Saturday, 28 November 2020


We explained the meaning of clouds and aircraft names in an nold post, HERE.
Today I spotted a video in UTube (here) with a cloud that Kiri feels is a "Saiun" and specifically a "Keiun".

According to the video details, it "occurred on May 27, 2020 / San Pablo City, Laguna, Philippines"

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Zero-sen Special #1 - "Toraware no Nihonki" #9

 At the end of the war a number of Zeros and other aircraft were found in Longhua airfield in Sanghai with an unusual tail marking. It's the kanji "" and signified the unit "中支航空隊" (Chushi Kokutai - Central China) which was organized in February 20, 1945.
The first Zero is a Model 21.
Although the marking  "中1" can be seen in the bottom photo, the rest of the marking is on the piece of fabric that has been removed. In the top photo though, it should have been visible as it is written in the oposite direction. Unfortunately the photo I have is not of the best quality and therefore I can't be 100% sure of the complete tail marking. Note the fuselage hinomaru with the white surround.

The second Zero is a Model 52 Otsu.
Although the "中" part of the tail marking is not visible, the location the aircraft was found confirms the unit. So tail marking for this Zero is "中132" (no hyphen).

Another Model 52 is the one below.
Again the "中" part of the tail marking is missing and a very close reveals that there is indeed a tail marking which I believe is "中153" or something like that.

Of particular interest is the wing hinomaru with the darker green surround and the position of the white box with the cross. Note also the white lines on the cowling.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

NEW! forthcoming Aichi D3A "Val" in 1/32

Heads up! from Devlin Chouinard on a forthcoming release from the Czech modeling company Infinity Models; a brand new Aichi D3A "Val" in 1/32!
The cool box art is by Vlastimil Suchý.

The engine looks particularly detailed.

And the cockpit too.

Only two decals options can be seen in the preview page.
One for the aircraft of Lt.Com. Egusa Takashige with W.O. Ishii Tatsu, of the Soryu dive bomber group 
And the other flown by NAP 4/C Yamakawa Shinsaku with  NAP 4/C Nakata Kachuzo, of the Kaga.
Here's the decal set

I read in the messages that there are thoughts for a Pearl Harbor set of different U.S. and Japanese aircraft types, so maybe a "Kate" is or will be in the works too.
There are also absurd requests for a "Betty" or a "Nell" in 1/32. Hey, how about a "Mavis" in 1/24, heh?

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" - modelling options #7 - Shimbutai

In this post we will deal with some of the "Sonias" of the various tokkotai or shimbutai (special attack units) and the decal options for them.

But first, let's see a video from the NHK collection with release date (important) April 5, 1945.

According to the narrator:
"Our enemy, the United States, which invaded Iwo Jima, has been approaching our strategic point, the Nansei Islands, with all its might since March 23, and finally partly to the Kerama Islands on March 25. Furthermore, the main force came to land on the main island of Okinawa on April 1.
The enemy combined fleet has been spotted! Here, at the front line air base of our army, the "deadly spirit" is everywhere. In response to this good news (that the enemy was spotted), our kamikaze unit immediately launched. Only 600 km from the southern tip of Kyushu. Our strategic base, Nansei Islands. Will we leave this to the enemy? (If we leave it to the enemy) Land and sea supply routes as well as supply routes to the south areas will be totally threatened. Therefore, the enemy's plans should be canceled. Young warriors laughing brightly, holding the hands of their comrades.
One after another, splendid takeoffs. They shake their wings to say goodbye to their country forever."

The only "Sonia" equipped tokko unit that had flown prior to that date was the 23 Shimbutai. The unit was organized on February 14, 1945, from the Shimoshizu Training Air Division and was initially based at Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, equipped with 12 "Sonias" modified for tokko missions. After completing training the unit relocated to Chiran, Kagoshima Prefecture. On April 1, five "Sonias" lead by Captain Itsui attacked the US Forces south of Kerama Islands. Two days later, the last five "Sonias" of the unit attacked west of Okinawa never to be seen again.
In the photo below Capt. Itsui is standing in front of his "Sonia". The kanji read "shimbu" but the bird above is a golden rooster. According to Japanese mythology, this heavenly bird leads the world roosters to crowing every morning, forcing the oni (demons) of the night to run away.
The illustration below, is from Model Art #451.
Decals for this aircraft in 1/48 can be found in the Create 301 set "Special Attack Squadrons" released with the help of Nagao Keishiro of Lifelike decals.

