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Early SDF History 

On July 1, 2024, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces will commemorate their 70th anniversary. The plan is for this section of the website to place some emphasis on the formative years from the early 1950s, charting the services’ beginnings from the nascent predecessor organizations and leading up to the arrival of the first mainstay aircraft types.

To be added to in the coming months, the chronology shown below provides snapshots from the immediate postwar period. As J-HangarSpace is committed to being more than just about the aircraft, it is hoped that the full version of this section will include some contemporary eyewitness accounts.


There are some variations in the English terms used to describe the organizations that preceded the JGSDF and JMSDF. For the purposes of this chronology, the following generally accepted translations are used:

警察予備隊 Keisatsu Yobitai National Police Reserve (NPR)
(in existence from Aug. 10, 1950 to July 31, 1952)
保安隊 Hōantai National Security Force (NSF)
(from Aug. 1, 1952 to June 30, 1954) 
海上警備隊 Kaijōkeibitai  Maritime Guard
(from Apr. 26, 1952 to July 31, 1952) 
警備隊  Keibitai  Coastal Security Force (CSF)
(from Aug. 1, 1952 to June 30, 1954) 
保安庁  Hōanchō  National Safety Agency (NSA)
(from Aug. 1, 1952 to June 30, 1954) 

Avengers at Tateyama 1954

(Above and below) In 1955, the supply of U.S. aircraft to the three SDF services was in full swing.
These photos were taken at Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, on February 12 that year, when a
ceremony was held to mark the official handover of 10 Grumman TBM-3W2 Avengers
and 12 North American SNJs to the nascent JMSDF. The event was covered by
Sekai no Kōkūki (The World’s Aircraft), a monthly magazine that had been 
launched in 1951 but sadly was to cease publication in 1957.
(Photos from April 1955 issue of The World’s Aircraft used with permission of
Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)

SNJs Tateyama 1954

JGSDF L-5 OitaA rare photo of  a JGSDF Stinson L-5 Sentinel. Assigned to the 4th District Air Unit at Ozuki,
Yamaguchi Prefecture, this example was noted at Oita airfield, Oita Prefecture, on November 1,
1955, in the days when security was clearly not a high priority. The JGSDF inherited a
motley collection of around 35 L-5s in four variants from the National Security Force,
but all had been retired by 1958.
(Photo: Takao Kadokami)


Aug. 15  Emperor’s surrender broadcast marks end of Pacific War
Aug. 30   Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP)
 Gen. Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) lands at Atsugi air
 base, Kanagawa Prefecture
 First British Commonwealth party to go ashore in Japan receives
 keys to Yokosuka ahead of naval base’s official surrender
 (See photos below).
 Contemporary newsreel footage can be found here [link]
Sept. 2  Surrender document signed aboard U.S.S. Missouri anchored in
 Tokyo Bay, followed by mass flypast of 462 B-29 bombers
   Known in Japan as General Headquarters (GHQ), SCAP offices
 established (moved to Tokyo Sept. 8)
   GHQ General Order No. 1 grounds all Japanese aircraft and
 bans all aviation-
related activities
MacArthur arrives at AtsugiHis trademark pipe wedged in the corner of his mouth, Gen. Douglas MacArthur is joined by other high-
ranking officers for a photo call immediately after arriving at Atsugi air base on August 30, 1945.
 (Photo: Army Signal Corps Collection, U.S. National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)

Buchanan and TannoYokosuka Naval Base on Tokyo Bay, August 30, 1945. Royal Australian Navy Captain H. J. Buchanan
receives a set of keys from Commander Yuzo Tanno, who had been in charge of the base stores.
Commanding the British Pacific Fleet’s Seventh Destroyer Flotilla from HMAS
Buchanan had led the first British Commonwealth party to go ashore in Japan. This
low-key but poignant event took place shortly before the arrival, on board the cruiser
San Diego, of the U.S. Navy officers tasked with receiving the official surrender.
(Photo: Australian War Memorial via Wikimedia Commons)
Written by Australian war correspondent John Pacini, an eyewitness account of the events of
that day can be found here [link].

