Thursday, 26 April 2012

Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" (Oscar) - 一式戦闘機 「隼」

In 1945 a propaganda movie dedicated to the Army Special Attack corpse was released with the auspices of the IJAAF. Among the various information a particular segment refered to a December 5, 1944 suicide attack carried by three pilots of the 5th Hakko Tesshin-tai (Iron Heart Unit) equipped with Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia) and three pilots of the 2nd Hakko Ichyu-tai flying Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa".
We were unable to confirm whether the images in the movie actually corresponded to these two units or they were edited from various shots taken at different times and places but in any case we present below a few interesting captions from that segment.

During the battle for the Philippines in 1944, the IJAAF organised a number of special attack units among them the 1 to 12 Hakko-tai. Each Hakko tai-unit had a different name and the 2nd Hakko unit was named Ichyu. The names Hakko and Ichyu derive from the propaganda phrase "Hakko Ichyu" (universal brotherhood); further info here.
The Ichyu-tai was organised on November 5, 1944 with 12 officers led by 1st Lieutenant Kurihara from the Hitachi Kyodo Hikoshidan (Hitachi Instructional Air Unit). The unit received its official name five days later and arrived in the Philippines with brand new Ki-43-III Ko on November 19, first in Laoag airfield of Luzon island, then, the next day, in the Mabalacat airfield. Perhaps the caption below was taken during that time.


On the 23rd of November, 1944 the unit advanced to Silay airfield on Negros Island but five pilots including commander Kurihara were lost during the trip, presumably attacked by enemy aircraft.
As mentioned above on December 5, three aircraft took off from Bacolod base in Luzon and during the attack one large transport ship was sunk. The last pilot of the unit perished in a suicide attack on December 13.

The best reference ever released so far about the Army suicide units is the unfortunately out-of-print Model Art 451 (1995) written by Mr. Osuo Kazuhiko. Artist Nohara Shigeru features one Ichyu-tai profile of a Hayabusa belonging to 2nd Lt. Tanaka Joji, on November 10, 1944 when the unit was stationed in Maewatari airfield, Ibaraki prefecture. The publication was followed by another, Model Art #458, on the IJNAF Kamikaze units. (Both Model Art publications are occasionally available through our on-line shop).

 The katakana "TA" on the tail comes from the beginning of the pilot's name.

In 1996 Aeromaster & Create 301 released a fantastic set of decals accompanied by a pamphlet featuring markings and information of the most interesting aircraft from Model Art #451 and #458. Below is one profile from that pamphlet, this time illustrating the aircraft flown by commander Kurihara.

   Again the katakana "KU" on the tail comes from the pilot's name and the blue arrow is commander Kurihara's personal marking.

In the same section of the movie two more Hayabusa makes their appearance. They are older Ki-43-II with very weathered camouflage, no visible tail markings and bomb/fuel tank under the wings.


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