According to the narator, the video is purported to show tokko aircraft taking off on a final mission. As we can see, though, none of the aircraft carries any bombs and none carries the tail marking of the 23 Shimbutai. So, what's going on here? Let's see stills of the aircraft seen in the video.
First we see a line-up of Manshu Ki-79 single-seat trainers with the wheel spads removed. The aircraft in the foreground on the left seems to have had its rudder replaced but the other in the background have a tail marking that looks like a bomb. Very similar to the tail marking of the 76 Shimbutai, equipped with "Nates" but the video is too blury to be 100% sure.
Another Manshyu Ki-79 taking off. No tail marking visible.

The most interesting "Sonia" above has a tail marking of an unknown unit. It has a bomb rack under the fuselage but a drop tank instead of a bomb. Same with the different "Sonia" below.

The aircraft below could be a Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" and had an unusual white marking on the tail top. No landing gear covers.

And finally, one more Manshyu Ki-79, without tail marking and landing gear covers.

The majority of the tokko units that were organized at the front, like the Philippines, were hastily put together and their aircraft did not carry any special tail markings. An example is the "Sonia" below taking off from an airfield in the Philippines. Note the huge bomb, the lack of tail marking and the absence of rear gunner.
Those tokko units that were organized in Japan mainland, Korea and Manchuria, were formed from aviation schools or combat units, much  like the 23 Shimbutai we saw above. These remained in their "parent" units and airfields until they received orders to deploy, in which case they flew to Chiran (mostly) where they were bombed up before flying to their final tokko missions against Okinawa, for example. These tokko units were not under the constant pressure of the front, and had some time to design and apply elaborate tail markings, mostly for morale boosting reasons. In most clips showing farewell ceremonies of tokko units, the aircraft are without bombs. This means the clips were taken at the airfields of the "parent" units. The vast majority of clips showing bombed up tokko aircraft were taken in the Philippines.
So, what we see in the video above are such aircraft of a tokko unit (or units), based somewhere in Japan. They are taking off to fly to Chiran where they will have bombs attached and then fly to their final missions. Why the Manshu Ki-79 don't have any tail markings? Because they arrived from Manchuria only a few days before departure and there was no time to apply tail markings to all of them. 

Another tokko unit equipped with "Sonias" was the "Sekichou-tai". As Nagao-san explains, the unit was organized on November 6, 1944, from the Shimoshizu Training Air Division. All members of the 3rd Training Flying Unit joined this Special Attack Unit, bringing its complement to 18. The unit moved to Delcaremen Air Base on November 16 and was officially named "Sekichou-tai." On December 5, seven Sonias led by Capt. Takaishi attacked enemy forces in Surigao Straits. By January 8, 1945, 17 Sonias - with their crews - had perished in attacks.
Below is a photo of one of the Sekichou-tai aircraft.
And artwork from Model Art #451.
Decals for this aircraft can be found again in the Create 301 set and also in one of the Wingsy "Sonia" kits (check older post).

Ofcourse you can built models of these aircraft without any bomb racks under their belly (the special modification for tokko missions), similar to the artwork above, but then they would just look like "normal" Sonias"...
We hope you found this series to your interest. 
For a lot more information and details... 

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" - modelling options #6 - Controversial markings

Let's start with a paragraph from Peter Scott's "Emblems of the Rising Sun", a book that should not be missing from the library of any Japanese aviation fan, page 9.

"Another area of concern lies with some unit markings that were produced in the form of drawings in the mid-1960s. In the interim, these appear to have been accepted as the definitive unit markings and, indeed, have been produced both on specialist decal sheets and on decal sheets within model kits, despite their lack of any photographic evidence to their provenance."   