Michitaro TotsukaVice Admiral Michitaro Totsuka (1890–1966) stands on the pier next to the USS San Diego soon after
surrendering to a delegation led by U.S. Navy Third Fleet Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Robert B. Carney
(1895–1990). In a military career spanning 35 years, Totsuka had been involved in naval aviation since
1936 and had served as IJNAF commander-in-chief from September 1944 until taking over as the
Yokosuka Naval Base’s last commander in May 1945.
(Photo: U.S. Navy/U.S. National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)

Aboard USS Missouri 020945The Japanese delegation attends the surrender ceremonies held on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay,
September 2, 1945. Second from the left in the second row is Katsuo Okazaki, who was to become foreign
minister in 1952 and a signatory of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement in March 1954.

(Photo: U.S. Naval Historical Center via Wikimedia Commons)

G4M and J1Ns

Two scenes typical of the sights that awaited the Allied occupying forces at military airfields throughout
Japan immediately after the end of the war.
(Above) Mitsubishi G4M (Betty) bombers (background) and Nakajima J1N (Irving) night fighters
awaiting their fate at the Yokosuka Naval Air Arsenal’s Oppama airfield, Kanagawa Prefecture.
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons).
(Below) Rows of Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Frank, front row) and Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar) fighters
parked at an unidentified airfield.
(Photo: USAAF via Wikimedia Commons)  

Ki-43s and Ki-84s


Jan. 27  GHQ suspends Japanese administrative rights over Ogasawara (Bonin)
 and Ryukyu (Okinawa) islands
 (Reverted to Japanese control in June 1968 and May 1972, respectively)

 Apr. 10   First postwar general election held against backdrop of acute food
 shortages and social unrest

  May 22   Shigeru Yoshida (1878–1967) appointed first postwar prime minister


May 3  Constitution of Japan comes into effect
 (following Nov. 3, 1946 announcement)

  Dec. 17  Law governing establishment of police forces promulgated


Apr. 27  Maritime Safety Agency Law promulgated
May 1   Kaijōhōanchō (Maritime Safety Agency, MSA) formed




June 25  Outbreak of Korean War (ends July 27, 1953)
 July 8  SCAP Gen. MacArthur issues directive authorizing establishment of
 National Police Reserve (NPR) and expansion of MSA

 Aug. 10  Paramilitary Keisatsu Yobitai (National Police Reserve, NPR)
 comes into being
Aug. 13  NPR recruitment begins
Aug. 14  Governor of Kagawa Prefecture Keikichi Masuhara (1903–1985)
 appointed NPR’s first director general 
Sept. 7  NPR HQ relocates from National Police Agency HQ to
 Etchujima, Tokyo


Jan. 23  NPR control passes to Minister of State Takeo Ohashi (1904–81) 
 April    MacArthur replaced by Gen. Matthew Ridgway (1895–1993)
 Sept. 8  Multinational Treaty of San Francisco peace accord and Japan-U.S.
 Security Treaty signed (both come into effect Apr. 28, 1952)
  Oct. 20  NPR unit based in Ozuki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, first to be deployed
 in typhoon relief operations

Ki-115 Yokota ABSporting fake U.S. markings, this former IJAAF Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (Sword) special attack
(kamikaze) aircraft was a familiar sight close to the gate at Yokota AB until its removal in 1952.
(Photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum via Wikimedia Commons) 


Apr. 26  Kaijōkeibitai (Maritime Guard) established under the MSA
Apr. 28  General Order No. 10 lifts remaining bans on aviation activities
 GHQ disbanded
July 31  National Safety Agency Law promulgated
Aug. 1

 Japan permitted to form Hōanchō (usually translated as National
 Safety Agency, but National Security Agency 
more accurate.).  

