. They then attended to the maintenance of the aeroplane and after satisfying themselves that everything was correct, they went to the hotel, which they reached at about 8.30 P.M. Both of them had dinner separately from that of the first party. Next morning, they went to the aerodrome before 5 A.M. and after testing the engines, they took their seats in the plane, which took off at 5 A.M. and as it was much lighter than what it was on the previous day, the take off was perfectly normal. Lt. Col. T. Sakai, who is reported to have sent a written statement from Formosa, narrates another new story, viz., that they reached Tourane Airfield at 5 or 6 P. M. and stayed overnight at the Supply Base Billet there and so could not possibly state anything about staying at the Hotel, which has, however, been stated by all the other witnesses. It is strange that these witnesses have given somewhat different versions, some of which cannot be reconciled in any way.

The seating

From the seats occupied by the passengers and the crew, and from the relative position of the petrol tank inside the plane, the general impression obtained from the evidence on record is that as Netaji was seated near this petrol tank and as petrol had, therefore, splashed on his dress, it caught fire easily. In the sketch drawn by Col. Rahman and which was reproduced clearly by a draughtsman of the Civil Aviation Department, a copy of which is attached herewith, (App. I) and which has been compared with the Colonel's drawing and certified to be correct by the Chairman on 14. 4. 56, it will be seen that Netaji's seat is shown at No. 6, whereas the petrol tank, is shown much lower down. The Pilot is shown at No. 5 in front of Netaji, and to the Pilot's right, at No. 4, is shown General Shidei and behind Netaji, at No. 7 is his (Col. Rahman's) seat and nobody is shown to the right of either Netaji or Col. Rahman. In Capt. Arai's sketch, (App. L), General Shidei and Lt. Col. Sakai are shown to the right of Netaji and Col. Rahman respectively. In Col. Nonogaki's sketch, (App. J), Major Kono is shown in front of Netaji and in front of Major Kono is the Pilot, evidently, N. CO. Ayoagi, because to the right of this Pilot is shown the other Pilot, Major Takizawa, whose name has been written there. To the right of Major Kono is shown General Shidei and to the right and a little below it, is shown the petrol tank. Col. Rahman (Asst) is shown along the centre line of the plane and not exactly behind Netaji. In Major Kono's sketch, (App. K), the position of the two Pilots tallies with that shown in Col. Nonogaki's sketch, but behind the Pilot on the left, viz., N. C. O. Ayoagi, is the Engineer, behind whom, is shown Major Kono and behind whom and a little to the right is shown Col. Rahman, above whom is shown a petrol tank, which is also above and behind Netaji. Another petrol tank is shown to the right and on the front side of Netaji. The position of Lt. Col. Sakai has been shown to be quite different from that shown in Capt. Arai's sketch, (App. L). The actual position shown in the respective sketches drawn by them vary and cannot be reconciled. There are also variations in their sketches regarding the seating arrangement of the other inmates of the plane.

In my humble opinion, there can be no explanation whatsoever for such marked variation in the statements of the different witnesses, each of whom has stated in his own way. This variation should not have arisen, especially, because all of them stated that the same seating arrangement was adhered to by all of them during all the different stages of the flight from Bangkok to Saigon, thence to Tourane and from there to Taihoku and lastly on the flight from Taihoku. The seating arrangement, therefore, given by each of them, should have tallied and should not have been so divergent. In view of all these discrepant and contradictory statements made by these witnesses and the difference in the seating arrangement shown in the sketches drawn by them, I am constrained to state that little reliance could be placed on such evidence. There is, however, only one statement common to all of them and it is that the seating arrangement was the same throughout the different stages of the flight and which, therefore, appears to me to have been a tutored one.

