Tachikawa Airfield's origins begin on 14 March 1922 when a flying squadron of Maurice Farman aircraft, one balloon squadron and a material depot unit moved to Tachikawa from Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. This small group was commanded by a Colonel Arikawa, Engineering Corps and the flying squadron commander was a Captain Torkugawa.
Civil aviation from the airfield commenced in 1929 with the inauguration of the scheduled commercial service to Osaka. Japan's first scheduled air service linked Tokyo and Osaka with a three-hour flight. The operations continued until 1933, when it transferred to Tokyo Airfield, now Tokyo International Airport at Haneda.
Tachikawa's next component was formed in November 1933 when the Ishikawajima Aircraft Manufacturing Company (石川島飛行機製作所, Ishikawajima Hikōki Seisakushō?) moved to the airfield. Six years later it was renamed the Tachikawa Aircraft Company Ltd. In addition, Hitachi, and Showa Aircraft Industry built plants in the vicinity.
With the departure of the civil aviation in 1933, Tachikawa returned to being an Army airfield. Its warplanes were transferred to a base in Kashiwa in the northwestern corner of Chiba Prefecture in 1939.
In 1937, two pilots, Masaaki Iinuma and Kenji Tsukagoshi departed Tachikawa with a Mitsubishi Ki-15, heading for London. Their mission was to congratulate King George VI on his coronation. The aircraft was named the Kamikaze.
During the late 1930s and throughout World War II, Tachikawa Aircraft employed growing numbers of workers, it produced more than 6,000 aircraft. It produced fighters, troop carriers, and bombers. Prototypes were designed and developed at the manufacturing plant. The Imperial Japanese Army built technical schools at Tachikawa, one of which was the Tokorozawa Army Aviation Maintenance School, established in 1935. The school was moved to Tachikawa in April 1939 when the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Fifth Air Wing moved to the airfield. Cross-trainees, college graduates and Air Academy graduated went to this school to become aviation technical maintenance officers. It also co-existed with the Fourth Aviation Training Unit which provided basic training for Japanese Army Air Force flyers.
Near the end of World War II, Tachikawa was subjected to intense bombing by United States Army Air Forces XXI Bomber Command 29th Bombardment Group B-29 Superfortresses during April and June 1945. The Shintentai, an anti-aircraft kamikaze group, defended the airfield and its manufacturing facilities, however most of the airfield was rendered unserviceable by the bombing raids, along with most of the structures and support facilities of the airfield by the time the first United States Army forces moved in on 5 September 1945.
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