 Initially, Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida—then serving the third
 of his five terms—concurrently serves as agency’s director general

 The agency oversees the NPR, now expanded and renamed the
Hōantai (National Security Force, NSF), and the Maritime Guard
reorganized as the Keibitai (Coastal Security Force, CSF).

 The NSF and CSF were to be the forerunners of the JGSDF and
JMSDF, respectively.

Oct. 15  NSF Aviation School formed at Hamamatsu with 20 ex-U.S. Army
 Aeronca L-16s
Oct. 30   Tokutaro Kimura (1886–1982) appointed National Safety Agency
 director general
NSF Aviation SchoolA convoy of trucks arrives at the National Safety Force Aviation School at Hamamatsu,
Shizuoka Prefecture, soon after the school’s founding in October 1952.

(Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Wikimedia Commons) 


Jan.1  Security Advisory Group commences work in Japan
January  NSF receives ex-U.S. Army Stinson L-5s, Piper L-21B and
 10 Beech T-34A Mentors
 Coastal Security Force (CSF) receives 10 T-34As 
March  Kawasaki Aircraft commences overhauls of U.S. Air Force (USAF)
T-33 jet trainers
June  Mitsubishi commences overhauls of USAF Curtiss C-46 Commando
 and Douglas B-26 Invader aircraft
July 21  First flight of Kawasaki KAL-1, first postwar, Japanese-designed
 all-metal aircraft
July 27  Korean War ends
Aug. 1  Weapons Production Law promulgated
Sept. 16  CSF establishes base at Tateyama under Yokosuka regional
 command, forms Bell 47D-equipped Tateyama Air Sqn  
September   Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) signs contract with Beechcraft for
 licence production of T-34A Mentor training aircraft

Oct. 5  Systems Research Committee set up within National Safety
 Agency’s Hōankyoku (Security Administration) to look into
 aviation-related preparations
Oct. 16  NSF places order with FHI for 30 T-34As
 Oct. 30   Liberal Democratic Party politician (former trade and industry
 minister, later prime minister) Hayato Ikeda (1899–1965) and U.S.
 Assistant  Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Walter S.
 Robertson (1893–1970) hold extensive talks that cover gradual
 increase in SDF strength
Nov. 26  Article 7 of Defense Buildup Plan (formation of JASDF, equipment
 framework) completed
Dec. 1  CSF establishes base at Kanoya under Sasebo regional command,
 forms Kanoya Air Sqn (T-34As) 

Tokorozawa L-5The Stinson L-5 Sentinel suspended from the ceiling at the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum in
Saitama Prefecture dates back to the National Safety Force era.

From July 1, 1954  JASDF / JGSDF / JMSDF 

NSF aviation cadetsNSF aviation cadets, February 1954 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Jan. 10  NSF air units formed: Northern Regional (Sapporo); district air units
 at Hamamatsu (1st and 3rd air units) Asahikawa (2nd) and Ozuki (4th)
Feb. 1  Kōkū Junbishitsu (Air Preparatory Office, forerunner of Air Staff
 Office) formed at Etchujima under leadership of Makoto Yamada,
 who at same time headed Security Administration
 February  Mitsubishi commences overhauls of USAF F-86F fighters
Mar. 8  United States and Japan sign Mutual Defense Assistance (MDA)
 May 14   Japan-U.S. Lend-Lease Agreement covering naval vessels signed
May  CSF receives three S-55s for operation from Tateyama
June 1  One month before formation of JASDF, Provisional NSF Detachment
 formed at Funaoka, Miyagi Prefecture, commences training course,
 moves to Matsushima following day. U.S. instructors train
 selected pilots with wartime experience on USAF T-6s from
 June 22. (See Nov. 30)
June 10  Total of 38 aircraft maintenance trainees commence practical training
 course given by U.S. instructors at Matsushima (ends Sept. 30)
June 18  Japan’s Cabinet decides to appoint National Safety Agency Director
 General Kentarō Uemura (1908–1981) as first Chief of the Air Staff
June 22  U.S. Far East Air Forces commences training on T-6s of first 16-man
 pilot course, 18 receive English language tuition (Matsushima)
June   NSF receives ex-U.S. Army Cessna L-19As
July 1   Japan Defense Agency (JDA) established and with it the three
 Self-Defense Forces
 (after relevant laws promulgated June 9).
 Air Staff Office formed at Etchujima
July 5  JASDF flying school established at Hamamatsu with 18 imported
 former NPR/NSF T-34 Mentors. (Maintenance and communications
 schools follow at same location on Sept. 1.)
Sept. 3  First flight of FHI-assembled T-34 (delivered Oct. 28)
Oct. 12  SDF aircraft markings formally announced
Oct. 28  JASDF receives first FHI-assembled T-34A
Nov. 30  First 13 JASDF pilots receive their wings
Dec. 10   Seiichi Omura (1892–1968) appointed Minister of State for Defense
T-34A Mentors (Bill Larkins)A rear view of the lineup of T-34A Mentors shown on this website’s homepage. Taken at Oakland Airport in
October 1954, this angle reveals that all the aircraft, which were en route to the JASDF,
carried the same N12B ferry registration.
(Photo: William T. Larkins) 