When the Maru Mechanic came out in 1982, it featured a short article by Akimoto Minoru entitled "Colors & Markings" which included illustrations of tail markings of the various units that were equipped with "Sonias". Among them were illustrations of markings that fall in the category Peter Scott described above. No photographic evidence has surfaced for these few markings, but artwork in various publications and decal sheets have been created based on these illustrations.
Allow me to explain. Akimoto-sensei was one of the first to record and organize tail markings of IJAAF (and IJNAF) units and was considered one of the experts in the field. He had been working I believe from the 50s in the field of historical aviation and naturally he had many contacts with veterans and veteran groups. As he explained to me, since no photos had survived of some units, some of the designs were based on veteran descriptions and sometimes sketches the veterans did when he asked them about the tail markings of their units. 
There are also other reasons, a little more complicated. For example, it is known from official documentation that the 1st chutai of an X sentai was equipped with "Idas", the 2nd and 3rd with "Sonias". There is a photo of an "Ida" of that sentai and the tail marking is clear but no photos of "Sonias" of the same sentai. It is reasonable to assume they had the same marking even though, strictly speaking, there are no photos of "Sonias" with that marking.
Another reason is that the Japanese are very strict with their privacy sometimes to the point of being paranoid. I remember going to an exhibition with war memorabilia and there was a "no photos" sign. I asked why, and they said it's because in some photos, people's faces can be seen. I pointed out that no names are mentioned anywhere and these people are long dead, so what's the point for all the secrecy, but they wouldn't have it. Many Japanese magazines and publications still avoid publishing photos with people's faces unless there is explicit permission to do so. As a result, there are, for example, photos of veterans posing in front of their aircraft that have not been published because of that reason. Akimoto had access to these photos and some of the artwork was based on them. It is no surprise that non-Japanese aviation researchers, who have done zero research in Japan, do not have access to this material and therefore think that the artwork is fake.
Over the years, some of the markings in the Akimoto series have been confirmed to be 100% accurate by photographic evidence, some have proven in need of modification and some have not been confirmed...yet.    
In my opinion, these tail markings should not be dismissed out of hand, but perhaps a question mark should be added to them. In cases where there are no actual photos of aircraft with these markings, the overall paint schemes are also questionable. Not necessarily innacurate, just questionable.
Akimoto first published the tail marking series in the magazine Aireview. Here's a page example from the September 1965 issue.
Further publications followed, in the magazines "Maru" and "Koku Fan" up until the 80s. Akimoto therefore had the chance to revise the series over time. But let's see some of these questionable "Sonia" markings. All illustrations below are from Maru Mechanic. Feel free to leave comments if you have seen photos of "Sonias" with these markings.
First up is the 6th Sentai.
The unit was organized on August 31, 1938, changing name from 6th Rentai. It was originally equipped with "Mary" but changed to "Sonia" around 1941 when the unit was based in Manchuria until April 1944. At that time it used this marking.
AFAIK no photos of "Sonias" with this tail marking have surfaced.
Then it was assigned to China until the beginning of 1945. After that it was relocated to Korea.
During that time they used two tail markings.
First the one below. I think I have seen photos of this marking, but I'm not sure at the moment. Will revise this post accordingly.
Then this one.
For a number of years this marking was labeled as "unconfirmed" until photos surfaced of a particular aircraft found at the end of the war at Chofu airfield. Either it was visiting the area or was sent there to be assigned to a toko unit. The photo below is from here
Zooming in we can see this "Sonia"
Here's another view of the tail marking from a photo of an old Koku Fan issue.
You can see one more photo of this same aircraft in the 244 Sentai site, here and here.
As you can see, the illustration in Akimoto's series is correct but needs slight modification.

Another unit is the 66 Sentai which was organized on March 31, 1942, in Pyongyang. Saw action in Manchuria, the Philippines, Okinawa and elsewhere. I have not seen photos of "Sonias" with this tail marking.

The 67 Sentai was founded on February 25, 1943, in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, to patrol the northeast areas. In the autumn of 1944 the unit took part in the battle of the Philippines. The unit was disbanded on May 2, 1945. Akimoto mentions that "the white color of the 2nd Chutai marking, is confirmed", so it seems he has seen photos.

