Sunday, 15 July 2012

Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" (Frank) 52nd Sentai - 中島 四式戦闘機 「疾風」 52戦隊

The tail marking of the 52nd Sentai was based on the Latin numeral for 5 "V" placed sideways with a "2" integrated. Artwork: Devlin Chouinard.

The unit was organised on April 28, 1944 in Osaka and was equipped exclusively with Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate". All unit pilots were fresh from the Army aviation schools and even the high ranking officers had no fighter airplane training but were brought in from other specialities (bomber, reconnaissance etc). From May 5, the unit was based in Ashiya airfield in North Kyushu spending most of their time training and performing local air defence duties.
On the same date the unit was organised, a higher formation the 16th Hikodan Shireibu (HQ Air Brigade) was also organised including the 51st and 52nd Sentai. Since the 52nd didn't have any officers to actually train the pilots, the CO of the 16th HS Lt. Colonel Shindo Tsuneemon took over training of the young pilots.
From June of the same year B-29 raids commenced in N. Kyushu. During an August 20 air raid, 15 planes took-off and managed to shoot down one bomber. The same night there was another raid and the unit took-off but didn't spot the enemy and during the difficult night landing Sentai CO Major Uchinori Takayuki and wing commander Captain Awane Itsuo lost their lives.

In September the unit received orders to advance to the Philippines which they did on September 26 with about 40 aircraft in the unit's strength. On September 29 after various accidents and misfortunes they finally arrived in Luzon's Del Carmen airfield where they came under the 4th Kokugun, 2nd Hikoshidan (4th Army, 2nd Air Division).
On October 15, 1944 US carrier aircraft attacked the Manila area and the unit took-off to intercept. Sentai Commander Sawayama Yoshitaka and pilot M. Sgt Takahashi Takeo claimed one each with the rest of the unit claiming eight enemy aircraft shot down.
During the afternoon of the same day, the whole 16th Hikodan took-off to escort the IJN flying in the East as as 500km over the sea, something unusual and extremely dangerous for IJAAF planes and pilots. The whole unit fought with the enemy claiming 15 planes hot down with the loss of seven of their own. Shindo shot down one. The drop tank of one pilot of the 3rd Chutai, Sgt Morisawa, suddenly fell off leaving him without any return fuel left. He decided to return to the battle scene alone and crash on an enemy warship.

The unit continued daily intercepts in the Manila and Clark areas fighting hard, downing enemy aircraft but also loosing many of their own. By October 23 the unit was left with only eight aircraft. On October 24 the Hikodan with about ten planes advanced to Saravia airfield on Negros island.
 On October 26 a report came in that at Tackloban airfield there were more than 100 enemy planes. The 52nd received orders to attack with Ta-Dan incendiary bombs. Eleven planes took-off and dive bombing from 5000 meters managed to destroy more than half of the aircraft on the ground loosing four of their own.

By November 5 1944, the unit was left with no aircraft. On November 10 the unit was unable to use Saravia airfield and returned to Luzon. Three days later Sentai Commander Sawayama, the Commander of the 51st Sentai and other survivors took a transport to fly back to Luzon but they were probably shot down and were lost.
On November 21st, the 16th Hikodan received an order to return to homeland and by December 10 the unit managed to return to Shimodate, Ibaraki Prefecture, where it was reorganised with new pilots and aircraft, becoming responsible for the air defence of Tokyo.

52nd Sentai "Hayate" wrecked at the end of the War. NARA.

On February 16 and 17, US carrier aircraft attacked the Kanto area (here) and the unit managed to shoot down more than ten aircraft loosing a number of their own.
On May 19 a most unfortunate and rather bizarre incident occurred. The 16th Hikodan received orders to reconnoitre the Izu Penninsula area looking for enemy planes. More than 30 Hayate from the 52nd took off from Shimodate and failing to spot any enemy planes tried to land at Akeno. From the 30 aircraft only one (!!!) managed to land in Akeno due to mishaps. The very high rate of accidents made the CO furious but also showed the precarious condition the Hayate were at that stage of the War.

Another 52nd Sentai "Hayate" at the end of the War most probably found in Chofu airfield. NARA

On June 10 B-29s attacked the Kanto area but this time they were escorted by P-51s and although the unit claimed three enemy a/c shot down they lost three of their own too. The final base of the unit was Chofu airfield from July 1945 until the end of the War when the unit had 30 planes and corresponding number of pilots.
On August 24 the unit made their last flight and four days later held an end-of-the-War ceremony.

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