Tateyama December 1954Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, December 2, 1954. A ceremony is held to mark the official handover to the
nascent JMSDF of 10 Grumman TBM-3W2 Avengers and 12 North American SNJs.
(Photo from the April 1955 issue of The World’s Aircraft used with permission of
Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)

JMSDF WS-51The second of the three Westland-Sikorsky WS-51 Dragonfly Mk.1As operated by the JMSDF as S-51s
from July 1954. All three had initially entered service with the Coastal Safety Force the previous January.
The two remaining aircraft were withdrawn from use in November 1961.
(Photo: San Diego Air & Space Museum via Wikimedia Commons)


Jan. 20  JASDF receives first Lockheed T-33 and North American T-6
 Texan trainers as well as Curtiss C-46D Commando transports

Feb. 12  Ceremony held at Tateyama to mark delivery of 10 TBM-3W2
 and 12 SNJs supplied under Military Security Assistance
May 28  First five jet pilots complete T-33A course at Tsuiki
June 5  First flight of Fuji LM-1
Aug. 12  First nine JASDF pilots sent to United States for training
 (return to Japan as qualified F-86F instructors Feb. 6, 1956)
 October  T-34A enters licence production at Fuji Heavy Industries
Oct. 12  First seven F-86Fs handed over at Tsuiki
Oct. 15  First flight of FHI licence-built T-34A
November  First JASDF T-6 training school formed at Matsushima,
 Miyagi Prefecture

December   Kōkūdan (Air Wing) commanding first F-86F unit formed
 at Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture

JMSDF P2V-7 BurbankThe first of 16 U.S.-built P2V-7 Neptunes takes off on a test flight from Lockheed’s Burbank, California,
plant late in 1955.

(Photo from the March 1956 issue of The World’s Aircraft used with permission of
Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)

JMSDF PV-2 Aug. 1957The JMSDF received a bulk delivery of 17 Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon aircraft for training purposes on
January 16, 1955. Seen here at Oita airport on August 24, 1957, 4577
(delivered as 4107) has the
tail marking prefix
カ (KA) to denote that its home base is Kanoya. (Photo: Takao Kadokami) 


Jan. 10  1st Sqn forms on F-86F at Hamamatsu
Jan. 26  First Kawasaki-assembled T-33 delivered
Mar. 7  First two P2V-7s arrive at Haneda Airport
Mar. 22  Signing of MDA-related Japan-U.S. Technical Agreement
 Mar. 23   JDA relocates to Kasumigaseki, Tokyo
Mar. 26  Destroyer Harukaze (Spring Breeze), the first postwar, domestically
 produced naval vessel completed
 Sept. 20   First Mitsubishi-assembled F-86F handed over at Komaki factory
Oct. 1  Air Wing re-designated 1st Air Wing due to formation of
 2nd Air Wing (Hamamatsu)

First JASDF T-33The first Japanese-built T-33 jet trainer was unveiled to the press at Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture, on
January 21, 1956. This was only five days after Lockheed engineering flight test pilot Ted Limmer
had taken the aircraft aloft on its maiden flight.
(Photo from the March 1956 issue of The World’s Aircraft used with permission of
Hobun Shorin Co., Ltd.)