Another marking is this one, of the 73 Dokuritsu Chutai.
As we saw in a previous post, the 73 Dokuritsu Chutai joined the 83 Dokuritsu Hikotai (ex 83 Sentai), and during that time it used the 83 Sentai marking. But when it joined the 3rd Hikodan in September 1942, the unit changed its marking to the one above.

45 Dokuritsu Chutai. Originally a Direct Cooperation unit belonging to the Japanese Army based in Seoul, Korea, it had nine "Sonia" in its strength of which six were operational. On October 20, 1944, the unit was organized as 45 Dokuritsu Chutai with only three operational aircraft and was assigned to Labuan in Borneo. 

47 Dokuritsu Chutai
Originally named 6 "Chokyo Hikotai" it was renamed 47 Dokuritsu Chutai on October 20, 1944. It was assigned to Taiwan on sea patrol duties, but also took part in battle of Okinawa with suicide aircraft guide missions as well as ship attack.

48 Dokuritsu Chutai
The 7 Chokyo Hikotai was organized on July 18, 1941. In the beginning, it had "Ida"  and was based in Manchuria. It took part in operations in north China. In March 1944, changed from "Ida" to "Sonia" and was assigned to Taiwan on anti-submarine duties. On October 20, 1944, it was renamed 48 Dokuritsu Chutai.

"Hokubu Gun Chokyo Hikotai" (North Area Army Direct Cooperation Unit). Organized on May 30, 1942, with about a dozen "Ida" and "Sonia", its duties was patrol of Hokaido and Shakhalin areas. On October 20, 1944, was renamed 42 Dokuritsu Chutai and was reassigned to Taiwan. 

4 Koku Gun Shireibu Hikohan (4 Air Army Headquarters Air Group). The 4th Air Army responsible for the defense of the Philippines had a small number of "Sonias" in its strength. The headquarters was organized on July 25, 1943, in Rabaul. The 4th Air Army was disbanded on February 28, 1945. The marking was used from August until November 1943.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" - modelling options #5 - Unknown Unit

In an earlier post I wrote about the "Sonia" "versions". Well, here's a well-known "assault version" "Sonia" found abandoned in Okinawa. You can clearly see that it lacks fuselage windows. Photo: NARA
The unit is unfortunately unknown and it has no tail marking. But there are a number of smaller details that make this aircraft quite interesting as a modelling subject if you care about such stuff.
First of all, we can clearly see that the rudder is a replacement from another aircraft, as the camouflage pattern is not the same with the rest of the aircraft. What is less visible at first glance, is that the whole tail end comes from the aircraft with the blotches camo.

Another interesting detail is that the fuselage, white band which is not exactly perpendicular to the central line of the aircraft, is not a complete white band and I suspect it doesn't wrap around the fuselage.

Note also that the green camouflage is not perfectly applied around the fuselage hinomaru. It looks as if they were trying hard not to paint over the hinomaru, when the green top camo was applied,. This detail together with the not-uniform top camo, is a strong indication that the aircraft was originally hairyokushoku and the green camouflage was applied later at the depot, not the factory. 

The canopy is also of the later type that slided rearwards. Since only few "assault version" "Sonias" were built and the sliding canopy was adopted from the #134th produced aircraft, I believe the whole canopy is a replacement. Note that it is in hairyokushoku without any camouflage.

Another hidden detail is that some parts of the cowling are from the aircraft with the blotches camouflage.

Note also the later type propeller.   

The undercarriage is in hairyokushoku but notice that the edge looks dirty, perhaps from dripped paint. 

The top vertical surfaces of the port side of the tail look to be in green camouflage, but the top surfaces of the port main wing are not clear. Most probably green, but I wouldn't be surprised if the aileron(s) were replacement(s) from the blotches aircraft.
In general, I believe this aircraft is a very old one, perhaps taken from a school, with various replacement parts and field modifications to make it more front line combat worthy.
AFAIK there are no decals for this most interesting aircraft.