To Taihoku

Now to proceed onward with the journey, the plane, according to Col. Rahman, was ready to take off from Tourane Airport, when Netaji and he arrived there. The crew were already inside the plane. All the others entered the plane and the seating arrangement was the same as before. Netaji wore a bush-shirt, coat, khaki drill trousers, all cotton, a warm serge cap, I. N. A. and I. I. L. badges and shoes. Their luggage was placed in the rear part of the plane and below the turret and not near them, as stated and shown by Col. NONOGAKI in his sketch (App. J). He did not see anybody check-up the plane or take out the certificate for its air-worthiness. This has, however, been contradicted by Major Kono, who was an Air Force Officer and a Pilot and who stated that he along with Major Takizawa and an Engineer, who was also in that plane, tested and tried the engines and after certifying them to be alright, took out the certificate for its air-worthiness. Capt. Nakamura (Yamamoto), witness No. 51, who was the Ground Engineer attached to Taihoku Aerodrome, deposed that Major Takizawa, Pilot Aoki (Aoyagi) and he tested the engines and after all of them were satisfied that the engines were functioning properly, the plane was allowed to take off. He, however, does not mention the name of Major Kono in having taken part in this job. Col. Rahman proceeded with his story and said that the take-off was quite normal and there was no trouble with the engines during the flight to Taihoku, where they touched down in a normal manner at 2 p.m. They were asked to have a light lunch, during which period, the plane would be refuelled. The runway was in flat country with mountains at a distance of 8 to 10 miles off. As he felt cold, he changed into warm uniform, viz., bush-shirt, coat, (full sleeves), breeches and top long boots. Netaji declined to change his dress, but he handed over a warm pull-over to Netaji. They finished their light lunch and after a total stay of half an hour there, they emplaned. The seating order in the plane was the same as before and the plane took off just about 2.35 p.m.

Capt. Arai stated that after finishing an early breakfast in the hotel, they proceeded to Tourane Airport at break of dawn and the plane took off soon after. The seating arrangement was the same as before and as shown in his sketch, (App. L). The take-off was smooth and the landing at Taihoku at about noon, and not at 2 p.m. as stated by Col. Rahman, was also normal. Here he heard Netaji telling Col. Rahman that his intention was to go to Mukden, the capital of Manchuria, which, however, is a new place not named by any other witness, and as it was more distant than Japan, more gasoline was taken in, with the result that the plane became overloaded. The plane took off after about an hour of its arrival there, i.e., at about 1 p.m.

Major Takahashi's deposition is that they reached Tourane aerodrome from the hotel at about 7 a.m. and took off soon after, reaching Taihoku at about 11 a.m. As he was seated right back towards the tail, he could not see the seating arrangement of the others in front, but Lt. Col. T. Sakai was seated in the rear next to him, but which is absolutely different from Capt. Arai's sketch, (App. L), in which Lt. Col. Sakai is shown as seated in front. After finishing their lunch and taking rest in a tent, the plane took off between 12.30 and 1 p.m.

Col. Nonogaki has stated that the take off from Tourane, when the sun was rising, was quite normal and the seating was the same as before. As during the flight, they got information that enemy planes were near Swatan in South China, their plane made a detour and flew further east. Though their next stop was Heito, they did not land there, but flew on and as the weather was favourable, they covered more distance, landing quite normally at Taihoku a little before noon. Here they had their lunch and the plane was refuelled. As the plane was scheduled to carry Gen. Shidei to Manchuria, Netaji also agreed to go with him to Dairen in Manchuria. There was, therefore, no change in the scheduled flight of the plane. They took their seats in the same order as before and the plane started after about two hours' stay there.

Major Kono had deposed that after Tourane, the next stop was to be Heito, but when it was sighted at about 11 a.m., they received information over the Radio that Russian forces had occupied Port Arthur in Manchuria and so after consultation with Gen. Shidei, Col. Nonogaki and Major Takizawa, they decided that they should rush to Dairen as quickly as possible and reach it before the Russians occupied it and so, instead of landing at Heito, they should push on to Taihoku and after a brief halt there, should leave for Dairen. This is quite a different story from that of Col. Nonogaki, who is alleged to have taken part in this decision. According to this witness, the weather was perfect, the flight was smooth and the engines were running very well. They landed at Taihoku at about noon and after filling up the petrol tanks, they decided to leave at about 2 p.m., which, however, is not a short stay, though Col. Rahman stated that they stopped there only for half an hour. They had their lunch in a tent there, where Netaji put on a woollen sweater over his cotton uniform, which consisted of trousers and shoes and not top boots. As there were no chairs in the plane, all of them were seated on the floor. Before 2 p.m., Major Takizawa tested the engines from inside and he tested them from outside. As he noticed that the left engine was not functioning properly, he went inside the plane and after examining the engine from inside, found it to be working alright. An engineer, who was also in the plane and whose name he could not recollect, also tested the engine and certified to its air-worthiness. The plane took off exactly at 2 p.m. and there was no change in the seating order.