MHI F-86F productionA photo on the wall at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Komaki South Plant museum records the start of
JASDF F-86F production in 1956 and the handover ceremony for the first aircraft in September that year.


Jan. 21  JASDF receives first KHI licence-built T-33A
June 14  First Defense Build-up Plan receives Cabinet approval
August   First Sikorsky H-19C rescue helicopters enter service


Jan. 14-Feb. 28  First JMSDF ocean training exercise off Hawaii
 Jan. 19  Maiden flight of first indigenous jet trainer, the Fuji T1F2 (T-1A)
January  First F-86D Sabre all-weather fighters received (first F-86D squadron
 formed Aug. 1)
 Feb. 17   2nd Air Wing at Chitose commences quick reaction alert (QRA)
 measures to counter incursions into Japan’s territorial airspace
 (Excluding Okinawa, which had yet to be returned to Japanese
 sovereignty, nationwide QRA coverage provided from 1960.)
Mar. 4  F-86F instructor pilots from Hamamatsu-based 1st AW give first
 public aerobatic team display
May 13  First “live” scramble from Chitose AB

JMSDF SNJ accident (1)(Above and below) The early years of the Self-Defense Forces were not without incident. The JMSDF
recorded its first fatal accident on July 8, 1955, when a PV-2 crashed  on takeoff from Kanoya,
Kagoshima Prefecture. These photos show the aftermath of a fortunately non-fatal mishap on
January 17, 1958. En route from Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, to Kanoya, it is believed that
the leader of a gaggle of JMSDF SNJs had decided to make a fuel stop at the then Oita airport.
Including a northerly wind across a runway that ran east to west and the poor forward visibility
from an SNJ cockpit, a combination of factors resulted in aircraft 6170, which was taxying
toward the apron, being struck by the next aircraft to land, 6172.
(Photos: Takao Kadokami)

JMSDF SNJ accodent (2)


 Mar. 25  JASDF receives last licence-built T-33A
Dec. 11   JMSDF receives first KHI licence-built P2V-7

Typhoon Vera 1959October 1959. The pilot of a U.S. Navy Sikorsky HSS-1 Seabat waits for a JGSDF Vertol V-44A to clear
the landing zone designated for evacuating residents from Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, in the aftermath
of the Isewan typhoon (Typhoon Vera). JG-0002 is today on display at the Tokorozawa Aviation
Museum, Saitama Prefecture.
(Photo: U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons)


Jan. 11   Defense Agency moves from Kasumigaseki to Ichigaya 
Jan. 19  New Japan-U.S. Security Treaty signed (goes into effect June 23)
May 17   First flight of the Fuji T1F1 (T-1B)


Jan. 13   National Security Council decides to reorganize JGSDF into 13 divisions
July 1   First flight of Lockheed-built F-104J Starfighter (Burbank, California)
July 18   Cabinet approves Second Defence Build-up Plan 
Aug. 25  First flight of F-104DJ in United States
Nov. 6  JASDF receives first F-86F converted to RF-86F standard
Dec. 21  Partially assembled by Lockheed, first F-104J arrives at Nagoya (Komaki) Airport

First F-104JBuilt by Lockheed, the first F-104J Starfighter made its maiden flight from the company’s Burbank Plant
on July 1, 1961. Having been dismantled and shipped to Mitsubishi’s Komaki Plant, the aircraft
was flown for the first time from Japanese tarmac on March 8, 1962.
 (Photo: San Diego Air and Space Museum via Wikimedia Commons)


