Arawasi contest #9

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Japanese Airfields, Equipment & stuff #11

In the final post of this series I'd like to present what is available out there regarding kits and accessories that could help a modeler to depict more realistically a Japanese Army airfield. If you know of other sets not included here or you want to leave a comment regarding these sets feel very free to get in touch.
In the 1/48 scale the Hasegawa 2008 release of the Isuzu TX40 fuel Truck is the best around with two accurate in every respect figures of ground crews. The set also includes four oil barrels, two plus one sets of different chocks, a tool box and a fire extinguisher. All very very useful for a diorama of a "Hien", "Shoki", "Hayate" or "Toryu" unit based on the Japan mainland. If you are building a 244 Sentai "Hien" this set is absolutely essential and will enrich significantly your diorama or base.
The other Hasegawa set "Type 97 Sidecar & Type 95 small sedan "Kurogane 4WD [Model3]" is less useful as these vehicles were not common on Japanese airfields. In big schools like Akeno, Tokorozawa, Air Academy or Hamamatsu maybe but not really anywhere else. Overseas, in major airfields like Don Mueang in Thailand...maybe, in a setting where high ranking officers are brought to a transport aircraft.
The Edward set "Japanese Army AF personnel World War II" is another option in that scale. I purchased the set with the thought of using it with the bases of my models for this contest but, although the box art is accurate in every respect, to my great disappointment all the ground crew figures wear pilot boots. Also, instead of the very natural and correct poses shown in the box art, the three poses are much less useful to place on an aircraft and show that it is being maintained. The bicycle is a welcome addition although slightly inaccurate, but the two pilots ready to get on the plane and take off and the officer are all shown saluting. So this set gets very high points for the crisp mold and overall quality but minus points for the inaccurate crew footwear and the limited poses. I guess the mechanics could be shown in different poses after some surgery as various body parts are included separately (that's a gruesome sentence!) and also correct the footwear...but couldn't they just have the mechanics as they are shown on the box cover?
There is also the Jaguar set "WWII Japanese pilot & crew" with actually two IJAAF pilots, one of them tying a hachimaki around his head ready for a tokko mission. Very very accurate and fantastic in every respect although very specific as a subject.

The Tamiya old ground crew set is not bad and actually is the only one with mechanics in tropical or summer uniforms but the poses are limited.
CMK has released a set called "Japanese Army mechanics (2 fig.)"
and a set called "Japanese Kamikaze pilots (2 fig.)"
The mechanic on the left is okay if this is a tropical uniform, the mechanic on the right is okay from the waist down, completely wrong from the waist up. I have no idea why they keep releasing figures with mechanics waving instead of more natural poses of maintaining an aircraft.
I also don't know what's going on with the buts of the kamikaze pilots and if they are Army or Navy but they look okay except for the green scarf which should be white.

There are more options in 1/72.
The best available set is from "Red Box" with 14 figures.

Some are very accurate, some have the mechanics with puttees and there is a mechanic with neck cover on his field cap which is 50% correct. This is a really very nice and highly recommended set with very natural poses and good detail.
Czech Masters have a set of "Japanese Army AF Mechanics, WWII (3fig.)" accurate overall but with really bad molding that needs major surgery to bring the bodies to a more natural pose, face etc. Check the guy on the right for example carrying the tool box or the shoulders of the middle guy.

CMK has released two more sets in 1/72 "Japanese Army Pilots (2 fig.) And Mechanics WW II"

and "Japanese kamikaze pilots (3 fig.)"
From what I can see in the illustrations, there are no mechanics in the first set, only pilots. The figure on the left looks correct for an Army pilot's summer uniform (copied from the Jaguar set?), the uniforms of the other two figures look wrong. I don't know if the kamikaze pilots are supposed to be Army or Navy. If they are Army the uniforms from the waist down are correct, from the waist up are wrong.

Special Hobby (or CMK?) have released a set called "Japanese Army maintenance crew with 250 kg bomb". I'm not sure what the whole set is supposed to represent, perhaps they try to move a bomb using a makeshift wood ramp. I've never seen anything like this in photos of Japanese airfields. Looks more like a Vietnam War setting and anyway a scene like this would never take place in Japan mainland. Some of the figures are inaccurate with mechanics wearing pilot's boots, most wear belts, their trousers have pockets etc.
The old Hasegawa Starter & Fuel Truck kits come with three and two mechanics respectively, one driver the others in various poses. All wear puttees though and the mold is too old with relatively poor details. 

In this thread there are photos of amazing figures in 1/72 and it seems they have been released by Orion/Haron but I've never seen them. Does anyone know more and help me get at least one set?

CMK has released a set in 1/32 called "Japanese mechanics WW II (2 fig.)"
Quite accurate for an outside-Japan uniform set. The bucket is a possible. Useful for a China airfield setting. The poses are not bad.

I also discovered these three sets of unspecified scale by "King And Country". Beautifully made but the top-mechanic should not carry his water canteen while going to service the aircraft and he looks more like a regular infantry officer. I have no idea what possessed them to make the four mechanics with Viet Cong sandals!