In the written statement, alleged to have been sent by Lt. Col. T. Sakai, it is recorded that they reached Taihoku at about noon and left at about 1. p.m., and there was no change in the seating arrangement.

Col. Nonogaki and Major Kono have narrated two stories, different from each other, the former that enemy planes were near Swatan in South China and so they had to make a detour and fly eastward and the latter that, as the Russians had occupied Port Arthur, they should rush to Dairen before the Russians occupied it.

This concludes the evidence on this point of the six persons, who were alleged to have been in that plane.

Another person, who stated about the plane at Taihoku on or about 18-8-45, is Capt. Nakamura (Yamamoto), witness No. 51. He said he was at that time the Ground Engineer and the Airforce Officer in charge of the Maintenance Unit at Taihoku Aerodrome. He stated that a serious accident took place there on 17-8 or 18-8-45, in which Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose, Gen. Shidei and others were involved. He then stated that he was 90% sure that it could not be on 18-8-45, as on that day, about thirty American planes arrived there from the Philippines and many other Japanese planes came and left on that day and he attended to all of them. As this date, viz., 17-8-45, did not fit in with what the Chairman wanted, he started manipulations, which I have mentioned earlier in this report and eventually succeeded in getting from the witness that the American planes did not come on 18-8-45 and succeeded only partially, when the witness said that the air accident took place either on the 17th, 18th or the 19th of August, 1945. Capt. Nakamura continued that when he reached the aerodrome from the city at 11.50 a.m., he found the plane standing in front of the building shown by him at position A of the sketch I, drawn by him, copy attached, (App. N). He then went to the tent shown at B in the same sketch. All the persons then got into the plane, when it was at position A, from where the plane taxied all the distance to position C on the runway. It would appear that the place marked A and the tent shown at B by this Captain as well as the sketch of the runway and its surroundings are absolutely different from the corresponding ones shown by Col. Nonogaki in his sketches, B. (App. O) and C (App. P). The arrowheads in the sketches of both these witnesses show from which place the plane was brought to the runway for the final take off from there and these are also shown as different. The Captain, who was the Ground Engineer attached to the aerodrome there, stated that the runway there was 890 metres long and as the tail of a heavy bomber normally gets lifted half way down it, the logical inference is that the runway is sufficiently long. Major Kono, however, who is also an Airforce Officer as well as a Pilot, stated that though the runway there was 1600 metres long, it was considered to be short. As regard Netaji's dress, the Captain stated that he was wearing top boots and evidently breeches, which has been denied by all the other witnesses, who have distinctly stated trousers and shoes. He has added another new story, viz., that before the plane was allowed to take off, Major Takizawa and Pilot Aoyagi entered the plane and tested it and he stood in front of it. After the engines were started, he found the left engine to be defective and accordingly drew the Major's attention to it, who immediately replied that it was a brand new engine that had been replaced by them at Saigon. This shows that the plane was an old one and that its old engine had been replaced by a new engine. Col. Nonogaki has stated that though it was a 97 K.V. Heavy Bomber, it was being used as a transport plane, as it had become old, and that the newest types of planes were being used as bombers, to which, a direct lie has been given by Gen. Isoda, who has stated definitely that it was a brand-new plane. Capt. Nakamura continued that after Major Takizawa had adjusted the engine twice, both of them agreed that there was nothing wrong with it. The engines were then speeded up and the plane was then allowed to run on the runway. The statements of Major Kono are absolutely different from those of Capt. Nakamura and it is rather strange that though each of them claims to have taken part in the testing of the engines, neither of them states that the other took part in it or admits the other's presence there. The other witnesses, some of whom are Airforce Officers, are absolutely silent on this point. The reasonable inference that would be drawn from such evidence is that the testing of the engines, as alleged, did not take place at all. It is strange that the only point common in the statements of Major Kono and Capt. Nakamura is the left engine and it is to all intents and purposes so, as that engine will be brought into prominence later on.