Mar. 8   First flight of F-104J in Japan
Apr. 1  First F-104J handed over to JASDF
Apr. 27  First flight of F-104DJ in Japan
Sept. 21   First F-104DJ handed over to JASDF






Principal Reference Sources
Harries, Meirion and Susie, Sheathing the Sword, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1987

Defense of Japan 2002 White Paper, Urban Connections, Tokyo, 2002

For the Blue Sky (50th Anniversary of JASDF), Asagumo Shimbunsha, 2005

Kōkūjieitai 50 Shūnen (50th Anniversary of JASDF), Bunrindo, Tokyo, 2005

Kōkūjieitai no Tsubasa (JASDF Wings)/50th Anniversary of JASDF, Ikaros, 2005

Sengo Kōkūsaikaizengo no Kōkūshi (The History of Japanese Aviation before and after its Postwar Resumption), Japan Aviation Journalists’ Association, Tokyo, 2010

Various issues of JWIngs and Koku Fan magazines




Air Shows in 2024
Jan. 20  Iruma
Mar. 3  Komaki
Mar. 24  Kumagaya
May 19  Shizuhama
May 26  Miho
June 2  Hofu-Kita
Aug. 25 Matsushima
Sept. 8  Misawa
Sept. 15  Chitose
Sept. 23  Komatsu
Oct. 6  Ashiya
Oct. 27  Hamamatsu
Nov. 3  Iruma
Nov. 17  Gifu
Nov. 24  Tsuiki
Dec. 1  Nyutabaru
Dec. 8  Hyakuri
Dec.*  Naha
* To be confirmed

Air Shows in 2023
Mar. 5  Komaki
Apr. 2  Kumagaya

May 28  Miho
May 28  Shizuhama
June 3  Nara
               (Open Day)
June 4  Hofu
July 30  Chitose
Aug. 27  Matsushima
Sept. 10  Misawa
Sept. 24  Akita
Oct. 7  Komatsu
Oct. 15  Ashiya
Oct. 29  Hamamatsu
Nov. 12  Gifu
Nov. 26  Tsuiki
Dec. 3  Nyutabaru
Dec. 10  Naha
Dec. 17  Hyakuri

Air Shows in 2024
Jan. 7  Narashino
 (paratroop display)
Apr. 6  Kasuminome
Apr. 6  Utsunomiya
Apr. 13  Somagahara
May 19  Takayubaru

June 1
June 30  Okadama
Oct.*  Tachikawa
Nov. 10  Akeno
* To be confirmed 

Air Shows in 2023

Apr. 8 Somagahara
May 27  Kita-
June 3  Kasumigaura
June 11  Obihiro
July 2  Okadama

Aug. 5  Kasuminome
Oct. 1   Kisarazu
Oct. 29  Tachikawa

Nov. 4  Akeno

Air Shows in 2024
Apr. 20  Atsugi
  (US Navy/JMSDF)
Apr. 28  Kanoya
May 5  Iwakuni
(Joint Friendship Day)
July 21  Tateyama
July 28  Hachinohe
* To be confirmed 

Air Shows in 2023
Apr. 15  Iwakuni
(Joint Friendship Day)
Apr. 22  Atsugi

Apr. 30  Kanoya
May 28 Omura
July 23  Tateyama
Sept. 2  Maizuru
Sept. 17  Hachinohe
Oct. 1  Ozuki
Oct. 21  Shimofusa
Nov. 18  Tokushima


JASDF 2022









JASDF 2019

Komaki 2019 poster



JGSDF 2022


Narashino 2019
 (paratroop display)


JMSDF 2022







Ozuki 2019



(Please note that air show dates are subject to change/cancellation.)


Asian Air Arms

The Aviation Historian

Nabe3’s Aviation Pages


Japan Association of Aviation Photo-

(Site dedicated to displayed aircraft in Asia)


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