After the end of WWI, the Army was the first to start a modernization programme with the purchase of war surplus Nieuport and Spad fighters in April 1918. These were used only for training, the pilots spending their time in purposeless flying since they lacked the knowledge of how to use their aircraft as a military force. To solve the problem, the Army invited French military instructors in 1919, the Col Faure mission about which we had an article by Owaki-san in Arawasi International #5 & #6. Faure brought with him a number of modern aircraft namely Breguets, Salmsons, Nieuports, Cauldrons and Spad XIII.
Some of the French types of that period have an unusual red star marking on the tail which has confused researchers and some have identified it as an early IJAAF marking.
Most researchers until very recently had to make do with photos of very low quality and this hampered their efforts to make correct observations. Our article on the Nieuport 24 (Arawasi International #11), for the first time, featured photos of very high quality. From this it became obvious that:
1. The red star was always surrounded with a white circular background. This star marking was almost always applied on the tail, the top of the upper wing, the bottom of the upper wing and the bottom of the lower wing. Both the design of the marking and its positioning are exactly the same with the markings of Red Army aircraft of the time. An example below of a Soviet Nieuport from THIS site:
Here’s a telling photo from the Faure mission:
Faure is standing on the right with some IJAAF officers. The Nieuport 24 (third from left) has the red star on the tail with a white background. At the same time the second from left running trainer, has a hinomaru on the tail.
In the photo below which I believe was taken when these aircraft first arrived in
, the Nieuport 24 on the right has the red stars while none of the Nieuport 81s have any marking. Japan
As we saw in the first part, the IJAAF started using the Hinomaru as early as 1916; before that date, at least in
Tsingtao, they used the Navy flag. In this second part we saw that the Army used the Hinomaru in an international engagement, the Siberian Exhibition of 1918. It would be absurd to paint some of their aircraft exactly like Soviet ones, especially after having engaged Red forces in Siberia while at the same time have some aircraft carry Hinomaru. Therefore I believe that it makes no sense the red star to be an "early IJAAF marking resembling the Japanese Army symbol".
2. The application of the star marking did not follow any type/usage rule.
For example another French type in Japanese service with red stars is the SPAD. At the same time there were SPADs without the star like the one below, proving that not all SPADs carried the red star.
French mechanics from the Faure mission service a SPAD without any visible national insignia.
The photo below from volume #6 of the "Encyclopedia of Japanese Aircraft" shows a Sopwith Strutter with the Red Star marking on the tail. This proves that not only fighters but reconnaissance aircraft too carried this marking.
Quoting from Wikipedia (here): "Over 100 1½ Strutters were also built in
Russia by Duks and Lebedev, supplemented by large numbers delivered directly from Britain and ." France
It has been suggested that perhaps these few Japanese planes were painted with Soviet markings to play the role of the enemy during training in mock air battles. Apart from the fact that these markings were thoroughly applied on difficult positions like under the top wing, the photo below from the brilliant book "Baron Miyahara and his World of Aircraft, Vol. 2 " shows a Spad 7 with a Red Star on the tail and other markings which according to the caption read: "Hispano-Suiza 140-hp, P.U. 125, C. 80." P.U is the initials for Poids Utile (payload) and C. stands for combustible (fuel) in metric units."
The position of the markings and the white circle with the red star are perfectly symetrical and it would be too much of a coincidence to assume that the lettering was applied by the French before they delivered the aircraft at exactly the perfect position so that the Japanese would later apply the star for this aircraft to play the role of the enemy.
Finally I would like to add this incredible photo as final proof.
Notice the huge hinomaru under the top wing. It is actually painted over a previous roundel which closely resembles the roundel French-built Nieuports 81 carried when exported to the Russian Empire (image source: HERE).
Conclusion: From the above it becomes obvious that some of the surplus aircraft the Army imported were originally intended to be exported to
Russia and were diverted to carrying the markings of their intended original owners, together with other aircraft without any markings. Japan
As mentioned before your comments, suggestions, additions and corrections are highly welcome.