All in all, except for the Hasegawa set in 1/48 and the Red Box in 1/72, there is very little out there regarding mechanics and pilots in a variety of clothing and poses. I don't know why nobody has tried to cover this field. I got yesterday an amazing small set of four figures by Zvezda in 1/72, "German sniper team", with crisp details, easy to build and very reasonably priced. We all know the great German pilot and ground crew set from Preiser. So, the technology is there, so why nobody has ever tried to release a couple of good sets in 1/48 and 1/72?
Photo credits
All photos in this series are from various FAOW and Model Art publications, Koku Fan Illustrated #79 & #80, from the book "Pictorial History of Air War over Japan - Japanese Army Air Force" by Watanabe Yoji, from THIS blog, from the catalogue of Nakata Shoten "Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Uniforms & Equipment" by Nakata Tadao & Thomas B. Nelson  and the Arawasi photo archives.
The best reference on the IJNAF uniforms and equipment is the book "Nihon Kaigun Kokutai Gunso to sobi (MA #655)" (AVIATOR UNIFORMS and EQUIPMENT of IJN) by Sato Shigeo & Sato Kunihiko which is unfortunately out-of-print and quite difficult to come by.
The subject of starter and fuel trucks with rare photos of high monetary value, manuals, manufacture histories etc is best left to be covered in a proper article on our magazine. 
Thank you all for your interest, encouragement and kind comments.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Japanese Airfields, Equipment & stuff #10

IJAAF Pilots
The subject of pilot uniforms is a long one and there are experts and collectors on the subject that for some reason they keep the information to themselves. As a result, AFAIK, there is no one good book and therefore below I will present the subject in broad strokes.
There were generally speaking three types of pilot uniforms the Japanese Army used: summer, winter and tropical. Especially for the summer and winter there were many different models, with small or bigger differences and variety of colours, characterised by the year they were introduced. Earlier uniform versions were in two-piece, during the war these changed to one-piece. The older versions were not retired and therefore it was very common to see in the same unit pilots with different uniforms. The best way to study the evolution of the uniforms is through photos of different student entries of the same flying school where the introduction of new uniforms can be seen year by year.
Apart from the official uniforms, especially overseas, pilots often used their own clothing sometimes purchased locally. As a result, although there was a standard type of tropical uniform, there were many combinations and variations.
One standard for all pilots regardless of weather or theatre was the boots. There were different kinds ofcource but it should be noted that boots was the prerogative of pilots and no-one else wore them. It was not uncommon though to dress a favourite ground crew in pilot's clothes for a photo session. It should be clear though that pilots NEVER wore puttes.  
Below are photos of summer and winter uniforms that were worn mostly in Japan mainland but also the colonies, Manchuria and China.
In the photos below you can easily tell the difference between the various models of summer uniforms.
And in this set of photos are examples of winter uniforms. Life vests were worn by IJAAF pilots only during flights over water like escorting tokko aircraft from Kyushu to Okinawa.
As you can see in all the photo above, when the pilots didn't wear their helmets they wore the standard Army cap the maintenance crew also put on.
Under the officers jacket the regulations provided for a certain type of white shirt that was worn as underwear in tropical climates. That was called "jyuban" named after a similar garnment worn under a kimono.

Very often pilots wore only this shirt, with the standard tropical long or short trousers. 
Below are sample photos of IJAAF pilots in tropical uniforms. Note the large variety of clothing.
In the photos above and below the pilots are immediately distinguishable by the white jyuban and the boots. Ground crew wear khaki shirts (above) and Army short boots (below). 

In the photo above things are more complicated. The first and third from the left are definitely pilots but the other two could be maintenance crew officers or pilots.
Finally, here's a set of photos in various settings.
The red and white shash indicated that this officer was on duty for the day.
In this most interesting setting, the officer on duty is having a conversation with a pilot while the ground crew in the background are servicing their "Dinah". Note that none of the officers is wearing any parachute but the pilot has put on his helmet. This photo was taken in China and the white clothes worn by the maintenance crew indicate that either they are of low rank or were locally obtained.
A set photo with pilots, a ground crew on  a bicycle and family members on a formal visit.  
In the photo above taken during the shooting of the movie "Kato Hayabusa Sento-tai", the pilots are seen wearing their jyuban during a break.
Let's start with the various depictions of ground crew by Japanese artists.
First by Nakanishi Ritta in the book "Japanese Military Uniforms 1930~1945".
All the details in the uniforms are correct but unfortunately the puttes are wrong.
Artwork by the same artist was featured in DNK's "Imperial Japanese Army Air Units Battlefield photograph collection".
A little rough but the details are more correct.
Hasegawa Ichiro in Model Art #329 is more accurate and realistic.
Nakanishi Ritta has also created artwork for pilot's uniforms in the book "RikuKaigun Kokutai" with the best maintenance crew illustration.
And also in the book "Japanese Military Uniforms 1930~1945".

Hasegawa Ichiro's artwork is a bit more rough though.